New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Bywater

Bywater district map.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans is the epitome of culture and ceremony. Each neighborhood has its own intimate history, story, and landmarks. The Bywater subdistrict is another unique area that has served as a significant reminder in NOLA’s history. The neighborhood acts as the starting place for festival krewes during Mardi Gras which gathers a procession of marchers as it makes its way to the French Quarter.

Today its Bywater Historic District is listed National Register of Historic Places. However, many people don’t realize the rich history of each neighborhood. Let’s explore the background of the Bywater:

History

In the colonial era, the Bywater was the site of a plantation. In the early 1800s, private homes were constructed as part of the “Faubourg Washington” which was part of the Fancophone downtown area. Settlers from Spain, France, and the French Caribbean came to the area seeking religious refuge or new, prosperous ways of life. As the century progressed, white Creoles and mixed-race Creoles lived by immigrants from Germany, Italy, and Ireland.

The Bywater is famous for the location at which Homer Plessy was removed by authorities from an East Louisiana Railroad car for violating the separate car act. The incident led to Plessy v. Ferguson. A historical marker stands at the corners of Press and Royal street to commemorate the events.

The area was also considered the Lower 9th Ward before the Industrial Canal was build in the early 20th century, dividing the two areas. While some generations knew the area as the Upper 9th Ward. However, as other parts of the upper neighborhood developed, a new name was needed. The local telephone exchange designated the area Bywater and it fit the neighborhood’s proximity to the River and the Canal. By the 1940s, it was permanently called Bywater.

With the advent of the nearby 1994 Louisiana World Exposition, many long-time residents from the French Quarter moved down river, first to Marigny. But by the late 1990s, the bohemian communities originally living in the French Quarter had spread to the Bywater. Old Victorian houses were refurbished as artistic residents moved in.

Today, Bywater is known as one of the most colorful neighborhoods in the city with elegant architectural styles that mirror the colonial French and Spanish elements similar to the Caribbean. Now, it stands as a trademark of New Orleans architecture.

During Hurricane Katrina, some areas of the neighborhood were badly damaged by the storm. However, the river side of St. Claude Avenue was one of the few sections of the 9th ward to escape major flooding. It is now one of the areas that has made great strides in recovery.

Cultural Significance

During NOLA’s Mardi Gras celebrations, the Society of Saint Anne starts their procession in the area. The parade travels through the French Quarter and ends on Canal Street. The parade gathers local residents, artists, and street performers as it moves along the streets. The Bywater Bone Boys Social Aid and Pleasure Club, made up of tattooed artisans, writers, painters, designers, musicians, and many other locals leads the procession before 7 a.m.

The area was a neighborhood where many residents settled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina because of its high elevation and that it’s close to the Mississippi River. In NOLA culture, the neighborhood became known as the “Silver by the River” because portions of it saw no flooding, like Faubourg Marigny, the French Quarter, and the Irish Channel.

Landmarks

While you’re in the Bywater, there are several spots and locations you should visit. Adding a mix of cultural prominence and cultural interest, the neighborhood is a relaxed and introspective part of the city. Be sure to check out:

Restaurants:

The neighborhood is great for convenience, but it’s also known as a vibrant social scene which sets the stage for the friendly neighborhood feel that New Orleans can offer many of its visitors. It’s a great way to get to know the locals and the everyday lifestyles of New Orleans citizens!

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New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Bywater

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Treme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the oldest African-American neighborhood in the city, the Treme district offers significant contributions to New Orleans’ cultural, political, economic, and social legacy for the past two centuries. Today, it remains an important district and center for the African-American and Creole communities, offering historical sites and ongoing cultural traditions like modern brass musicianship.

The Treme neighborhood lies between North Broad and North Rampart streets and from the famous Canal Street to St. Bernard Avenue. However, its historic distinctions were Occasionally, the district is called by its more formal name: The Faubourg Treme which means the suburbs. If you’d like to learn more about New Orleans culture, national African-American history, and the heritage of the South, then it’s a great area to tour.

History

The site where the Treme district now exists originally consisted of Morand Plantation and the St. John and St. Ferdinand forts. But during the late 1700s, the land was purchased by Claude Treme. By 1794, the Carondelet Canal was built and stretched from the French Quarter to Bayou St. John. Since the canal split the land into sections, developers start building houses on various subdivisions for the city’s diverse populations including Haitian Creoles and Caucasians. In later years, freed African slaves were able to purchase land of their own. This was remarkable for the time and also only occurred in New Orleans regularly.

