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If you ask a local how this area of town got the name “Bywater,” you could hear a variety of answers. That’s because it’s not clear how the name “Bywater” was derived. But what is known is that a group of businessmen used the name “Bywater” in promoting the area in 1947 and the name stuck.The Bywater area of town, a neighborhood that interlocks with the Faubourg Marigny and the Upper 9th Ward. The area has roots in the early nineteenth century as a Creole suburb. The earliest known building plan of the district is dated 1807 and at the time it was called Faubourg Clouet. You will find several different styles of homesin the Bywater including Creole cottages, shotgun houses, camelbacks and side hall cottages, and amazing Center Hall Creole Mansions.
History In The Making
As part of a multi-million dollar project called “Reinventing the Crescent,” the Bywater now boasts the city’s most continuous park and natural area along the Mississippi River. The park features river access for riverboat viewing, recreation areas and a large site for public events of various types, including an outdoor amphitheater. This riverfront extension has helped attract several high-profile developments now completed in the Bywater, including the Bywater Art Lofts, National Rice Mill Lofts and many others in the works.
The Arts Are Alive and Well
The Bywater has become a hotspot for artists and musicians, as well as aspiring artists and musicians. In the early 1970s, the city established The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, more affectionately known as NOCCA. Located in the Bywater at the boundary of the Marigny, this center is now a full-time school that provides professional arts training to high school students. NOCCA offers curriculum in Creative Writing, Culinary Arts, Dance, Media Arts, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts to students across the state. NOCCA is central to Louisiana’s rich cultural heritage, boasting a long list of distinguished alumni that includes jazz greats Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr.; actors Wendell Pierce and Anthony Mackie; and opera star Jeanne Michele Charbonnet.
Artists have flocked to the Bywater and as a result, many galleries can be found throughout the neighborhood, including the now world famous “Be Nice Or Leave” Bob’s Studio.
In November, the Bywater and Marigny play host to the annual Fringe Festival. This edgy, fearless theatre/performance group is a rapidly growing festival that is held at multiple and very interesting venues in the area.
Bywater was declared a national historic district in 1986 and with that distinction came a strong neighborhood association that has diligently served as the guardian and spokesperson of the neighborhood. The Bywater Neighborhood Association is a very active group, involving itself at every level in important items from infrastructure improvements, safety, neighborhood beautification projects and festivals.The BNA is one of the strongest neighborhood groups in the city.
Being Part of the Bywater Historic District
The Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) is a division of the City of New Orleans that safeguards the heritage of the City by preserving and regulating historic landmarks and historic districts that reflect elements of its cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history. The HDLC preserves and enhances the quality of neighborhoods. The Bywater Historic District (BHD) is one of the largest in the City of New Orleans, including about 36 square blocks on the lakeside of St. Claude. And there is talk about extending deeper into the 9th Ward. But time will tell on that!
This BHD is under the jurisdiction of the HDLC, which controls all exterior features that are visible from the right of way.
Home-grown Culinary Delights and Bars
Bywater Area is now home to a fast growing list of some of the best locally-owned, unique neighborhood establishments such as The Country Club, Elizabeth’s, The Joint, Maurepas, Satsuma Café, Booty’s Street Food, Sugar Park and The Sneaky Pickle.
Since most of the Bywater is residential, you will find some neat little bars and gathering spots that reflect the personality of the neighborhood, including everything from wine shops and old-time dives. A few highlights are Saturn Bar and Bacchanal.
Before It Became “The Bywater”
In the early 1700s, the commons or unassigned land below Faubourg Marigny (where the Bywater sits today) were plantations. Notable plantation owners included Pierre Dreux, who owned the LaBrasserie plantation and Nicholas Daunois, who owned the Daunois plantation.
By the 19th century, French Creoles began creating what are known as “faubourgs,” or suburbs – hence the names of areas of the city like Faubourg Marigny. Present day Bywater was once referred to Faubourg Clouet.
Plantations became common place in the early 1800s and urbanization of these estates evolved. Later in the mid-1800s, some of the plantation land was sold to industrial entrepreneurs. One such business that came into being was the Levee Steam Cotton Press Company, once the largest cotton press in the world and a major source of employment for the neighborhood. Not only did business start to develop in the area, but transportation soon followed and that impact benefited the neighborhood significantly.
Expansion continued with the building of St. Vincent de Paul’s Catholic Church in 1838 to serve the French speaking population. Years later, the area became its own melting pot when there a huge influx of Irish and German immigrants. By the end of the 1800s, large numbers of Italians had also settled in what is now Bywater.