Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Longer-Than-Expected Walk

At some point in each of our visits to New Orleans, we will board the St. Charles Streetcar at Canal Street and ride to the end of the line at Carrollton and Claiborne.

On this visit, we traveled the line with Karen and Dick Allsing as far as the Garden District to take part in the Holiday Home Tour of seven homes and the Louise S. McGehee School.

The day was made for touring, and with a shuttle service, we thought the tour would be completed in a leisurely manner in time for lunch. The first stop revealed just how many other people would be visiting the homes that day. The line moved smoothly into and through the home.

After leaving the first home, we realized that the advertised shuttle was not going to appear. And so began our unplanned, approximately 30-block walking tour of the Garden District.

Since we, under-standably, were not permitted to take photos in the private homes on the tour and since we were going to be walking past many of the District's historic homes, I have included photos of the exterior of the homes and scenes that we passed on our walk.

"Few people from the United States lived in New Orleans during its colonial era and the area had experienced only modest commercial development during its first decades due to trading restrictions imposed by France.

With the completion of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans swarmed into New Orleans to take advantage of the boom in Mississippi River commerce.

"Numerous cash crops, such as cotton, the slave trade and national banks, all fueled the local economy.

"The National Historic Landmark district was originally developed between 1832 to 1900. It may be one of the best preserved collection of historic southern mansions in the United States.

The 19th century origins of the Garden District illustrate wealthy newcomers building opulent structures based upon the prosperity of New Orleans in that era (National Trust, 2006).

"This whole area was once a number of plantations, including the Livaudais Plantation. It was sold off in parcels to mainly newly-arriving, wealthy Americans, who had moved upriver from the already crowded French Quarter, having felt snubbed by the Creoles.

"They created their own residential district of opulent mansions exemplifying many architectural styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne Victorians. This occurred in the city of Lafayette, which was annexed to the city of New Orleans in 1852.

"The district was laid out by New Orleans architect, planner and surveyor Barthelemy Lafon" (inetours. com/New_ Orleans).

"Originally the area was developed with only a couple of houses per block, each surrounded by a large garden, giving the district its name. In the late 19th century some of these large lots were subdivided as Uptown New Orleans became more urban. This has produced a pattern for much of the neighborhood of any given block having a couple of early 19th century mansions surrounded by 'gingerbread' decorated late Victorian houses. Thus the 'Garden District' is now known for its architecture more than gardens per se" (

I thought this was an interesting combination of Greek Revival style, with two storied deck supported by round columns and Queen Anne Victorian, with a cone topped tower or turret. The house was designed by William Freret in 1858.

The Louise S. McGehee School was founded in 1912 and moved to its present location in 1929.

Then came a walk to the St. Charles Streetcar and a walk to the Napolean House for a late lunch.

No comments: