Fire damages electric components at French Quarter museum

Louisiana State Museum officials say a 200-year-old French Quarter building will remain closed at least two more weeks while crews check damage to electric components from a small weekend fire in its chiller room.

Elevators were among components damaged when smoke blew throughout the Presbytere, which once housed the Louisiana Supreme Court and now houses exhibits about Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina, museum spokesman Marvin McGraw said Thursday. The building sits next to the St. Louis cathedral.

Officials originally had hoped to reopen the building next week.

McGraw says firefighters put out the blaze 10 minutes after it broke out Sunday afternoon. He says no museum artifacts were damaged: Those on display are in glass cases, and the museum's storage is in a separate building.

The Presbytere averages about 7,000 visitors a month, he said.

The building, designed in 1791 to match the historic Cabildo on the other side of St. Louis Cathedral, opened in 1831 after 40 years of construction delays. It was named because the site had once held the presbytere, or residence, of Capuchin monks, although this building was never used as a religious residence, McGraw said.

It was a commercial building from 1831 until 1834, when the state Supreme Court moved in.

The Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina exhibits include many computerized interactive displays, but McGraw said he did not know of any damage to those displays.