Girls Dancing, Guys Watching: Bourbon Street Bar
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carr?, is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. When New Orleans (La Nouvelle-Orl?ans in French) was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the city was originally centered on the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carr? ("Old Square" in French) as it was known then. While the area is still referred to as the Vieux Carr? by some, it is more commonly known as the French Quarter today, or simply "The Quarter." The district as a whole is a National Historic Landmark, and contains numerous individual historic buildings. It was affected relatively lightly by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as compared to other areas of the city and the greater region.
Red Building on Bourbon Street
The most common definition of the French Quarter includes all the land stretching along the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue (12 blocks) and inland to North Rampart Street (seven to nine blocks). It equals an area of 78 sq. blocks. Some definitions, such as city zoning laws, exclude the properties facing Canal Street, which had already been redeveloped by the time architectural preservation was considered, and the section between Decatur Street and the river, much of which had long served industrial and warehousing functions. Any alteration to structures in the remaining blocks is subject to review by the Vieux Carr? Commission, which determines whether the proposal is appropriate for the historic character of the district. Its boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: Esplanade Avenue to the north, the Mississippi River to the east, Canal Street, Decatur Street and Iberville Street to the south and the Basin Street, St. Louis Street and North Rampart Street to the west.
Milling About on Bourbon Street
Many of the buildings date from before New Orleans became part of the United States, although there are some late 19th century and early 20th century buildings in the area as well. Since the 1920s the historic buildings have been protected by law and cannot be demolished, and any renovations or new construction in the neighborhood must be done according to regulations to match the period historic architectural style.
Bourbon Street Bathed in the Light of Night
Most of the French Quarter's architecture was built during the time of Spanish rule over New Orleans and this is reflected in its architecture. The Great New Orleans Fire (1788) and another great fire in 1794 destroyed most of the Quarter's old French colonial architecture, leaving the colony's new Spanish overlords to rebuild it according to more modern tastes?and strict new fire codes, which mandated that all structures be physically adjacent and close to the curb to create a firewall. The old French peaked roofs were replaced with flat tiled ones, and now-banned wooden siding with fire-resistant stucco, painted in the pastel hues fashionable at the time. As a result, colorful walls and roofs and elaborately decorated ironwork balconies and galleries, from both the 18th century and the early 19th century, abound. (In southeast Louisiana, a distinction is made between "balconies", which are self supporting and attached to the side of the building, and "galleries" which are supported from the ground by poles or columns.)
Example of the Famous Balconies of the French Quarter
When Anglophone Americans began to move in after the Louisiana Purchase, they mostly built just upriver, across modern day Canal Street, which became the meeting place of two cultures, one Francophone Creole and the other Anglophone American. (Local landowners had retained architect and surveyor Barthelemy Lafon to subdivide their property to create an American suburb). The median of the wide boulevard became a place where the two contentious cultures could meet and bilingually do business. As such, it became known as the "neutral ground", and this name persists in the New Orleans area for medians.
Crowded Bourbon Street
Even before the Civil War, French Creoles had become a minority in the French Quarter. In the late 19th century the Quarter became a less fashionable part of town, and many immigrants from southern Italy and Ireland settled there. In 1905, the Italian consul estimated that one-third to one-half of the Quarter?s population were Italian-born or second generation Italian-Americans.
Corner of Bourbon Street and St. Peter Street
In 1917, the closure of Storyville sent much of the vice formerly concentrated therein back into the French Quarter, which "for most of the remaining French Creole families . . was the last straw, and they began to move uptown." This, combined with the loss of the French Opera House two years later, provided a bookend to the era of French Creole culture in the Quarter.
Cars Speeding Through the French Quarter at Night
In the early 20th century the Quarter's cheap rents and air of age and decay attracted a bohemian artistic community, a trend which became pronounced in the 1920s. Many of these new inhabitants were active in the first preservation efforts in the Quarter, which began around that time. As a result the Vieux Carr? Commission (VCC) was established in 1925. Although initially only an advisory body, a 1936 referendum to amend the Louisiana constitution afforded it a measure of regulatory power.
The Grass is Always Greener on Bourbon Street
On December 21, 1965, the "Vieux Carre Historic District" was designated a National Historic Landmark. Preservation activities were led by Jacob Haight Morrison (1905?1974), a lawyer who headed the Vieux Carr? Property Owners association. He was the half-brother of Mayor deLesseps Story Morrison (1912?1963)
People Strolling Through the French Quarter at Night
In the 1980s many long-term residents were driven away by rising rents as property values rose dramatically with expectations of windfalls from the planned 1984 World's Fair nearby. More of the neighborhood became developed for the benefit of tourism. The French Quarter remains a combination of residential, hotels, guest houses, bars, and tourist-oriented commercial properties.
