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: Audubon

As a subdistrict of Uptown/Carrollton section, New Orleans’ Audubon neighborhood is an area that demands its own respect and admiration. Plenty of New Orleans natives have differing opinion on what makes up the boundaries of the Audubon neighborhood. According to the City Planning Commission definition it starts from S. Claiborne Avenue to the river. It’s historic architecture is bisected by St. Charles Avenue and NOLA’s famous streetcar line.

Throughout the neighborhood, beautiful tree-lined streets and decadent streets are seen. The Audubon district is home to many prominent and distinct New Orleans sites from The Audubon Park to famous Loyola and Tulane Universities. Let’s explore and learn a bit The Audubon neighborhood’s history!

History

In the early 19th century, a growing New Orleans town spread upriver and began to include spreads of farmlands, plantations, and villages into its vastly developing boundaries. By 1870, the area was almost completely populated with the exception of one plantation. The City of New Orleans originally purchased the land to turn into a park. However, no developments were made until the 1884 World’s Fair Cotton Centennial came to town. Today, visitors may still see the only remaining artifact from the fair; a metallic bolder on the east side of Audubon Park’s golf course, referred to by locals as “The Meteorite”. After the fair, the land between St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River were developed into Audubon Park. In addition, the area on behind St. Charles Avenue was divided into home for Tulane and Loyola University students.

In the past, the neighborhood also included a long strip on either side of Broadway. Before the district became a part of New Orleans in 1870, it was referred to the town of Greenville. At times, visitors may hear residents refer to the neighborhood that lies upriver from the park as Greenville. Today, visitors can still find the Historic Greenville Hall on St. Charles Avenue, just up the street from Broadway and in the middle of the district’s third University, St. Mary’s Dominican College (1910-1984). Now, this spot is part of Loyola University’s property and acts as a satellite campus.

Current Day

Today, the Audubon section is home to prestigious universities with a bevy of students occupiers. Many properties are expensive surrounding the campuses with adjacent streets filled with highly-valued, premium real estate in the city. The neighborhood is also often referred to as the University area, uptown from New Orleans main districts. In addition, the Audubon Park is a lovely attraction and remains one of the largest parks in the city. It holds numerous preservation projects including aquarium and nature center. It is also home to the Audubon Zoo where visitors can spot rare white alligators near the upper part of Magazine Street. Riverboats can escort guests to the Zoo from the Central Business District.

Visitors will find plenty of foot traffic in this section, with many students, joggers, and bikers, making for a very lively and active neighborhood.

Landmarks:

Restaurants/Food:

The Audubon home is a lively and active neighborhood filled with so much culture, history, and education. It’s a peaceful, but vibrant neighborhood to explore and you’ll catch numerous photo ops while strolling through. As one of the most beautiful parts of New Orleans, it’s a great place to stop, look, and think about NOLA’s culture.

New Orleans Neighborhood Series: Audubon

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 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