History and Development of New Orleans
1984 The Vieux Carre
The Old Square, is the traditional designation for the original French colonial town, a relatively small rectangle that has remained the heart of the city.
The Vieux Carre, or French Quarter, coincides approxiamately with the original area of the city of New Orleans, a total of about 100 squares bounded by Iberville, Rampart Streets, Esplanade Ave. and the Mississippi River. It is protected by a municipal ordinance on March 3, 1937, (. 14,538 C.C.S.), against impairment of its “quaint and distinctive character”, more particularly of “those buildings having architectural and historic worth.” The Tulane, Vieux Carre Survey of 1962-66, is an index of every property in the Vieux Carre. This is the general statement to supplement the compilation of the data. Primary concern in this survey is with the architectural considerations.
The Vieux Carre is a recognizable unit, but is never the less, a related part of the entire city. Whatever occurs within the city will inevitably affect the image of New Orleans as a whole. As well, the forces that influence the evolving image inside the controlled area, are the same forces that act upon the total setting. Conversely, it would be foolish to suppose that renewal and continuity in the surrounding and adjacent area. For the visitor, the experience of the Vieux Carre is to some degree, determined by the approaches to the city. As the city settles into its expanding patterns, there may develop an increasing sense of relatedness, in time as well as in space, among all factors that contribute to the history and progress.
The Colonial Period
The city was laid out in 1721, with its present grid pattern of narrow streets, an intended enclosure of walls, only inadequately realized at a later time, and the central square on the river.
The city was given an urban character by the placement of many of the houses at the street line. At first the buildings were spaced apart through the separating garden areas and were walled in from the street. Buildings were two stories high, with many high, walled in from the street. Buildings were two stories, with high pitched roofed cottage structures. Where galleries were used to shade the walls, they added a regional note to the dominant French character. The Spanish modified the tradition very little. The only certain surviving example of early New Orleans architecture is the Ursuline convent, built from 1732-34. Only a few 18th century buildings remain, represented by Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop, an example of an early of an early cottage type, and Madame John’s Legacy, 632 Dumaine, a unique example of the larger raised cottage with galleries.
Although little remains, at least a feeling is left of the colonial city in the basic concept of streets and town center, in the prevailing scale, and certain traditions in the building or living arrangements that were incorporated into the later town, galleries, balconies, courtyards, service buildings, roof shapes, iron work, etc.. The initial building tradition is essentially half timber, vernacular of Medieval Western Europe.
Faubourg Marigny, Bywater
The Creole Faubourgs present a great variety of building types and that can be found in most other areas of the city. The first of two faubourgs to be considered here is the Faubourg Marigny, the other further downriver, the Faubourg Washington, or Bywater. Marigny, directly across from the esplanade edge of the Vieux Carre. is comprised of curving, angular streets forming a complex street layout.
In the Creole faubourgs, the exterior of some earlier Creole cottages were altered adding decorative jigsaw and turned woodwork during the 1880’s and 90’s, similar to the decoration be used on the newere shotgun type buildings. These modifications were purely decorative., the use of these buildings was not changed, nor has the scale and proportion been altered. Outside of the Vieux Carre, this antebellum neighborhood is relatively intact.
This, the first faubourg to be developed below the Vieux Carre, was laid out in 1805. This area comprised the plantation of Bernard de Marigny. The boundaries extend from the old fortification, Esplanade Ave., to the Danoy plantation, now Franklin Ave.. The history of this plantation begins in 1718, with the founding of New Orleans.
The plan of the original city envisioned a typical French fortified town. In such a plan, the area outside the fortifications was reserved as a commons, not to be built on. Since fortifications were not built until 1769, the commons below the town were eventually granted to private ownership, after plantations had been granted during the 1720’s.
Bernard de Marigny, after having acquired the land after his father’s death in 1880, decided a few years after the Louisiana transfer to the United States, to subdivide his plantation to accomadate rapidly growing American city.The plan of de Finiel’s, dated 1806, was planned to tie the existing streets of the Vieux Carre to the new subdivision, and continued to follow the river. The area was divided into lots similar in size and arrangement as in the old city. Five lots facing the street, parallell to the river, and two key lots that face the side streets and run through the center of the squares. This new faubourg developed primarily as a residential area. American developers wanted to develop the area as a business area, however Marigny sold the properties to his French and creole friends, and the business center was developed on the other side of the old city, along Canal Street. In 1836, antagonism between the American and French segments of the poulation was so strong, that the city was divided into three municipalities, with one mayor and a council to deal with points of common interest. the faubourg Marigny grew rapidly, and 1809, Marigny decided to enlarge the area. This area was named the New Faubourg Marigny, and extended another six blocks away from the river.
The Faubourg Danois, known as the Brewery originally, the Lower Cotton Press, and the Bourg Montegut, extending to what is now referred to as the Faubourg Marigny. This area is the first below the city to be granted to private ownership by the Company of the Indies after the city was founded in 1718.
Immediately following below the Cotton press was the faubourg Montegut, as wel as the Faubourgs Clouet, Montreuil, and Carraby, Frascati and the Darby concession extending to Bartholomew street, in addition to a few more streets, this area below the Cotton Press, Press Street, comprise what is now referred to as Bywater, named after the areas first telephone exchange. The area is similar to or simply an extension of the Marigny, comprised of early Creiole cottages and later shotguns.
