New Orleans is so rich in Creole history, with its ancient landmarks, . . . that it is difficult to delve into the rich and romantic background of the Creole without including . . . the city itself. (Herrin, p. 49)
New Orleans used to be called
(Old Square). It was the capital of the area which now includes the states of Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Minnesota. New Orleans was a Creole city founded in 1718 by Sieur de Bienville. The Spanish helped build it. The Americans came in 1803.
The city is divided into three sections: Vieux Carré (Old Quarter) the “bastion of the established Creole families,” (Crété, p. 56); the Faubourg St. Mary, a growing American district; and the Faubourg Marigny built by the Creole Bernard de Marigny on land across from the Esplanade on the banks of the Mississippi. The river was deep here and docks could be built for boat traffic. Marigny wanted to make his area the center of the town but merchants didn’t want to move their businesses, so this area became the home of the poorer Creoles and French.
The Vieux Carré as the heart Of New Orleans was composed of eight streets in a square. As new streets were added, the square became a rectangle surrounded by a wall. After a while the walls were removed and three large avenues bordered the city. Fifteen streets left Rampart Street and ended at the river, and seven streets went from Canal Street to the Esplanade. In the center was the Place d’Armes surrounded by an intricate wrought iron fence. The streets were straight and wide, with brick sidewalks called
. The houses sported decorative balconies and iron grillwork. The Cathedral, City Hall, and the Presbytery were all magnificent buildings located here. To the southeast was found a levee which served as a port of export for products for the West.
Between Levee and Bourbon Streets was located the best commercial and residential area. The houses had court-yards with fountains and tropical plants. The main entrance or
was a wide gate behind which was kept the family carriage. Beyond the gate was a wide staircase that led to an upper apartment. Wide windows opened to the patio. There were iron balconies. There was no cellar. The first floor was raised above street level and was used for storage.
From Bourbon to Rampart Street the houses were low and made of mixed brick and woods There were some simple wooden houses as well The roofs were made of tile or shingles and extended over the sidewalks. The two front rooms opened into the street with French glass doors. One room was the dining room and the drawing room. The other was bedrooms.
There were excellent street lights in New Orleans dating from 1796. Oil lamps hung on chains at every street corner. They were lit at sundown and extinguished at dawn. The lights were financed by an annual chimney tat of nine reales per chimney per owner.
The Saint Louis Cemetery was originally Catholic. Eventually it allowed Protestants and Blacks to be buried there in their own sections of the cemetery The cemetery was established during the early days of the Spanish settlement. The tombs were placed above the ground because of the water level.
The marketplace was located near the Place d’Armes-. All kinds of food was sold there. A little something extra,
, was given with every purchase: a rose, a bunch of radishes, etc. There were makeshift stands selling refreshments like gumbo, or flowers. There were street vendors too.