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(all data current as of 5/25/2017)
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The Vieux Carré, which is French for “Old Square,” occupies the same 6 X 13 blocks laid out in 1722 as the original City of New Orleans. Living in the French Quarter brings with it the distinction of living in one of the oldest residential communities in the United States.
Founded in 1718 by French Canadian naval officer Jean Baptiste Bienville, the French Quarter of New Orleans, also known as the Vieux Carré, is an architectural mix of Spanish, French, Creole and American styles. Known for its intimate and unique atmosphere, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood has exerted a spell over locals and more prominent dwellers alike, such as writers William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams and more recently, actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Today, the French Quarter is home to some 4000 residents. Conveniently located near the Central Business District, many residents walk to work or hop aboard the street car to their final destination. To visitors, the French Quarter is known as party central, but to locals, it’s more of a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood that just draws you in on a daily basis as you are surrounded by incredible architecture and history that truly reflects the heart of the city.
Living In History
You could say living in the French Quarter is the ultimate déjà vu experience. You can look at older photos of the French Quarter and compare them to present day pictures and it’s as if you were walking and living in the past as, architecturally speaking, not much has changed in its nearly 300-year history. That’s because there is a concerted effort among historians and locals alike to maintain this historic treasure. Buildings are governed by the Vieux Carré Commission, which is a city agency that oversees this historic district to ensure the Quarter’s character is sustained. The legislative body regulates any and all alterations done to the exterior of buildings in the French Quarter.
You can find an infamous address like 1026ContiStreet, which was once the most notorious brothel of Madame Norma Wallace, as well as the setting for the Storyville photographs of Earnest J. Bellocq. Today, this building is upscale apartments. Talk about living in history! Songs have been song and books written about this building, among many more.
And if you are looking for atmosphere, you need look no further than the French Quarter. If you enjoy a leisurely walk along the Mississippi River, antiquing, if you like the pulse of great music serenading the air and the distinct aroma of a fresh pot of gumbo or beignets and freshly brewed coffee, you will find yourself right at home in the French Quarter.
There is a strong neighborhood association in the French Quarter, the French Quarter Citizens. This neighborhood association was formed to preserve the quality of life in the Vieux Carré neighborhood, its historical character and architecture. As the organization states, “The French Quarter is our neighborhood and we share with the city of New Orleans and New Orleans shares with the world. We live in a unique continuum of history, a gumbo of residential and commercial activity spiced with artists, musicians, bars, bawdy entertainment, museums and architectural treasures. This legacy is a fleeting snapshot of the old world within the new and as members of French Quarter Citizens, Inc. we are pledged to maintain our surroundings in as safe and genuine a condition as possible.”
An Abundance of Culinary Delights
Restaurants that have made a name for themselves in recent decades under the guidance of award-winning chefs such as Scott Boswell, Emeril Lagasse ,Paul Prudhomme and Susan Spicer are Bayona, Bourbon House, Dickie Brennan’s Steak House, K-Paul’s, and NOLA.
If you are looking for more casual dining or late night dining, the list is long and if you ask a local for a recommendation, be prepared to write a long list. A few highlights are Café Maspero, Felix’s Oyster Bar, Irene’s Cuisine, Johnny’s Po’ Boys, Matassa’s Grocery, Mr. B’s Bistro, Napoleon House, Red Fish Grill and The Gumbo Shop, just to name a few.
And If You Are A Night Person…
The possibilities of what to do are unlimited. We all know about Bourbon Street; it’s one of the most renowned streets in world, but there is so much more to the French Quarter than Bourbon Street. There are literally dozens of quaint taverns and old-world establishments flushed throughout the French Quarter for those late night outings. A few favorites are Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone, Crescent City Brew House, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Napoleon House, and Preservation Hall, just to name a few. One thing is for certain. Once you become a resident of the French Quarter, you will begin to collect a long list of your own of favorite late night watering holes where you will no doubt meet up and mingle amongst many of your neighbors.
Don’t Forget About The Festivals!
Living in the French Quarter means you are literally within walking distance of several festivals and specials events that take place year round. In some instances, all you need do is open your front door and there it is! The French Quarter has become a popular destination for uniquely New Orleans-style happenings such as the French Quarter Festival, Satchmo Summer Fest, Southern Decadence, and the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, just to name a few.
French Quarter History
Where to begin? New Orleans is New Orleans because of the French Quarter. Founded in 1718, the Vieux Carré was the first settled section of New Orleans. Built by the French and largely rebuilt by the Spanish in the late 18th century, it was already an area with a history and a culture all its own when America purchased Louisiana in 1803.
It is home to numerous landmarks including Beauregard-Keyes House, The Cabildo, The French Market, Jackson Square, the Old U.S. Mint, St. Louis Cathedral, The Presbytere, and the list just goes on and on.
And we would be remiss not to mention the arts – music and literature. The 1880s attracted writers and artists in increasing numbers such as William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote were among American writers attracted to the French Quarter. In the 1900s, there was the birth of jazz that nurtured musical legends Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, King Oliver, Bunk Johnson, Nick LaRocca, and other jazz and ragtime greats.
Today, the French Quarter lures some 15 million visitors annually and yet, remains a strong, close knit community that welcomes newcomers and where residents take the time to visit with neighbors on the street.