The French Quarter
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carre (Old Square) rests on a crescent in the Mississippi River on some of the highest ground in New Orleans. It includes all of the land stretching along the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue (12 blocks) and inland to Rampart Street (seven to nine blocks).
Many of the French Quarter’s buildings were built before the Louisiana Purchase. The Ursuline Convent, one of the oldest, was built in 1734. There are some late 19th century and early 20th century buildings in the neighborhood as well. The architecture is a mix of Spanish, French, Creole and American styles. The walled courtyards are courtesy of the Spanish; the comely cast-iron balconies are a trend attributed to the Baroness Pontalba, as she included them in her fashionable row houses built in 1850 flanking Jackson Square; and the vibrant stucco walls are a result of the strict codes enforced after the great fire of 1794.
Since the 1920s, the historic buildings have been protected by law and cannot be demolished. Any renovation or new construction in the neighborhood must be done according to regulations to match the historic architectural style. This helps keep alive the singular heritage that distinguishes The French Quarter from other neighborhoods in the United States.
The French Quarter thrives on being a walking neighborhood with a mixture of commercial and residential properties, where world-class restaurants, splendid antique stores, century-old bars and live music are all within a leisurely stroll’s distance. Stepping out onto the street, you might encounter the blast of a trumpet and be swept up in a impromptu second-line parade, witness the pomp of a jazz funeral, or stumble into a secret garden hundreds of years old. The intoxicating combination of gorgeous buildings, antique shops, music and food makes this neighborhood a daily feast for the senses.
The French Quarter has withstood fires, successive changes of government, The Great Depression, 20th century developers, and most recently, Hurricane Katrina. Some of the streets experienced minor flooding, and several buildings experienced significant wind damage, but most of the major landmarks suffered only minor damage. The French Quarter was one of the first neighborhoods to re-open. Fast approaching its tercentennial, The French Quarter will surely survive another three hundred years.