Art & Architecture

Outside the 170-year-old U.S. Custom House is home to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.

The 170-year-old U.S. Custom House is home to the Insectarium.

When you visit Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, it's a rare chance to see one of the country's most historic structures.

The U.S. Custom House in New Orleans was designed to accommodate federal offices in addition to the inspection and storage of goods by the Customs Service. It was planned in the 1840's when increased trade through the Mississippi River began transforming New Orleans into a major port city. In 1861, when only the exterior walls were complete, construction was halted by the Civil War. The building was occupied by Confederate forces until 1862 when Union General Benjamin Butler captured the building and established it as his headquarters and housing for prisoners of war. After the war, construction resumed and the building was completed in 1881.

In the 1990s, the Federal Government began leasing its properties, and the Custom House became the ideal site for Audubon's new Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Located in downtown New Orleans, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium occupies 23,000 square feet of this National Historic Landmark and has returned this magnificent architectural treasure to public use.

Look for original architectural elements beginning in the lobby. Setting the tone for the entire experience, this area highlights the original architecture and is accented with handcrafted pieces by local artisans. You will also want to see the Hall of Fame Gallery which is one of the most architecturally significant rooms of the U.S. Custom House. The original arched brick ceiling in this room has been carefully preserved and incorporated into the gallery.