New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Bayou St. John

An 1887 painting of the Bayou St. John by William Woodward entitled “Bayou Saint John at end of Grand Route Saint John”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans, the Bayou St. John area boasts a more secluded and peaceful atmosphere of the city. Bayou St. John is known for its haven of tree-lined streets and avenues, gardens, and galleries. It is often referred to as one of the most historic neighborhoods in New Orleans and frequented for its beautiful, natural environment.

If you’re looking to relax or take a contemplative stroll, this largely residential neighborhood is a great way to spend the day by the gentle waters of the bayou. But just as it’s gentle waters flow through the neighborhood so does the history of the city.

History

Also called the Faubourg St. John neighborhood, the neighborhood is bounded by Bayou Road/Gentilly Boulevard and Belfort Avenue to the north, Orleans Avenue to the South, as well as North Broad Street to the East. The Bayou St. John creates its Western boundaries.

Native tribes first guided Jean Baptiste Bienville LeMoyne to the Bayou St. John’s waters in 1708, he knew he wanted to find the present day site of New Orleans by these waters. The five mile separation between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain made transporting materials easy along the bayou. The natives often identified and used this route as the safest and shortest way from the Gulf to the Mississippi River.

Many buildings in the neighborhood were built in the late 1800s up until the early 1900s with many houses along the bayou counted as the oldest remains of the city, dating to the late 1700s and early 1800s. For more than a century the bayou was the main waterway in and out of the city. Originally, the waterway was used as a trade route for the local Native American tribes. In fact, “Bayou” is an adaptation of the Choctaw or Mobilian word “bayuk” or “bayouk”. As European settlers populated the area, many traders, travelers, and residents got their first experience of New Orleans by this stretch of water. It was used as a shortened entryway to Lake Pontchartrain.

In fact, the waterway was part of the lifeblood of the city. In addition to boats —  pulled by horses on either side — being used for travel and commerce, it was also a center for voodoo. Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo queen, hosted rituals with thousands of practitioners at the Bayou where it was safe from police raids in the early 1800s.

Although neighborhoods were established around the Bayou, the wet environment made it hard to live and construct buildings in. However, by 1857 improved drainage systems and transportation made it more stable for developing neighborhoods. By the 1930s, more houses were built along the bayou. Yet, residents complained about unclean environment due to increased activity. As a result, congress ordered an end to all navigational on the bayou use by 1936.

Several historic homes remain with many late 19th century homes have been built in between these early architectural pieces, creating a peaceful and scenic streetscape. Architecture in the area consists of shotgun singles, raised cottages, and arts & crafts homes with a large number of houses that were originally doubles, but have since been converted to single family homes. Many New Orleans residents boast about the beautiful bayou view and the recreational activities that the waterway provides its visitors.

Today, the bayou is used as a meeting place for downtown Mardi Gras Indian tribes as they prepare their music, song, and dance during the parade’s festivities. The event is called “Super Sunday” and it’s not limited to the Mardi Gras season.

Landmarks:

  • The Pitot House —  The only historical Creole colonial home open to the public
  • Lafitte Greenway —  A beautiful parkway perfect for picnics
  • Bayou St. John —  Rent paddleboards, kayaks, and see wildlife on the shores of the historic Bayou
  • 900 Block of Moss Street —  A block of seven architectural marvels
  • Kayak-Iti-Yat tour —  Go on a kayak tour of the bayou’s twisting waterways

Restaurants:

The city wouldn’t exist without its humble beginnings and history in the Faubourg St. John neighborhood. To get to fully experience the decadent history of New Orleans, make sure you schedule an activity or a fun walking tour on your journey throughout the city!

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New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Bayou St. John

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Central Business District

Photo by Antrell Williams/Flickr

The Central Business District (CBD) is a major center for commerce, economics, and business in its downtown hub of perpetual activity. The neighborhood also acts as the central seat of government in New Orleans. Considered by some to be a subdistrict of the French Quarter, its boundaries are bordered by Iberville, Canal, and Decatur Streets to its north and the Mississippi River to its east. Major sites like the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, Magazine Street, and the Pontchartrain Expressway consolidate its boundaries to the south. In addition, South Claiborne Avenue, Cleveland, and Derbigny Streets shelter its western borders.

Today, the neighborhood is a dynamic part of everyday New Orleans life.  comprising skyscrapers, professional offices, neighborhood and boutique retails stores, and various restaurants and clubs. Many residents inhabit restored and historic commercial properties.

