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“Awash with Color:…

May 4 - 21, 2016
Join us at the Historic New Orleans Collection for the new exhibition… more

BB King's Blues Club…

May 4 - 4, 2016
Join us at the BB King's Blues Club New Orleans for BB King Allstar Band ft.… more

BB King's Blues Club…

May 4 - 4, 2016
Join us at the BB King's Blues Club New Orleans for BB King Allstars Band ft.… more

Comedy Gold hosted by…

May 04, 2016 - Jan 07, 2026
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages (content may not be appropriate for all ages).… more

David Hansen's Garden…

May 04, 2016
Since 2006, Hansen's Garden District Jazz Trio has performed every night at… more

New Orleans Photo…

May 4 - 29, 2016
The New Orleans Photo Alliance (NOPA), is proud to be the first venue to … more

Siberian Invasion!…

May 4 - 4, 2016
Four funky acts descend upon Siberia for a night of groove and revelry:… more

Soiree d'Or, a…

May 4 - 4, 2016
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The Historic New…

May 4 - 7, 2016
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, The Historic New… more

The Maison Presents -…

May 04, 2016 - Jul 26, 2017
The New Orleans Jazz Vipers play a free dinner show at The Maison every… more

YLC Wednesday at the…

May 4 - 4, 2016
Join us for Wednesday at the Square. The 12-week concert series takes place in… more

BB King's Blues Club…

May 5 - 5, 2016
Join us at the BB King's Blues Club New Orleans for BB King Allstars Band ft.… more

BB King's Blues Club…

May 5 - 5, 2016
Join us at the BB King's Blues Club New Orleans for BB King Allstars Band ft.… more

Heart of the House

May 05, 2016 - Jan 08, 2026
In The Voodoo Garden, All Ages. Heart of the House puts the spotlight on House… more

Jazz in the Park

May 5 - Jun 9, 2016
Jazz in the Park returns this spring running from April 14th to June 9th, with… more

Novice Italian…

May 5 - 19, 2016
Students will develop basic language skills and a general understanding of… more

Novice Italian…

May 5 - 19, 2016
Students will develop basic language skills and a general understanding of… more

Shatner's World We…

May 5 - 5, 2016
Join William Shatner at the Orpheum Theater for his stand up comedy tour… more

BB King's Blues Club…

May 6 - 6, 2016
Join us at the BB King's Blues Club New Orleans for BB King Allstar Band ft.… more

BB King's Blues Club…

May 6 - 6, 2016
Join us at the BB King's Blues Club New Orleans for BB King Allstars Band ft.… more

“Awash with Color:…

May 4 - 21, 2016
Join us at the Historic New Orleans Collection for the new exhibition… more

New Orleans History

History

The history of New Orleans reads like a fantastic novel. Here are a few of the highlights to help you better understand the historical dynamics that have shaped this utterly unique city.

French Founders: 1718

In 1718, the Frenchman Sieur de Bienville founded a strategic port city five feet below sea level, near the juncture of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. The new city, or ville, was named La nouvelle Orleans for Philippe, Duc d'Orleans, and centered around the Place d'Armes (later to be known as Jackson Square). The original city was confined to the area we now call the French Quarter or Vieux Carre (Old Square).

Spanish Rule: 1762-1801

In 1762, either because he lost a bet or because the royal coffers were exhausted, Louis XV gave Louisiana to his Spanish cousin, King Charles III. Spanish rule was relatively short -- lasting until 1801 -- but Spain would leave a lasting imprint on the city.

In 1788, the city went up in flames, incinerating over 800 buildings. New Orleans was still recovering when a second fire in 1794 destroyed 200 structures. One of the only French structures to survive these fires is the Old Ursuline Convent (1100 Chartres). Completed in 1752, it is the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley. This means that most of the buildings you see in the French Quarter were actually constructed by the Spanish and feature distinctly Spanish architectural elements.

Louisiana Purchase: 1803

In 1801 Louisiana ceded back to France, but only two years later Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, effectively doubling the size of the U.S.A. At a cost of only $15 million, it was considered one of the greatest real estate bargains in history.

The American Sector and Haitian Immigration

After the Louisiana Purchase, Americans arrived en masse as did European immigrants from Germany, Ireland and Sicily.

Tension existed between the European Creoles concentrated in the French Quarter and the new American residents. As a result, the Americans settled across Canal Street in what was known then as the American Sector, known today as The Central Business District. The two factions skirmished often, and the Canal Street median became a neutral area where the two groups could come together to do business without invading the other's territory. Ever since, all city medians have been called neutral grounds.

And the Haitian Revolution of 1804 meant that for years to come thousands of Afro-Caribbean descent would come to call New Orleans home. These immigrants further diversified the population of New Orleans and made colorful contributions to the city's culture.

The War of 1812 and The Battle of New Orleans

The war of 1812 culminated in the Battle of New Orleans three years after the war began. In January of 1815, 8,000 British troops were poised to attack and overtake the City of New Orleans. The American forces lead by General Andrew Jackson were grossly outnumbered. Due to the circumstances an unusual union formed - the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte and his men joined the American forces to defend New Orleans. On January 8, a polyglot band of 4,000 militia, frontiersmen, former Haitian slaves and Lafitte's pirates defeated the British at  Chalmette Battlefield, just a few miles east of the French Quarter. The battlefield remains a place worthy of a visit.

The New Paris

By the mid-1800s, the city in the bend of the river became the fourth largest in the U.S. and one of the richest, dazzling visitors with chic Parisian couture, fabulous restaurants and sophisticated culture.

Society centered around the French Opera House, where professional opera and theatre companies played to full houses. In fact, opera was performed in New Orleans seven years before the Louisiana Purchase, and more than 400 operas premiered in the Crescent City during the l9th century.

A Cultural Gumbo

Under French, Spanish and American flags, Creole society coalesced as Islanders, West Africans, slaves, free people of color and indentured servants poured into the city along with a mix of French and Spanish aristocrats, merchants, farmers, soldiers, freed prisoners and nuns.

New Orleans was, for its time, a permissive society that resulted an intermingling of peoples unseen in other communities, and it is New Orleans' diverse heritage that is the driving force behind this unique and exotic city. The contributions of Africans, Caribbean peoples, the French, Spanish, Germans, Irish, Sicilians and more created a society unlike any other.

Over the years New Orleans has had a powerful influence on American and global culture. Our cuisine is known across the world and rock and roll was born from the sounds of our sultry jazz. Literary giants from Tennessee Williams to William Faulkner have flocked to the city for inspiration. Our food, music and cultural practices will capture your imagination and your heart. Diversity, creativity and celebration are at the core of the New Orleans way of life. All are welcome - the more ingredients, the more we can feed.

For more information on New Orleans history visit one of our many museums or take a tour with one of our knowledgeable guides.