The red brick row houses facing each other on the lower and upper sides of Jackson Square were constructed in 1850. Developed by Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, based initially on a design by James Gallier Sr. and then completed by Henry Howard, architect. The Pontalba Buildings were perhaps the first in New Orleans where cast iron galleries formed an integral part of the original design.
In 1921, the Pontalba family sold the Lower Pontalba to philanthropist William Ratcliffe Irby, who bequeathed it to the Louisiana State Museum in 1927. The Upper Pontalba has been owned by the City of New Orleans since 1930.
Koch and Wilson was responsible for two major campaigns of work on the sixteen four-story row houses known as the Lower Pontalba. The first task called for establishing design guidelines for the individual shops, both street-front and courtyard. The second phase involved the repair of a variety of structural problems, as well as improvements to the courtyards. New granite columns were obtained from the same quarry that produced the original columns, replacing those that had been taken out by previous owners. The extensive cast iron verandah was restored, and the entire Decatur St. brick wall was taken down and rebuilt. Some first floor bearing walls had been removed and, these too, were restored. After the structural work was completed, new courtyard drainage was installed, concrete paving was replaced with brick and stone. The street front millwork was painted with historically correct colors. The firm also provides consultation for the 1850 House Museum, one of the middle row houses.
Koch & Wilson has been contracted over the years to perform several restoration projects for the Upper Pontalba, as well. The work focused mainly on the shops on the first floor and all exterior facades. Several planning studies were performed, consolidating apartments and planning for more contemporary amenities, while restoring some spaces to their original use.