Jean and Pierre Lafitte owned and operated a blacksmith shop in Saint Philip Street, New Orleans... Their dwelling was on the corner of Saint Philip and Bourbon streets, a few short squares from the court-house and the Church of Saint Louis. The cottage stood flush with the sidewalk and adjoined a garden which was screened from the street by a high wall.
The above, from the opening chapter of Lafitte the Pirate by bon vivant and consummate New Orleanian Lyle Saxon, sums up the legend of the property currently located at 941 Bourbon St. Saxon, whose phenomenally entertaining book was published in 1930, basically repeats all the old legends in one fanciful tale of the famed New Orleans pirates. To this day, despite overwhelming historical evidence to contradict the moniker, this classic Creole cottage is known as Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (misspelling and all).
Six years after Saxon's book, Stanley Clisby Arthur published his Walking Tours of Old New Orleans (still in print today and well worth checking out). The Bourbon St. property is, of course, listed under it's usual name, but Arthur takes pains to debunk the usual mythos:
This so-called "Laffite Smithy", if you are interested in facts, was probably never put to such a use... It is, however, a very ancient structure - when it was built we do not know. Our earliest record of transfer of ownership of the site dates back to 1772.
Arthur, as an aside, went on to publish his own wonderful biography of Laffite - Jean Laffite, Gentleman Rover - in 1952.
In fact, there is no documentation available to show that the traditional square cottage was ever a smith's, or that it was at any time owned or rented by either Laffite brother. It should be noted that there is documentation of Pierre Laffite buying and renting property over the years in the name of his quadroon mistress, Marie Louise Villard (or Villars).
The connection to the Laffites may have come from the fact that the property was owned briefly in the 1770's by Rene Beluche. Beluche, a smuggler by trade and my great-grandfather nine times removed (but you knew that, didn't you Brethren?), was the father of the close Laffite associate, smuggler and privateer Renato Beluche. Some historians, Dr. Jane Lucas DeGrummond in particular, believe that the Laffite and Beluche families were related. This assertion rests on Jean and Pierre's mother and Big Rene's wife being sisters with the last name Laport or LaPorte. In my personal genealogical research I cannot verify this claim but it points up the possible connection between the Laffites and the property at 941 Rue Bourbon.
Whatever the controversy, though, it's probably safe to say that the Laffites were never forgerons and that the Creole cottage was never theirs in any way shape or form.
All that having been said, since Mardi Gras has begun in earnest it seems past time to get your itinerary in order. Don't miss the nightlife at Lafitte's. Who knows, maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones who sees the ghost of the bos himself. (A chubbier but similarly Gallic looking ghost is probably Pierre, just to be clear). Leave me a comment if you do. I'd love to know how the boys are these days.