About the New Orleans, LA Area
New Orleans, with its richly mottled old buildings, its sly, sophisticated - sometimes almost disreputable - air, and its Hispanic-Gallic traditions, has more the flavor of an old European capital than an American city. Townhouses in the French Quarter, with their courtyards and carriageways, are thought by some scholars to be related on a small scale to certain Parisian "hotels" - princely urban residences of the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors particularly remember the decorative cast-iron balconies that cover many of these townhouses like ornamental filigree cages.
European influence is also seen in the city's famous above-groundcemeteries. The practice of interring people in large, richly adornedaboveground tombs dates from the period when New Orleans was under Spanishrule. These hugely popular "cities of the dead" have been andcontinue to be an item of great interest to visitors. Mark Twain, noting thatNew Orleanians did not have conventional below-ground burials, quipped that"few of the living complain and none of the other."
French Quarter Balcony
One of the truly amazing aspects of New Orleans architectureis the sheer number of historic homes and buildings per square mile. Orleaniansnever seem to replace anything. Consider this: Uptown, the City's largesthistoric district, has almost 11,000 buildings, 82 percent of which were builtbefore 1935 - truly a "time warp."
The spine of Uptown, and much of New Orleans, is the city'sgrand residential showcase, St. Charles Avenue, which the novel A Confederacyof Dunces aptly describes: "The ancient oaks of St. Charles Avenue archedover the avenue like a canopy...St. Charles Avenue must be the loveliest placein the world. From time to time...passed the slowing rocking streetcars thatseemed to be leisurely moving toward no special designations, following theirroute through the old mansions on either side...everything looked so calm, soprosperous."
The streetcars in question, the St. Charles Avenue line,represent the nation's only surviving historic streetcar system. All of itselectric cars were manufactured by the Perley Thomas Company between 1922 and1924 and are still in use. Hurricane Katrina flood waters caused severe damageto the steel tracks along the entire uptown and Carrollton route and had to betotally replaced and re-electrified. The cars themselves survived and areincluded in the National Register of Historic Places. New Orleanians reverethem as a national treasure.
UNIQUE HOUSING FOR A UNIQUE CITY
Creole cottages and shotgun houses dominate the scene inmany New Orleans neighborhoods. Both have a murky ancestry. The Creole cottage,two rooms wide and two or more deep under a generous pitched roof with a frontoverhang or gallery, is thought to have evolved from various European andCaribbean forms.
The shotgun house is one room wide and two, three or fourrooms deep, under a continuous gable roof. As legend has it, the name wassuggested by the fact that because the rooms and doors line up, one can fire ashotgun through the house without hitting anything.
French Quarter Balcony 2 250x250
Some scholars have suggested that shotguns evolved fromancient African "long-houses," built here by refugees from theHaitian Revolution, but no one really knows.
It is true that shotguns represent a distinctively Southernhouse type. They are also found in the form of plantation quarters houses.Unlike shotgun houses in much of the South, which are fairly plain, New Orleansshotguns fairly bristle with Victorian jigsaw ornament, especially prominent,florid brackets. Indeed, in many ways, New Orleans shotguns are as much asignature of the city as the French Quarter.
New Orleans' architectural character is unlike that of anyother American city. A delight to both natives and visitors, it presents such avariety that even after many years of study, one can still find things uniqueand undiscovered.
ORIGINAL NEW ORLEANS
The original settlement of New Orleans and the oldest neighborhood in the city is Vieux Carre, better known as the French Quarter or simply The Quarter. Established by the French in 1718, the location continues to be a valuable site for trade due to its strategic position along the Mississippi River.
The district is a National Historic Landmark and is bordered by popular streets, such as Canal Street, Decatur Street, Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue. The French Quarter boasts a storied history of international influence with cultural contributions from the French, Spanish, Sicilians, Italians, Africans, Irish and others - all evident in the development of this global port settlement.
So much of what makes New Orleans unique is captured in the melting pot atmosphere of the French Quarter, from the boisterous party vibe of Bourbon Street to the bohemian elegance of Royal Street. It's a neighborhood full of entertainment and surprises.
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
A dominant feature throughout the neighborhood is the stunning architecture. Balconies adorned with intricate ironwork, courtyards filled with lush greenery and beautiful fountains showcase the French Quarter's European roots.
Majority of the architectural design is the handiwork of the Spanish who ruled and rebuilt the city after two overwhelming fires in 1788 and 1794. Many buildings don ceramic plaques informing visitors of the street names during Spanish rule such as Calle de Borbon.
Life in the Quarter centers around New Orleans' most famous landmark, Jackson Square. Originally known as the Place d'Armes, the square was renamed to honor Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans. The square is flanked by historic structures such as the St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere and Cabildo (which house the Louisiana State Museums) and the Pontalba Apartments (the oldest apartment buildings in the U.S.).
Walk the beautiful gardens inside the square, make a wish as you toss a coin into the fountain and take an iconic New Orleans photograph. The creative culture of the Quarter is embraced by the collection of fortune tellers, artists and musicians who surround Jackson Square. Just across the street is the famed Café du Monde, serving up beignets and café au lait 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
WHAT TO DO
Every street in the French Quarter has something to offer from classic restaurants, music venues, boutique shopping to voodoo temples. Some of the most popular areas include: Royal Street, Chartres Street and Bourbon Street but no trip to the Quarter is complete without a trip to the historic French Market for souvenirs.
A variety of guided tours are available covering topics such as haunted, historical, culinary and even cocktail. Many visitors choose to explore the French Quarter using the neighborhood's original mode of transportation, the mule-drawn carriage.
The Quarter's allure draws millions of visitors each year. Come stroll the streets of this exotic neighborhood and experience the mystery, fun and magic.