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“Joseph and the…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015
This family musical classic from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber chronicles… more

Adler’s Jewelry Tea…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015
In an afternoon of elegant indulgence, an exclusive trunk show of stunning,… more

Deanie's Seafood 6th…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015
Join us for Deanie's Seafood's sixth-annual Pinch A Palooza Festival &… more

Edgar Degas: The…

Apr 19 - May 24, 2015
Featuring drawings, prints, sculpture, and photographs, all from a single… more

EN MAS’: Carnival and…

Apr 19 - Jun 7, 2015
Curated by Claire Tancons, Krista Thompson, EN MAS': Carnival and Performance… more

ETCHYNPÜFE Group Show…

Apr 19 - May 31, 2015
The Foundation Gallery is excited to host ETCHYNPÜFE, a group show… more

FOUR VOICES at the…

Apr 19 - May 24, 2015
The Garden District Gallery is pleased to present FOUR VOICES featuring… more

Jim Roche: Cultural…

Apr 19 - Jul 12, 2015
Born in 1943, Jim Roche received a BA from Florida State University (1961)… more

Joe Krown Trio feat.…

Apr 19 - 26, 2015
Join us for the  Joe Krown Trio feat. Walter "Wolfman"… more

JPAS Presents The…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015
For decades, renowned advice columnist Ann Landers answered countless letters… more

La Nuit Presents…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015
Join us for a monthly stand-up comedy show at La Nuit Comedy Theater for … more

M.S. Rau Antiques…

Apr 19 - May 4, 2015
Long established and leading art, antiques and jewelry specialist M.S. Rau… more

Mark Steinmetz: South

Apr 19 - May 10, 2015
Mark Steinmetz lives and works in Athens, Georgia. His work transcends the… more

Tennessee Williams:…

Apr 19 - May 31, 2015
Tennessee Williams was one of the most admired playwrights of the 20th century.… more

The Irish House -…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015

The New Orleans…

Apr 19 - Nov 18, 2015
Marvel Universe LIVE! will captivate audiences with an authentic and original… more

Trinity Artist Series…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015
Join us for the Jefferson Chorale directed by Louise LaBruyere in a program… more

GALATOIRE’S…

Apr 20 - 20, 2015
Galatoire's Restaurant, the grand dame of New Orleans fine dining, will host… more

Maple Leaf Bar…

Apr 20 - 20, 2015
Join us at the Maple Leaf Bar for Monday Funkday. more

Preservation Jazz…

Apr 20 - 20, 2015
Live New Orleans Jazz Nightly! more

“Joseph and the…

Apr 19 - 19, 2015
This family musical classic from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber chronicles… more

Architecture & Culture

Bayou St. John

Architectural Vignettes

New Orleans, with its richly mottled old buildings, its sly, sophisticated - sometimes almost disreputable - air, and its Hispanic-Gallic traditions, has more the flavor of an old European capital than an American city. Townhouses in the French Quarter, with their courtyards and carriageways, are thought by some scholars to be related on a small scale to certain Parisian "hotels" - princely urban residences of the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors particularly remember the decorative cast-iron balconies that cover many of these townhouses like ornamental filigree cages.

European influence is also seen in the city's famous above-ground cemeteries. The practice of interring people in large, richly adorned aboveground tombs dates from the period when New Orleans was under Spanish rule. These hugely popular "cities of the dead" have been and continue to be an item of great interest to visitors. Mark Twain, noting that New Orleanians did not have conventional below-ground burials, quipped that "few of the living complain and none of the other."

French Quarter Balcony

One of the truly amazing aspects of New Orleans architecture is the sheer number of historic homes and buildings per square mile. Orleanians never seem to replace anything. Consider this: Uptown, the City's largest historic district, has almost 11,000 buildings, 82 percent of which were built before 1935 - truly a "time warp."

The spine of Uptown, and much of New Orleans, is the city's grand residential showcase, St. Charles Avenue, which the novel A Confederacy of Dunces aptly describes: "The ancient oaks of St. Charles Avenue arched over the avenue like a canopy...St. Charles Avenue must be the loveliest place in the world. From time to time...passed the slowing rocking streetcars that seemed to be leisurely moving toward no special designations, following their route through the old mansions on either side...everything looked so calm, so prosperous."

The streetcars in question, the St. Charles Avenue line, represent the nation's only surviving historic streetcar system. All of its electric cars were manufactured by the Perley Thomas Company between 1922 and 1924 and are still in use. Hurricane Katrina flood waters caused severe damage to the steel tracks along the entire uptown and Carrollton route and had to be totally replaced and re-electrified. The cars themselves survived and are included in the National Register of Historic Places. New Orleanians revere them as a national treasure.

Unique Housing for a Unique City 

Creole cottages and shotgun houses dominate the scene in many New Orleans neighborhoods. Both have a murky ancestry. The Creole cottage, two rooms wide and two or more deep under a generous pitched roof with a front overhang or gallery, is thought to have evolved from various European and Caribbean forms.

The shotgun house is one room wide and two, three or four rooms deep, under a continuous gable roof. As legend has it, the name was suggested by the fact that because the rooms and doors line up, one can fire a shotgun through the house without hitting anything.

French Quarter Balcony 2 250x250

Some scholars have suggested that shotguns evolved from ancient African "long-houses," built here by refugees from the Haitian Revolution, but no one really knows.

It is true that shotguns represent a distinctively Southern house type. They are also found in the form of plantation quarters houses. Unlike shotgun houses in much of the South, which are fairly plain, New Orleans shotguns fairly bristle with Victorian jigsaw ornament, especially prominent, florid brackets. Indeed, in many ways, New Orleans shotguns are as much a signature of the city as the French Quarter.

New Orleans' architectural character is unlike that of any other American city. A delight to both natives and visitors, it presents such a variety that even after many years of study, one can still find things unique and undiscovered.

This material may be reproduced for editorial purposes of promoting New Orleans. Please attribute stories to New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. 2020 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130 504-566-5019. http://www.neworleanscvb.com/.