Vieux Carré

In the continuity of a city which has a historical past, there is much secular consolation for the transitoriness of human life. To the true city-born, city-bread heart, nothing less than the city itself is home, and nothing less than the city family; — Grace King. New Orleans: The Place and the People (1895)

Some might say that the city of New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter or Vieux Carré, is, and always has been, the quintessential cultural tourism city. Whether in New Orleans for leisure or business, the modern day visitor experiences an "otherness" that has changed, but has not been lost through the centuries.

New Orleans was originally settled in the area now known as the French Quarter, or Vieux Carré. After the Louisiana purchase, when the new "American' immigrants began settling in New Orleans, they avoided the French Quarter, settling instead to the south and west of the Quarter in Faubourg St. Mary, or what became known as the American sector. The Vieux Carré continued to be the home for the established Creole culture.

Christine M. Boyer describes the Vieux Carré situation during the 1870s, "By the 1870s it had become a melancholic symbol of ruin and decline for both the antebellum south and the Creole culture. An Illustrated Visitors' Guide in 1879 shows images of the French Quarter withdrawing into the mouldy corners of a romantic ruin." She posits that this nostalgic mood actually was the beginning of a self conscious construction of Creole New Orleans.

A nationwide audience had access to the primarily fictional accounts of New Orleans architecture and Creole culture by George Washington Cable appearing in The Century Magazine and Scribner's Magazine. "He popularized the aura of local color hanging over New Orleans’ architectural atmosphere and had diffused the sharpness of its imagery in picturesque ruinous forms." Cable's fabrications included architectural sites like the Old Absinthe House of 1790 and Madame Laturie's Haunted House, both of which have since been created to meet the expectations of visiting tourists.

Today, these fabrications have become part of the district's history, and the Vieux Carré has become the tourism jewel to a city that now depends on tourism. In 1895, Grace King called St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 "the mother cemetery, the Vieux Carré of the dead; as confused and closely packed a quarter as the living metropolis."

Faubourg Tremé

The culture of the Creoles and the free persons of color is rooted, to a large extent, in Tremé and the sixth ward, which were substantially developed in the late nineteenth century. — Office of Policy Planning, New Orleans, 1978

The Faubourg Tremé lies north of the Vieux Carré within an area between Canal St., North Broad St., Saint Bernard St., and North Rampart St., including St. Louis I. The Faubourg Tremé is significant to the history of the United States as it is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the nation to continuously house "free people of color." For this reason, it is said that "the culture of the Creoles and the free persons of color is rooted, to a large extent, in Tremé and the sixth ward, which were substantially developed in the late 19th century."

The area to become Faubourg Tremé was first developed in 1725, when Chevalier Charles de Morand, an employee of the Company of the Indies, established the city's first brickyard in the area of Bayou Road above Claiborne. Soon afterwards, Morand purchased the brickyard and much of its surrounding land and developed a large plantation upon the grounds, while continuing to manufacture bricks. At this time his holdings included the area surrounded by what is currently North Rampart, Claiborne Ave., and Bayou Road. In 1756 Morand extended his holdings to include the area bounded by Governor Nicholls, St. Bernard, Galvez, and Rampart, and in 1774 his era came to a close when he sold his land to Pablo Moro and his wife Julie Prevot. By 1780, most of the area had been acquired by Claude Treme, the husband of Madame Moro's granddaughter and the namesake of the area. This land was given further value when in 1794, the Baron de Carondelet, Spanish Governor of Louisiana, decided to create a canal, "half a league long" from Bayou St. John to the town.

The Canal ended in a square basin, to allow boats to turn, at what is currently the intersection of St. Louis and Basin Streets. Basin Street was later created and then widened by the Navigation Company of New Orleans to accommodate better travel to Canal Street in the 1820s. Until the construction of the New Basin Canal, the Carondelet Canal served as the only means of transporting products produced on the north shore of the lake to the city. The terminus of the canal in Tremé was used as a landing depot for schooners carrying lumber, firewood, charcoal, and other commodities. Warehouses soon appeared along the canal's borders in Tremé to store these goods.

The Canal gave the area some commercial viability and soon Claude Tremé began to subdivide his plantation for further development. In 1798, Christoval T. de Armas purchased a portion of the plantation below Bayou Road, and in 1799, Tremé began subdividing his remaining land. In 1810, the remainder of the Tremé plantation was sold to the Corporation of New Orleans for $40,000 and by 1816, the city was selling this land in smaller subdivided lots for a profit.These lots were sold to both white people and free people of color, most of whom were either the children of white men or individuals who fled the slave uprisings in the West Indies. The free men of color who resided in Tremé were often musicians, craftsmen, and artisans. It was at this point in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that this suburb began to establish itself as a unique neighborhood of mixed ethnicities.


a world of 'honky-tonks' and 'dives,' 'palaces,' and 'cribs,' sordid indeed, but militantly gay and carefree. Jazz and swing music are said to have originated in the dance halls and saloons of New Orleans' red light district. — Federal Writers' Project, 1938

For 20 years, the red light district of 'Storyville' surrounded St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Storyville covered 16 square blocks in its entirety (Iberville to St. Louis and North Robertson to Basin Street—just northwest of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1). It began in 1897 when City Councilman Sidney Story's city ordinance was enacted designating a confined area for legal prostitution as a means of controlling and regulating prostitution in New Orleans. "For years, the area between North Rampart and North Claiborne, existed as a haven for jazz and brothels" and at one point housed as many as 2000 prostitutes. Many important jazz musicians performed in these bordellos, including Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver, Buddy Bolden, Paul Barbarin, Kid Ory, Freddy Keppard, Bunk Johnson, Henry "Red" Allen, and Manuel Perez.

In 1917, the Department of the Navy convinced the city to close down the district "in an effort to curb vice because of the proximity of armed-services personnel." In 1940, the remains of Storyville were demolished and replaced with the Iberville Housing Project, on the north and western edges of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, bounded by Iberville, Claiborne, St. Louis and Basin Streets. This project resulted from the nationwide effort by the Public Works administration to “clear slums and construct low rent housing projects." Iberville is currently under redevelopment as mixed income housing.