Nicholas Girod was a French merchant and the sixth mayor of New Orleans, in office from late 1812 until September 1815. His former residence in the city’s French Quarter is known as Napoleon House. How did this come to pass?
Girod was Frenchman by birth and a supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte. At the time he came to New Orleans in 1770s, the city was a Spanish possession but had a large French population. However, it was part of the USA at the time he became mayor. Girod organized the defense of the city from the British during the War of 1812, and it is said he was motivated more by his hatred for the British rather than any love for the Americans.
Girod resigned as mayor in 1815. Allegedly, he planned to rescue his beloved emperor from captivity at St. Helena and had the mentioned Napoleon House built, intending it to be the former emperor’s residence after he was rescued from British captivity.
The man he planned to hire to rescue Napoleon was none other than Jean Lafitte, the famous former pirate and privateer. Lafitte then allegedly hand-picked a crew to man a small but swift ship with which he planned to conduct the rescue.
Unfortunately for them, a ship arrived in 1821, just a few days before their departure. It bore bad news – the former emperor had died on his island-prison.
Although there is evidence that there were indeed several plans to rescue Napoleon, there is no reliable proof that this particular attempt even existed or was taken seriously.
The House was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Today it is as a restaurant serving traditional local food. Despite the failure of his alleged plan, Girod went to become a notable philanthropist – he left tens of thousands of dollars to charities, and for the construction of an orphanage in New Orleans.