On the Balcony
At the end of August 2005, the majority of New Orleans was flooded due to levee breaches after Hurricane Katrina. The French Quarter, like most parts of town developed before the late 19th century, was one of the areas to remain substantially dry, since it was built on dry land that predated New Orleans' levee systems and sits 5 feet (1.5 m) above sea level. Some streets experienced minor flooding, and several buildings experienced significant wind damage. Most of the major landmarks suffered only minor damage. The Quarter largely escaped the looting and violence after the storm; nearly all of the antique shops and art galleries in the French Quarter, for example, were untouched.
Dancing Contest in a Bourbon Street Bar
Jackson Square (formerly Place d'Armes), originally designed by architect and landscaper Louis H. Pili? (although he is only given credit for the iron fence), is an open park the size of a city-block located at the center of the French Quarter ( GPS +29.95748 -090.06310 ). After the Battle of New Orleans it was named after victorious general Andrew Jackson; an equestrian statue of Jackson is in the center of the park.
What Malls are to Stores, Bourbon Street is to
The square originally overlooked the Mississippi River across Decatur Street, but the view was blocked in the 19th century by the building of larger levees. The riverfront was long given to shipping, but the administration of Mayor Moon Landrieu put in a scenic boardwalk along the river across from the Square; it is known as the "Moon Walk" in his honor. At the end of the 1980s additional old wharfs and warehouses were demolished to create Woldenberg Park, extending the riverfront promenade up to Canal Street.
Blond Girl Imitating Britney Spears in a Karaoke Bar
On the opposite side of the square from the River are three 18th-century historic buildings which were the city's heart in the colonial era. The center of the three is St. Louis Cathedral. The cathedral was designated a minor basilica by Pope Paul VI. To its left is The Cabildo, the old city hall, now a museum, where the finalization of the Louisiana Purchase was signed. To the Cathedral's right is The Presbytere, built to match the Cabildo. The Presbyt?re, originally intended to house the city's Roman Catholic priests and authorities, was turned into a courthouse at the start of the 19th century, and in the 20th century became a museum.
Huge Ass Beers to go, Bourbon Street
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is a tavern located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Philip Street. The tavern's building, built sometime before 1772, is one of the older still standing structures in New Orleans (the Ursuline Convent, for example, is older) and has been called the oldest continually occupied bar in the United States. According to legend the structure was once owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte, though as with many things involving Lafitte, no documentation of this exists. The Napoleon House bar and restaurant is in the former home of mayor Nicholas Girod; the name comes from an unrealized plot to rescue Napoleon I from his exile in St. Helena and bring him to New Orleans.
Colorful Glow of the French Quarter, New Orleans
Lady Performing in the Cat's Meow, Bourbon Street On the other two sides of the square are the Pontalba Buildings, matching red-brick block long 4-story buildings built in the 1840s. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; the upper floors are apartments that are the oldest continuously rented such apartments in the United States. Directly across from Jackson Square is the Jax Brewery building, the original home of a local beer. After the company ceased to operate independently, the building was converted into several businesses, including restaurants and specialty shops. In recent years, some retail space has been converted into riverfront condominiums. Behind the Jax Brewery lies the Toulouse Street Wharf, the regular port of the steamboat Natchez.
Mysterious Lady on a French Quarter Balcony
From the 1920s through the 1980s the square was known as a gathering place of painters, young art students and caricaturists. In the 1990s the artists were joined by tarot card readers, mimes, fortune tellers, and street performers. Live music has been a regular feature of the entire quarter, including the Square for more than a century. Formal concerts do take place, albeit rarely, and musicians are known to play for tips. Diagonally across the square from the Cabildo is Caf? du Monde, open 24 hours a day, well known for the caf? au lait, coffee spiced with chicory, and beignets, served there continuously since the 19th century. It is a custom to blow the powdered sugar onto anyone who is going there for the first time, while making a wish.
French Quarter Waitresses: Anything for a Tip
The most well known of the French Quarter streets, Bourbon Street, or Rue Bourbon, is known for its drinking establishments. Most of the bars frequented by tourists are new but the Quarter also has a number of notable bars with interesting histories. The Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street has kept its name even though for almost a century absinthe was illegal in the United States. Pat O'Brien's Bar is well-known for both inventing the red cocktail, Hurricane, as well as having the first Dueling Piano Bar. Pat O'Brien's is located at 718 St. Peter Street.
Lady Performing in the Cat's Meow, Bourbon Street
On the other two sides of the square are the Pontalba Buildings, matching red-brick block long 4-story buildings built in the 1840s. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; the upper floors are apartments that are the oldest continuously rented such apartments in the United States. Directly across from Jackson Square is the Jax Brewery building, the original home of a local beer. After the company ceased to operate independently, the building was converted into several businesses, including restaurants and specialty shops. In recent years, some retail space has been converted into riverfront condominiums. Behind the Jax Brewery lies the Toulouse Street Wharf, the regular port of the steamboat Natchez.