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“Giants of Jazz: Art…

Sep 25 - Dec 17, 2017
This spring, art and music converge as The Historic New Orleans Collection… more

Amazing Scavenger…

Sep 25, 2017 - Jul 03, 2027
Turn New Orleans into a giant game board with this fun scavenger hunt… more

David Hansen's Garden…

Sep 25, 2017
Since 2006, Hansen's Garden District Jazz Trio has performed every night at… more

David Hansen's Garden…

Sep 25 - Dec 29, 2017
Since 2006, Hansen's Garden District Jazz Trio has performed every night at… more

Monday Blues

Sep 25, 2017 - Jan 05, 2026
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages. Get your live local blues fix with Sean Riley. more

New Orleans Museum of…

Sep 25 - Oct 8, 2017
Jim Steg (American, 1922 -2001) was the most influential printmaker to be based… more

New Orleans Museum of…

Sep 25 - Oct 1, 2017
In celebration of beloved chef, civil rights activist, and art collector Leah… more

New Orleans Museum of…

Sep 25 - Oct 8, 2017
Paintings from throughout Scully's career are presented with a selection of… more

The Historic New…

Sep 25 - Oct 21, 2017
The Historic New Orleans Collection's Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for… more

The Somerton Suitcase…

Sep 25, 2017
The Somerton Suitcase is live every Monday night at VASO on Frenchmen St. Catch… more

Singer/Songerwriter…

Sep 26, 2017 - Jan 06, 2026
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages. House of Blues New Orleans hosts a new weekly… more

Comedy Gold hosted by…

Sep 27 - Nov 1, 2017
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages (content may not be appropriate for all ages).… more

Gordon Biersch…

Sep 27, 2017 - Feb 27, 2019
Come enjoy the  monthly Brewer's dinner where the Chef and Head Brewmaster… more

House of Blues…

Sep 27 - 27, 2017
Join us at the  Foundation Room at the House of Blues every Wednesday for… more

New Orleans Ballet…

Sep 27 - 27, 2017
The New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA), in partnership with the New Orleans… more

The Maison Dupuy…

Sep 27 - 27, 2017
Join us at the Maison Dupuy for the return of Sippin in the Courtyard series to… more

Heart of the House

Sep 28, 2017 - Jan 08, 2026
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages. Heart of the House puts the spotlight on House… more

Jazz in the Park

Sep 28 - Nov 2, 2017
Jazz in the Park returns this fall running from September 14th to November… more

Lilith in Loa…

Sep 28, 2017
From Laurel Canyon to the West Village, Nashville to New Orleans, the LOA Bar… more

Gretna Heritage…

Sep 29 - Oct 1, 2017
Join us in celebrating the Gretna Heritage Festival, encompassing 25 city… more

“Giants of Jazz: Art…

Sep 25 - Dec 17, 2017
This spring, art and music converge as The Historic New Orleans Collection… 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/.