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Upcoming Events

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“Awash with Color:…

Feb 7 - May 21, 2016
Join us at the Historic New Orleans Collection for the new exhibition… more

18th Annual Dr.…

Feb 7 - Mar 31, 2016
Join us for the opening reception for the 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King… more

2016 Mardi Grad…

Feb 7 - 9, 2016
Mardi Gras - 2016 Parade Schedule Sat,… more

Bacchus Bash

Feb 7 - 7, 2016
Bacchus Bash, the annual Mardi Gras extravaganza, returns Sunday, February 7.… more

Mama's Music

Feb 07, 2016 - Jan 10, 2026
In Big Mama's Lounge. 21+ with valid photo I.D. 7-string guitarist Justin… more

Mardi Gras Balcony…

Feb 7 - 9, 2016
MARDI GRAS BOURBON STREET BALCONY TICKETS 6 HOURS OPEN BAR, LOUISIANA BUFFET… more

Patriot, Planter,…

Feb 7 - Mar 20, 2016
NOMA will present the first exhibition to focus on the works of Pierre-Joseph… more

The Foundation…

Feb 7 - 28, 2016
*Opening Reception: January 15, 2016 - 6pm-10pm The Foundation Gallery will be… more

The Historic New…

Feb 7 - May 7, 2016
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, The Historic New… more

The Photography of…

Feb 7 - Mar 1, 2016
The Photography of Modernist Cuisine: The Exhibition, a collection of over 50… more

Tim Youd: 100 Novels

Feb 7 - 21, 2016
Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Tim Youd will visit NOMA to perform the… more

Ultimate Louisiana…

Feb 7 - 9, 2016
This is a three-day festival from Feb 7th-9th, 2016. The Human Circuit plays… more

David Hansen's Garden…

Feb 08, 2016
Since 2006, Hansen's Garden District Jazz Trio has performed every night at… more

Krewe of Orpheus -…

Feb 8 - 8, 2016
Experience a side of Mardi Gras seldom seen by New Orleanians or visitors, and… more

Krewe of Orpheus…

Feb 8 - 8, 2016
Join us for the Orpheus Parade. Founded in 1993, the Krewe of Orpheus takes its… more

Lundi Gras at the…

Feb 8 - 8, 2016
Join our Lundi Gras Celebration– kid style! Decorate your own king cake.… more

Mardi Gras Bourbon…

Feb 8 - 8, 2016
LIMITED VIP Mardi Gras Bourbon Street Balcony Tickets! Being "above the… more

Monday Blues

Feb 08, 2016 - Jan 05, 2026
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages. Get your live local blues fix with Sean Riley. more

The Irish House…

Feb 08, 2016
This is the Biggest Irish Music Session in the south. On a Night you will see… more

The Maison Presents -…

Feb 08, 2016 - Jul 31, 2017
The Royal Roses grew out of the rich resurgence that traditional jazz is seeing… more

“Awash with Color:…

Feb 7 - May 21, 2016
Join us at the Historic New Orleans Collection for the new exhibition… 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/.