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Upcoming Events

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A Louisiana Parlor:…

Sep 4 - Oct 11, 2015
This exhibition is in celebration of the acquisition of a superb Rococo Revival… more

Elegua Dance & Drum…

Sep 4 - 4, 2015
Join us for a concert featuring Elegua. Elegua, the internationally renowned… more

Elegua Dance & Drum…

Sep 4 - 4, 2015
Elegua, the internationally renowned women's percussion ensemble from… more

House of Blues…

Sep 4 - 4, 2015
It's Hot Out The Pot in our courtyard every Friday from 5-8pm with a Shrimp… more

Legendary Musicians…

Sep 4 - Dec 27, 2015
Join us at the Carver Theater for a Music Tribute honoring Legendary Musicians… more

Longue Vue House and…

Sep 4 - Oct 11, 2015
For the 10th Anniversary of the storm, Longue Vue will commemorate the revival… more

Louisiana Seafood…

Sep 4 - 6, 2015
From our waters to your plate, the Louisiana Seafood Festival is a celebration… more

New Orleans Museum of…

Sep 4 - 7, 2015
Ten Years Gone brings together six artists whose work engages with the broad… more

NOBA Hosts…

Sep 4 - 26, 2015
The New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) in partnership with Chalmette… more

NOBA's tuition-free…

Sep 4 - 25, 2015
Beginning this weekend, the NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance, along with other NOBA… more

Smoothie King Center…

Sep 4 - 4, 2015
Iconic rock band Mötley Crüe will mark the end of their touring… more

Southern Decadence…

Sep 4 - 7, 2015
Southern Decadence started  as a simple going-away party. As a top… more

The Foundation…

Sep 4 - 4, 2015
Join us at the Foundation Gallery for the opening reception House: Group… more

The Foundation…

Sep 4 - Oct 30, 2015
Join us at the Foundation Gallery for  House: Group Exhibition with Andrew… more

The Historic New…

Sep 04, 2015 - Jan 09, 2016
The Historic New Orleans Collection marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane… more

The Irish House -…

Sep 4 - 4, 2015
Join us at the Irish House for Marshall Baker. more

The Katrina Decade:…

Sep 04, 2015 - Jan 09, 2016
The Historic New Orleans Collection marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane… more

The Quickening

Sep 4 - 4, 2015
Join us for live entertainment  at the Maple Leaf Bar featuring The… more

The Sweat Social…

Sep 4 - Dec 20, 2015
Designed for wellness travelers visiting New Orleans, the Sweat Social offers… more

Ashe Cultural Arts…

Sep 5 - Oct 4, 2015
Join us for Ashe to Amen: the Enduring Spirituality of People of African… more

A Louisiana Parlor:…

Sep 4 - Oct 11, 2015
This exhibition is in celebration of the acquisition of a superb Rococo Revival… 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/.