Congo Square, also called Place des Negres, was a significant area where slaves gathered to dance on Sundays. The tradition was popular in the community, but in the years leading up to the Civil War, when the tradition dwindled. It also served as a major place of business for slaves who sold their crafts and goods. Some were able to obtain their freedom through these sales. In the late 1800s, the name was changed to Beauregard Square, but was never used by locals due to its honoring of the Confederate Civil War general. In the late 20th century, its named was changed back to the traditional Congo Square.

In the early 1960s, the central part of the Treme neighborhood was largely demolished as part of a urban renewal initiative. However, this was largely considered a mistake by many analysts. Much land stood vacant for many years, but in the 1970s, the city created Louis Armstrong Park, place Congo Square in its borders. The New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park was later established here, too.

There are also many musicians that call Treme home including Alphonse Piccou, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, and “The King of Treme, Shannon Powell. Famous musicians like Louis Prima have also called the neighborhood home.

The Treme Today

The Treme neighborhood is very popular with native locals and visitors who wish to celebrate African American history and achievements. Frequent cultural traditions like second-line parades and jazz funerals are frequently held in the neighborhood. Today it is home to several landmarks and museums honoring jazz music and African American culture.

Landmarks:

When you’re visiting the neighborhood, immerse yourself in African American culture and history by visiting these sites:

While exploring the Treme section, you can start to appreciate the role it has played in the history of African American culture, New Orleans, and the nation. The neighborhoods cultural contributions have become a popular and prominent aspect of Southern life in NOLA.

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Treme

New Orleans Neighborhoods Series: Central City

A map of the Central City district in New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood plays an important part in the cultural traditions of the Big Easy. Predominantly an African American community, its history of brass musicianship and Mardi Gras Indian traditions distinguish it from other districts in NOLA.

Located in the lower section of Uptown and above the New Orleans Central Business District, it sits on the lakeside of St. Charles Avenue. Its boundaries include MLK Boulevard, the Pontchartrain Expressway to the north and other major streets to the south and west.

Continuing our fixation on New Orleans history and culture, let’s explore the history and landmarks of New Orleans’ Central City district:

History

The neighborhood first developed in the early 1800s near Saint Charles Avenue. The opening of the New Orleans & Carrollton Railway and the New Basin Canal in the lower end helped attract commerce and Irish, Italian, and German immigrants and working class residents to the area. In the 1830s, Dryades Street became a commercial district and in 1849, the Dryades Market was built and served as a communal center point for nearly 100 years. After the American Civil War, many African Americans from rural towns settled in the neighborhood. By the 1870s, the urban area had grown to Claiborne Avenue. During the early 1900s, commercial activity helped make it the largest New Orleans neighborhood patronized by African American residents during the Jim Crow era. It also became the main hub for the Uptown African American community. During the district’s heyday after WWII, it housed over 200 business.

However, the area started to decline in the late 1960s. Throughout the 1980s the area’s economy slowly declined and depreciation peaked by 1990 with many vacant lots and buildings. However, by the beginning of the 2000s, community projects started to help revitalize the area. After Hurricane Katrina, Central City was recognized for its plot of high, dry ground. Today, post-Katrina redevelopment efforts focus on the area and the revitalization of old public housing from the 1940s (during segregation).

The Civil Rights Movement is a significant portion of Central City’s history. In 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded with Martin Luther King in the neighborhood. In addition, a major boycott of Dryades Street occurred to protest segregation in the 1960s. The neighborhood is also where the Congress of Racial Equality was founded.

Landmarks

Central City is a National Register Historic District and is home to several landmarked buildings. Here are some neighborhood businesses and sights to check out:

  • Brown’s Dairy
  • Leidenheimer Bakery
  • Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard — Central City’s National Accredited Main Street
  • Cafe Reconcile
  • Commercial streets: St Charles Ave., S. Claiborne Ave., and LaSalle/Simon Bolivar

Central City offers an exceptional opportunity to be surrounded by profound civil rights history. Acknowledging the impact the neighborhood has had on Southern and national history makes it a noteworthy addition to New Orleans.

