The Mansion was built in 1869 for, “Yankee in Gray”, Watson Van Benthuysen II, C.S.A. Born in New York in the early 1830’s, Watson moved to New Orleans in the 1840’s. When the Civil War started, Watson became an officer in the Confederate Army.
A relative of Jefferson Davis by marriage, Van Benthuysen was the Quartermaster of the Presidential convoy that fled Richmond in April 1865. After the war, he became a prominent New Orleans businessman (a wine and tobacco merchant) and the President of a Saint Charles streetcar company. Van Benthuysen died in his home in 1901.
From 1931 until the start of WWII, the house served as the German Consulate. From the cellar, the Consul General, Baron Spiegel von und zu Peckelshelm, novelist and former WWI U-boat kapitan, informed the U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico of ship departures from the New Orleans docks.
In 1952, John Elms Sr., owner of the largest coin operated amusement company in the South, purchased the home. Shortly after Mr. Elms’ death in 1968, the family started using the house for private functions and is today operated by the 3rd generation of the Elms family.