Beyond the impressive townhouses that make up Esplanade Ave., a pleasant and simple repetition of types and styles characterize the creole faubourgs. The dichotomy of French and Spanish colonial architecture evolved into a unique expression known as creole. This meld was absorbed and imitated soon after the downtown plantations were subdivided into lots for development of residential housing. Similar construction techniques, standard modules, and repetitive decorative motifs link these neighborhoods stylistically to the Vieux Carre. The local builders remained oriented to the French and Spanish building customs through the first half of the nineteenth century. The cultural mixes that settled in these neighborhoods filtered through and flavored them with essences especially suited to superb 19th century urban residential commercial development. Today entire squares, as well as neighborhoods reflective of this evolution of types and styles of architecture remain preserved and intact.
Algiers Point , is located across the river from the Vieux Carre on the west bank of the Mississippi River. This district developed as a small town, relying first on ship building and repairs, and later on the Southern Pacific Railroad, for its economic prosperity. Today many of its residents commute to New Orleans on the ferry or across the Mississippi Bridge. Algiers grew slowly from its beginings, initially developed from an early nineteenth century plantation, with development gradually working its way back from the river towards Opelousas street and Atlantic Ave. The small town grew until 1895, when a fire destroyed much of the area. Among the earliest structures constructed, and destroyed were Greek Revival in style. However after the Civil War, architectural fashion changed from the Greek Revival to the more elaborate Italianate style, and the Queen Anne influence also came into play. After the turn of the century, the Classical Revival and later Bungalow styles became popular as the Point built up to the 1920’s. There have been a few buildings erected since the Second World War. The house types are predominantly one and two story shotgun type houses, along with many corner residential shops. The visual character of this area is determined by these buildings, low in scale, classically severe or exuberantly ornamented, and in places making rows of similar structures. Corner Stores, often two stories tall, with an iron gallery above the sidewalk can be found. The Algiers Point is a National Register Historic District.
Lower Garden District
As a whole, the Lower Garden District offers an historically, and architecturally interesting neighborhood, and is among one of the most comprehensive 19th century Greek Revival districts in the country, with its many townhouses, row houses, galleried residences of the antebellum period, and up to 1900. In the 1840’s and 50’s the Lower Garden District began to boom, and at the same time “back of town”. The Lower Garden District, is actually a part of four neighborhoods. One a part of the Irish Channel, and Annunciation Square, becoming fashionable in the 1830’s with Greek Revival mansions and suburban villas and country cottages, The district had a rich blend of socio-economic and ethnic groups, as seen where fashionable houses were built next to sophisticated multiple dwellings. New Orleans at this time experienced an expanding population, coinciding with the great building boom preceeding the Civil War. The Lower Garden District differs from other areas in that it was developed as a semi-urban residential area, laid out in 1806, a more open, landscaped setting. There are many fine examples of 2 story galleried townhouses, raised cottages and modest shotgun houses in this area, along with two story shop- residences, and commercial structures along Magazine St..
The Irish Channel
This area, the district next in progression uptown from the Lower Garden District, was originally a suburb of New Orleans, a part of the city of Lafayette, that later became a part of the city in 1852. The Irish Channel was developed with more modest dwellings, than those of the more pretentious Garden District. Predominantly a working class neighborhood, due in part to it’s proximity to the warehouses and wharfs along the Mississippi River. This area was settled largely by Irish immigrants, in an area along the river below Lafayette, an area known as the Lower Garden District, and the population and name since, have drifted upriver, above Jackson Ave., between Magazine St. and the river.
Most of the buildings in this area were constructed between 1850 and 1900. Most houses, many double shotgun houses, were built behind larger, more pretentious dwellings that are found along the major avenues. Shotgun houses, typically, are one story high and one room wide, and double shotguns, are simply two singles side by side, shotgun houses with a second story addition on the rear, are called camelbacks. These house types predominate, and in many ways, this neighborhood is similar with Bywater and Marigny. The repetition of a basic, standard building type forms a harmony of style and scale along the streetscape of the neighborhood. Variety is provided by the stylistic treatment of a dwelling’s façade, and include typical styles of the late 19th century, with many Greek Revival, Italianate, Eastlake and Queen Anne examples.
Uptown, riverbend to Claiborne. There actually are three sections of the Carrollton area. Upper and Lower Carrollton and NW Carrollton. Without looking, Lower Carrollton is an area on the St. Charles side of the riverbend at Carrollton Ave, and is adjacent to Black Pearl on the riverside, and on the lakeside, has many small commercial shops vital to the neighborhood, with a mix of types and styles of structures. Upper Carrollton is lakeside of the riverbend and runs along both sides of the street, along Carrollton Ave., out to Claiborne, at the trolley’s end of the line, at Palmer Park.
This history and development of New Orleans, was written in 1985 as a part of my master’s thesis, at the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources, Masters of Landscape Architecture program.
“the Visual Survey, Documentation and Analysis of Historic Resources and Districts, Case Study: New Orleans, Louisiana”.
MLA, University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources.
There are two parts, the first
Part One, is the history and development of the city, and focuses only on a number of established historic districts, The Vieux Carre, the Creole Faubourgs, Lower Garden District, the Irish Channel and Algiers.
Part Two, will address the history and development of New Orleans architectural types and styles, as they developed through the 1800’s and into the early twentieth century. footnotes will be last.
this is only a part of it, yet to be entered here, yet to come.
all material on this blog are, and may not for any reason to be used w/out written permission from the author.
©2008 text and images, Jeffrey Lamb