New Orleans Neighborhoods Series: Central City

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: The Irish Channel

A black and white photo of houses in the Irish Channel district.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A historic section of New Orleans with a storied past, The Irish Channel is considered one of the most eclectic areas in the city…and for New Orleans that’s saying a lot! A neighborhood that consists of mainly residential and commercial buildings, the area is a subdistrict of the Central City/Garden District neighborhoods.

According to the New Orleans City Planning Commission, the neighborhood’s boundaries lie at Magazine Street in the north, First Street in the east, the Mississippi River in the south, and Toledano Street to the west. The Irish Channel encompasses .83 square miles, making it an extremely small neighborhood. However, it’s an area that has  significantly added to the culture and economy over the past few centuries.

Our neighborhood series offers you the opportunity to learn more about the Irish Channel’s history and culture:

Irish Channel History

The neighborhood was originally comprised of German, Italian, and African American families living in close proximity. As implied by the name, the Irish Channel was originally settled by Irish immigrants in the 1830s. Docking on Adele Street, penniless immigrants often took shelter in the small cottages near the docks. These simple shelters originated the shotgun house style we see in the area today.

At this time, Irish immigrants arrived mainly to build the New Basin Canal, but were generally treated as expendable labor. As dishonest investors led immigrants to believe that New Orleans had an Irish enclave close to other Irish immigrant populations like New York and Philadelphia, the city subsequently gained the largest Irish population in the American South.

During the period of early immigration, the Irish Channel–then known as Lafayette–was located outside the incorporated city of New Orleans. It wasn’t until 1852 that the neighborhood was formally annexed. Early in its history, the neighborhood developed a reputation for crime, centered on the corners of St. Mary Street and Religious Street, but that characteristic slowly eroded with time.

During the 20th century, a majority of the neighborhood’s population worked for the port of New Orleans before modern shipping innovations reduced the need for manual labor. Many breweries also provided incomes for locals. In the 1960s, the neighborhood became largely African-American in demographic, with minor populations of Americans of Irish and Latino descent whose families had been there for decades. Despite ethnic backgrounds, many diverse locals enjoy parades and parties to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a cultural highlight of the neighborhood to this day.

The Modern Day Irish Channel

Today, the Irish Channel is one of the most eclectic neighborhoods in New Orleans, popular and accessible to residents and tourists. A mix of wealthy and working class residents live in this section and many families are multigenerational, while new residents are always moving in. Being located next to the high ground of the Mississippi River, it is now a desirable and valuable place to settle. Luckily, it survived the flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Now, a mixture of locally-owned shops and restaurants provide a charming and peaceful backdrop attracts everyone throughout the city and the country.

Landmarks & Attractions:

There are several historical and architectural landmarks in this neighborhood worth checking out. In addition, the local restaurants and bars are great options to enjoy Louisiana Creole and seafood while getting to know the locals:

Restaurants:

The quaint, quiet neighborhood is a nice way to get away from the crowds of Bourbon Street and explore how the locals live. Enjoy your explorations!

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: The Irish Channel

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: The Garden District

Garden District mansion in New Orleans framed by trees

 

The Garden District is one of the most enchanting and beautiful districts in New Orleans. Characterized by lush gardens, tree-lined streets, and opulent homes, the district is a popular real estate hotspot for residents and even celebrities like Beyonce and Jay Z. Today, the district is considered one of the best preserved collections of historic mansions in the Southern United States.

As we learn about New Orleans and its history, this spotlight on the Garden District can offer some insight and history into NOLA’s varied past:

History

The first developments in the Garden District were dotted with large, sprawling plantation homes including the famous Livaudais Plantation. The land was eventually sold off in sections to wealthy proprietors who wanted to live away from the crowds in the French Quarter. It was first established as part of the city of Lafayette in 1833 and became a part of the city of New Orleans in 1852. Originally designed, planned, and surveyed by architect Barthelemy Lafon, the district saw major development until 1900. Originally, the district was planned with only two houses per block, surrounded by lush gardens which is from where it’s famous name derived. As New Orleans became more urbanized the large plots were divided into smaller lots for more construction. Today, visitors will see a couple large, early 19th century mansions sitting next gingerbread-style Victorian houses on many of the neighborhood’s blocks.

Part of the district is declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974 for its architectural history.

