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New Orleans Museum of…

Jun 29 - Sep 7, 2015
Ten Years Gone brings together six artists whose work engages with the broad… more

Remembering Jeffrey…

Jun 29 - 30, 2015
Join Carol Bebelle, Ron Bechet, Stella Jones, Margaret Slade Kelly, Martin… more

The Foundation…

Jun 29 - Jul 3, 2015
The Foundation Gallery is thrilled to present Sea and Soil a group exhibition… more

Hillbilly Jigs…

Jun 30 - 30, 2015
Join us at the Irish House for Hillbilly Jigs Bluegrass Jam. more

Lydia's Purple Cloth…

Jun 30 - Jul 28, 2015
Quilting continues! We're excited to have more time to work on creations… more

NASA Week to Blast…

Jun 30 - Jul 5, 2015
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas will host a week of space exploration… more

Purchased Lives: New…

Jun 30 - Jul 18, 2015
The Historic New Orleans Collection's newest exhibition, "Purchased… more

ESSENCE Festival…

Jul 2 - 2, 2015
The 2015 #BRINGTHELOVE Citywide Day of Service in New Orleans! Join… more

ESSENCE Music Festival

Jul 2 - 5, 2015
The ultimate party weekend is highlighted by performances from a variety of… more

Ogden After Hours…

Jul 2 - 2, 2015
Join us for Ogden After Hours for Alvin Youngblood Hart. more

Yappy Hour in the…

Jul 2 - 30, 2015
Join us for  Yappy Hour in the Courtyard at Rare Form, to benefit the… more

Red, White, and…

Jul 3 - 5, 2015
In a most unusual salute to Independence Day, Audubon Butterfly Garden and… more

Ashe Cultural Arts…

Jul 4 - 4, 2015
Ashé Cultural Arts Center proudly presents the 15th Annual Maafa… more

Go 4th On The River

Jul 4 - 4, 2015
The Go 4th on the River Dueling Barges Fireworks Extravaganza is the annual… more

Saturday Farmers…

Jul 4 - Dec 26, 2015
We are excited to announce the Saturday Farmers Market at the French Market!… more

St. Bernard Salutes…

Jul 4 - 4, 2015
The St. Bernard Salutes America Committee will host the 31st Annual Celebration… more

The Makeup & Martini…

Jul 4 - 4, 2015
Join us for the 3rd Annual Beauty and Entertainment event The Makeup &… more

Ogden Museum Book…

Jul 7 - 7, 2015
Join us at the Book Club for  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale… more

Gambit’s 2015…

Jul 8 - 8, 2015
Gambit's 2015 Emerging Chefs Challenge recognizes the next generation of… more

San Fermin in Nueva…

Jul 9 - 12, 2015
The 9th Annual Running of the Bulls at San Fermin in Nueva Orleans (SFNO) is… more

New Orleans Museum of…

Jun 29 - Sep 7, 2015
Ten Years Gone brings together six artists whose work engages with the broad… 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/.