The Garden District was one of New Orleans’ first suburbs to be developed after the Louisiana Purchase. The District got its name for its spacious and showy gardens. It runs from Jackson Ave. to Louisiana Ave. and St Charles Ave. to the river. Rich Americans were drawn to New Orleans in the 1800s because of its booming economy. These new residents built houses with large and lush lawns, unlike the typical walled-in homes common in the French Quarter. During the Depression, many of the properties in the neighborhood were sub-divided and newer houses were built between the original mansions.
Noted architect, Samuel Wilson, Jr. stated that the Garden District was “one of the earliest expressions of the Greek Revival to appear in New Orleans.” Greek Revivals, Italianates and Victorians predominate the neighborhood with a gentle mix of 20th century styles. The Garden District’s canopy of oak trees is world famous. Its characteristic gardens of hibiscus, crape myrtles, angel trumpets, magnolias and bougainvillea, make it New Orleans’ most beautiful inner-city neighborhood.
Commander’s Palace is considered the hidden jewel in the heart of The Garden District. Attracting gourmets from around the world since 1880, Commander’s brunch is considered a Sunday afternoon staple. Lafayette Cemetery is the Garden District’s first cemetery and has been the location for movies such as “Double Jeopardy” and “Interview with the Vampire.” The Rink is an eclectic shopping area with various local businesses. The Garden District Book Shop makes its home there, and is a feast for the bibliophile with their many signed, first-editions and limited editions by many regionally and naturally acclaimed authors. Steps away, you can take a ride on the famous St. Charles streetcar that has been running for over 165 years. The streetcar runs 13 miles from Canal Street through the Garden District to Carrollton Ave. Like Uptown, the Garden District suffered minimal damage due to Hurricane Katrina and has been restored to its exquisite and elegant beauty.
The Lower Garden District runs along the river to St. Charles Ave and Pontchartrain Expressway to Jackson Ave. The houses in The Lower Garden District predate those in The Garden District proper, since they were built in the early 19th century when the City grew upriver from the French Quarter. The neighborhood offers an architectural buffet of Greek Revivals, Victorians, and historic cottage styles. Sophisticated townhouses assemble around Coliseum Square, giving it an antique ambiance.
The Lower Garden District also benefits from the assorted shopping choices on Magazine Street, or as locals call it “Magazine Row.” In this little area you can find almost anything ranging from oyster plates, to Victorian lighting, to Oriental rugs, to folk art. Its array of luxurious spas, casual and up-scale dining, coffee shops and art galleries, make it a distinctive shopping experience.
In 1971, The Coliseum Square Park Neighborhood Association formed to protect the neighborhood’s architectural integrity and succeeded in placing the area on the National Register of Historic Places. Their annual home tours are an anticipated event by locals and out-of-towners alike.
The Lower Garden District was already in the process of revival before Hurricane Katrina and is continuing since the area remained dry and relatively unchanged. Its architectural beauties and rich cultural heritage only get better with time.
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