Famous Landmarks

Most visitors and tourists visit the district for it’s architecture rather than its gardens today, but both are part of the Garden District’s unique experience. Visitors should check out these historic architectural landmarks:

Adam – Jones House, 2423 Prytania Street
The house was constructed for John I. Adams, a merchant who purchased the section of the former Jacques Francois de Livaudais plantation which later became the Garden District. Adams purchased the property in 1860, built the residence, and lived in it until 1896. Shifting various owners over the next century, it was restored from 1961-1962 by Mrs. Hamilton Polk Jones. It was established as historical in 1995 by the New Orleans Landmarks Commission.

George Washington Cable House, 1313 8th Street
Located on the Garden District’s west side, the building was built by author Cable in 1874 after the publication of his short story, Sieur George. It’s also the house where Cable wrote and was influenced by native New Orleans culture.  Mark Twain was also a guest. The single-story structure features a full-height basement and columns which provide an arcade.

Buckner Mansion, 1410 Jackson Ave
Known for its many ghost stories, The Buckner Mansion has reached more popularity since its appearance on the TV series American Horror Story: Coven. Built in 1856, the 20,000 square foot property was owned by cotton king Henry S. Buckner. It also used to be Soule Business College from 1923-1973. But now, it’s a popular destination for tourists, film crews, and vacationers for its beauty and southern charm. Staying at the mansion will cost a pretty penny ($20,000/night) so it’s best to go for a tour.

Brevard-Rice House, 1239 First Street
The beautiful antique mansion was owned by the Brevard heirs from 1859-1869. Later purchased by Emory Clapp who constructed a library on the left wing, it remained in the Clapp family until 1935. Then it was owned by a slew of other notable people in New Orleans society. Today, it is owned by novelist Anne Rice and her husband. Tourists can take a gander at the stunning columns and architecture as it was created a landmark site in 1991.

Joseph Carroll House, 1315 First Street
After you stop by the Brevard-Rice spot, check out the cast-iron beauty that was built in 1969. The elegant Italianate mansion played host to Mark Twain in 1886. While here check out the carriage house as well.

Walter Grinnan Robinson House, 1415 Third Street
One historical house you need to check out when you stop by the Garden District is this Henry Howard mansion. The 1859 creation features adjacent servant quarters and stables–which underwent a renovation– that offers historical and cultural insight into the antebellum south.

This spotlight on the history and the prominent landmarks in the Garden District can offer you a walking tour that helps anyone appreciate decadent architecture and the complex history of New Orleans.

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: The Garden District

New Orleans Neighborhoods Series: The French Quarter (Vieux Carré)

New Orleans French Quarter iron

 

The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is the most well-known and the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. With many of the buildings constructed in the late 18th century, this historic district holds some of the most beautiful and famous buildings in the United States.

This spotlight on the history, culture, and the city’s design can help anyone understand the beauty of one of NOLA’s most popular neighborhoods:

History

Numerous buildings in The Quarter still date from before 1803, a time when New Orleans was bought as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In the 19th and 20th centuries, different styles of construction were added to the area. The 1920s saw efforts to preserve historic architectural styles and buildings from demolition. Much of the architecture was originally built in the late 1700s during the period of Spanish rule. During the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788, followed by another in 1794, much of the old French colonial architecture was destroyed, allowing the Spanish rulers to rebuild many of the buildings. The Spanish overlords introduced styles such as flat tiled roofs, colorful fire-resistant stucco, and required all structures to be physically adjacent to each other and close to the curb, acting as a firewall. As a result, colorful walls, along with iron-wrought balconies and galleries are characteristic of the French Quarter’s design from the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Culture

As English-speaking Americans started moving into the neighborhood after the Louisiana Purchase, they built communities upriver, across from modern-day Canal Street. The boulevard in between both communities created a blending of the new settlers and Francophone Creoles.

By 1917, the era of French Creole culture had ended with an inundation of crime and the closure of the French Opera House. As a result, many of the French Creole families moved uptown to the University area. However, it also started to attract a bohemian, artistic community due to its cheap rents and air of decay, which became an aesthetic trend of the 1920s. These new residents formed the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) in 1925 to help revitalize the district. To preserve its buildings, more regulatory powers were given to the advisory body in the 1940s.

The World War II period and the local military bases brought thousands of servicemen and war workers to the neighborhood. The new visitors made Bourbon Street’s nightlife more prominent, introducing more risque and exotic entertainment. Today, it’s New Orleans’ most famous strip.

