A Brief History of the Garden District


Once upon a time, New Orleans was inhabited by people of French and Spanish descent, as well as a large population of free people of color. The French and Spanish weren't happy to see each other, but eventually started to get along, and became referred to as "Creoles." At that time, the French Quarter and a few other neighborhoods were the only settled parts of the city. But, as often happens, cities grow. After the Louisiana Purchase, Americans started moving to New Orleans. However, the wealthy Americans did not want to live with or near the original inhabitants of the city, and the Creoles did not want to live near the "rough" Americans, and so the Garden District was created in the early 1800's. (For comparison, NOLA was founded by the French in 1718 and was ceded to the Spanish in 1763 before being retaken by the French in 1801. The Louisiana Purchase happened in 1803.)

You'll notice that the architecture in the Garden District is very plantation, antebellum, American. Whereas the architecture in the French Quarter is very French and very Spanish. This reflects the influence of the early inhabitants of each neighborhood. Canal Street separates the French Quarter from the newer, American side of town. There is a large median in the middle of Canal Street (where the canal was "supposed" to go but didn't), and the median became known as "neutral ground" between the two sides. Even today, natives still call a median "neutral ground."

There were strict zoning rules in the Garden District, and each block could only contain up to four homes. Each property was on a "corner lot." Each home was landscaped with a large garden, hence the name "Garden District." Even today, most blocks still only have four homes; however, other blocks may have as many as 8 homes as property was divided and sold off.

The Garden District, as well as the French Quarter, are on fairly high ground, and saw very little flood damage from Hurricane Katrina.


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