History

The neighborhood was originally developed as a residential hub called Faubourg Ste. Marie or the St. Mary Suburb in the 18th century. It’s plated streets were the first signs of expansion beyond the original French Quarter district. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, major investments began developing in the neighborhood as numerous people from the United States flocked to New Orleans giving the district the nickname, “The American Sector”. While Canal Street was the original dividing line between the traditional St. Mary district and the French Quarter, Canal Street is legally considered to be a part of both neighborhoods today. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, the Central Business District progressed upon developments without any pause. By the middle of the 1900s, the majority of professional offices in the city were located downtown, distinguishing the neighborhood as a well-developed, central business hub with accessible public transit systems.

Canal Street was a major retail hotspot for locals and residents in surrounding regions. Local and regional department stores included  Maison Blanche, Gus Mayer, Godchaux’s, D.H. Holmes, Krauss, and Kreeger’s served as the major outlets for popular retailers at the time including Adler’s Jewelry, Rubenstein Bros., and Werlein’s Music. Theaters and bookstores decorated the streets with neon marquees and multi-colored lights. Famous spots included the Saenger, RKO Orpheum, Joy, Loews State, and Civic theaters.

Further developments continued into the 1950s-1960s. A six-lane Loyola Avenue was constructed as part of the Elk Place extension, cutting through low-income residential areas and originally housing the city’s new civic center complex. In the late 1960s, Poydras Street was widened to create another six-lane central area circulator for traffic and to accommodate high-rise constructions. From 1973 to 1993, the City of New Orleans underwent renovations with public and private sector to spark more community participation. Today, luxury properties such as FourWindsNOLA and Four Seasons Hotel have helped to bring more development, security, and appeal to the district.

Close to the Mississippi River holds The Warehouse District which was heavily home to many warehouses and manufacturing buildings before the advent of containerized shipping. During the 1984 World’s Fair, the area drew renewed interest in the somewhat derelict district. As a result, heavy redevelopment began in the area. Many of the old warehouses have now been converted to boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, condos, and art galleries. As a local or visitor to New Orleans, the CBD is a must-see spot where much of the action and attractions lie.

Landmarks:

Museums/Attractions:

Luckily, much of the business district escaped major destruction during Hurricane Katrina as it lies on higher ground. The bustling center, home to the best of art, culture, and everyday business is a great way to preserve the memories of the past and the forward direction that New Orleans has been making the past decade.

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Central Business District

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Tulane/Gravier

Screenshot of University Medical Center New Orleans

Situated on the borders of famous neighborhoods, The Tulane/Gravier area of New Orleans is a neighborhood that is a subdistrict of the Mid City neighborhood. The City Planning Commission designates its borders as St. Louis Street to its north, North Claiborne Avenue, and Iberville Street. North and South Derbigny Streets and Cleveland Streets also comprise its street borders to the east. The famous Pontchartrain Expressway makes up its south border.

Mostly residential, the area is known for its diversity and nightlife. Let’s take a closer look at this New Orleans neighborhood:

Tulane/Gravier History

The neighborhood was first settled by European Jesuits. However, they were expelled from the Louisiana territory by the King of France in 1763 while the neighborhood land was sold at auction. Over the next 50 years, it changed private ownership many times. Some of its owners include Andres Reynard, Juan Pradel, and Bertrand and Jean Gravier. A small part of the land was granted to the Marquis de Lafayette in 1806 for his service during the Revolutionary War. The former boundaries of the neighborhood were Iberville, North Rampart and North Galvez Streets, and Common Street. By 1840 to 1841, the newest owner John Hagan purchased the land, called it Faubourg Hagan and sold it. The neighborhood — a triangular shape between Claiborne and Galvez on Tulane Avenue — comprised 41 city blocks.

The neighborhood was named in honor of Paul Tulane, the founder of Tulane University and a major financial benefactor to education in Louisiana, along with the founders of Faubourg St. Mary’s, the Graviers.

In the early 19th century, commercial development boomed, particularly along Broad, Tulane, and Canal Streets. The new construction started to replace single and two-family structures along its interior corridors. By the 1950s and 1960s, more industrial construction became prominent within the area. In the 1990s, multi-family homes became converted in lower numbers. Now, mainly a commercial area, many residential buildings were also demolished. As a result, community residents formed community development corporations that assisted in the citywide renovations throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Present Day

The Tulane/Gravier neighborhood is now becoming revitalized with many low-income residents calling the area home. A mix of commercial and residential zoning has given rise to  manufacturing plants and other industrial complexes.

Landmarks:

There are several community facilities that make up significant landmarks in the neighborhood. This includes:

Walking through the streets of the neighborhood will give visitors a sense of both industrial and residential history of the city, along with the wide influence of diverse ethnicities who now populate the area. Enjoy your stroll through the neighborhood!

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Tulane/Gravier

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!

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Bywater

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 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)