Famous Landmarks

There are many National Historic buildings preserved in the French Quarter. Some famous and beautiful architecture to check out include:

Restaurants:

Visited by both locals and travelers, the most well-known landmarks include Antoine’s and Tujague’s which have been operating since the 19th century. Be sure to check out cultural staples like Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s, Broussard’s, and Brennan’s too! The Gumbo Shop is another traditional restaurant with a casual vibe.

Historic Buildings:

Among the historic buildings in New Orleans, there are several which speak to the culture and design of the district:

Today, the district is designated as a National Historical Landmark, an attractive district for locals and a prime tourist destination. Thankfully, the district was largely unharmed during Hurricane Katrina and it remains a central gateway to New Orleans’ past and present.

New Orleans Neighborhoods Series: The French Quarter (Vieux Carré)

Riverfront Developments in NOLA

New Orleans Mississippi River at Sunset

Characterized by its charming landscape and rich architecture, New Orleans’ offers a romantic cityscape with a scenic placement on the Mississippi River and its close proximity to the Gulf Coast and its interconnecting swamplands.

Decades ago, the Mississippi River was hardly visible through the industrial warehouses that blocked the view from the French Quarter. However, now the riverfront is a development hotspot which aims to help revitalize New Orleans downtown district.

The east bank riverfront has many projects starting to transform the neighborhood. Efforts to update the waterfront were developed in the 1970s, starting with the Moonwalk by Jackson Square, but newer plans are expected to increase tourism, improve employment, and spur economic revenue for years to come. These new project can offer a better quality of life which can greatly benefit local communities.

Reinvesting the Crescent

Reinvesting the Crescent, a project from the New Orleans Building Corporation, is spearheading the redevelopment of six miles of unused industrial and commercial space along the Mississippi River.

Phase 1 of the project focused on Crescent Park. Park space is dedicated to revitalizing the riverside space by reconnecting the city with its communities. The outdoor space offers scenic views of the river and is designed by architects George Hargreaves, David Adjaye, Michael Maltzan, and Allen Eskew. The new park will include 1.4 miles of open space with 20 acres of landscaping that include native plants, bike paths, a dog walk/run, playgrounds, and to multi-purpose pavilions. Spanning from Marigny’s Elysian Fields Avenue to Poland Avenue in the Bywater neighborhood, the park will utilize self-reliant alternative energies and a basic economic model. The park is also designed to be financially self-sufficient, implementing resources that will help recycle and save resources in the long-run.

Design of Crescent Park

An important part of constructing Crescent Park was to transform and improve the space while preserving visual elements of the city’s commercial port past. The Mandeville Shed and Piety Wharf are linked together by a linear Park and Piety Gardens to offer a balanced experience that provides community interactions and active recreations. These project will integrate natural borders that implement railroad tracks, boxcar hedges, and native species of plants to enhance the vibrant space.

However, there are also various other projects that are still in development. They include:  

Trade District Development

One of the biggest projects to jumpstart the next phase of planning includes the revitalization of 47 acres of vacant land upriver from the Pontchartrain Expressway. Howard Hughes Corp and Joe Jaeger, a local developer, have plans to create new neighborhoods with apartments, condos, restaurants, and entertainment areas. In fact, Jaeger has recently purchased the Market Street Power Plant that will transform into a mixed-use entertainment and commercial district.

Currently, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and Manning Architects are working on a redesign for the neighborhoods that include improved access to the waterfront, green spaces. The project is even expected to rival the Woldenberg project in terms of activity and size. An extremely exciting aspect of the project which could spark interest in the area is an educational campus, museum, and a culinary emporium. A landmark tower will also mark the site as a major attraction in the downtown area.

Potential Projects

Other potential projects also lie on the horizon. An idea to build up the city’s old Navy facility in Bywater could be lucrative. Named the Port of Embarkation, developers wish to change the area into several mid-rise residential buildings with green parks and outdoor amphitheaters. In the future, we may also see another cruise ship terminal at Poland Avenue with a waterfront restaurant.

There are constantly new and ongoing negotiations to create more attention to the riverfront, like adding public gathering spaces or an entirely new $1 billion neighborhoods. However, some of this will depend on public money, private investments, and political outcomes. Yet, this is an exciting time for New Orleans to redevelop its naturally beautiful landscapes.

Riverfront Developments in NOLA