We devoted most of one day to an exploration…a self-guided trek through the Garden District of New Orleans. I refer to it as a ‘trek’ because after walking 8 – 10 miles in and around the French Quarter in the previous 24 hours, I learned a lot about the limits of my questionable knees, bad hip and my replacement hip too… I was dragging by day’s end!
Getting there and returning to our hotel was thankfully easy enough…via the St. Charles Avenue trolley line.
New Orleans’ Garden District is a fairly compact area…about 6 or 7 blocks wide by 14 blocks long…but the walking route, even well thought out, zig-zags back and forth. This is the Garden District's only example of Gothic Revival Architecture. The Briggs-Staub house has a matching Gothic guest house, (built as servant’s quarters), that repeats the lines of the main cottage.
I’ll tell you up front that I can’t identify some of the homes in the following photos. I generally don’t take notes and work from memory. It must be said that there are a plethora of beautiful old homes, one after another for the viewing pleasure of the home architectural aficionado.
Originally laid out in 1832 by Barthelemy Lafron, the Garden District was created after the Louisiana Purchase as a settlement for the new American residents of New Orleans. They were not eager to mingle with those of European descent, (i.e., the Creoles), who were primarily concentrated in the French Quarter.
It’s very impressive when you consider that an entire neighborhood of old homes and mansions have survived old age, war, fire, and a bevy of devastating hurricanes. (The Garden District is 3 to 4 feet above sea level)
A combination of both wealth and obvious pride created the Garden District and provides the motivation to maintain the neighborhood. In addition to local money, a number of celebrities own or have owned homes in the Garden District. These are Drew Brees, Nicolas Cage (lost it in bankruptcy), John Goodman, Gloria Henry, Archie Manning, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning.
This is the Pritchard-Pigott house. It’s an example of a Greek Revival double-galleried town house.
This is one of eight “shotgun” houses known as the Coliseum Street Row. “Shotgun style” houses get their name from the fact that the rooms are lined up so that you could fire a gun through the house without hitting anything. This style is one room wide, one story tall and several rooms deep and has its primary entrance in the gable end.
Laurie and I loved these Oak tree root systems gone wild! Old trees with roots like these are scattered throughout the Garden District.
This mansion was built in the 1860's by builder-architect Samuel Jamison in the Italianate style. Landscape architect and author Andrew Jackson Downing, with his 1850 book “The Architecture of Country Houses”, actually made the Italianate style so popular in the U.S.A. that for a while it was known as "The American Style."
More unidentified but handsome old homes along our route…
This is the Claiborne Cottage. This home was finished in 1857 and it’s one of the oldest in the Garden District. It was built for Louise Claiborne-Marigny whose father, William Claiborne, had served as Louisiana's 1st Governor in 1812. He later served in the US Senate and before he’d moved to Louisiana he’d once filled Andrew Jackson's seat in the US Congress from Tennessee.
Louise Claiborne-Marigny's father in-law Bernard Marigny was also famous as he served as President of the Louisiana Senate and he was a hero in the Creole community. To learn more about Bernard Marigny, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_de_Marigny.
Note: After living down the road at 2301 St Charles Ave for most of her childhood, author Anne Rice and her family moved to this house when she was 14 years old. Rice was inspired by the home and in 1995 she bought it and moved back in. While she didn’t live here very long, this home was used as the setting for her well-known ghost novel “Violin” published in 1997.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is one of the City’s oldest cemeteries and it's right in the middle of the Garden District. This historic cemetery was first opened in 1832 in a classic French style with above ground tombs. Famous figures buried here include Judge Ferguson of the Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate-but-equal” case, Brigadier General Harry T. Hays who led the 1st Louisiana Brigade in the Civil War, and the Brunies family of jazz musicians.
However, perhaps the most famous tombs of the cemetery are the fictional ones. Among the fictional characters to buried here are family of Mayfair Witches from Anne Rice’s Witching Hour book series and the vampire Lestat from the another Rice novel Interview with a Vampire. In 1994, ‘Interview with a Vampire’ was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise and the cemetery scenes were filmed here.
If my memory serves me right, this is the home that Jefferson Davis, (eventual President of the Confederate States of America), occupied for a short time toward the end of his life.
This home is unusual in the Garden District in that it’s a multi-family dwelling. Warwick Manor is an example of Georgian architecture.
This Italianate style villa hidded behind the tree is one of the homes in the Garden District that is noted for its fancy cast-iron fence, in this case, shaped like cornstalks intertwined with morning glories.
I love this home. It reminds me of some of the French style homes from the early plantations or from historic Ste. Genevieve Missouri. It was the only one in this style that I saw during our walk…
This Victorian style homes is typical of those popular in Uptown New Orleans at the end of the 19th century. They were probably built for people who left town in the summer since this style of home was really designed for cooler northern climates. Love that skeleton horse with what has to be New Orleans style Christmas decorations!
One more attractive unidentified home along the way…
Most of the garden/landscaped areas were small but well done. In the early days, the original properties had broad expansive yards, landscaped to reflect the wealth of the owners.
This is the Montgomery-Hero House. It was built in 1868 by Archibald Montgomery. It is one of the few houses that still have a lawn almost completely surrounding the house…
This is part of the small but quaint ‘shopping area’ in the Garden District. This is “The Rink”, a former skating rink that has been converted into a coffee shop, book store and other small retail shops. The Rink was originally built in 1884 as the Crescent City roller Skating Rink. It was intended to lure passing tourists during the World's Cotton Centennial Exposition. Since then the building has housed a livery stable, mortuary, grocery store, and gas station.
This is the "Stained Glass" House. It’s very unique to the Garden District and the Victorian style was used mainly in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. What really stands out though is the extensive amount of stained glass that lines the doors and windows of this home.
Speaking of celebrities, this ornate Victorian home belongs to actress Sandra Bullock…
This is the "Benjamin Button" House. Although it’s a fairly plain home by Garden District standards, this house draws a lot of tourists as it served as the main house in the Brad Pitt movie “Benjamin Button”. If you've seen the movie you can recall main scenes taking place on both the porch and steps leading up to the home.
For information about the movie, you can go to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0421715/.
This is the well-known Commander’s Palace Restaurant. It’s located right in the heart of the Garden District, across from Lafayette Cemetery #1. Emile Commander established the only restaurant patronized by the distinguished neighborhood families back in 1880. In 1854, it was engulfed by the city of New Orleans and by 1900 Commander's Palace was attracting gourmets from all over the world.
Under different management in the twenties its reputation was somewhat ‘spicier’. Riverboat captains dined here and ‘sporting gentlemen’ met with beautiful women for a rendezvous in the private dining room upstairs. Downstairs however, the main dining room with its separate entrance, was maintained offering respectability for family meals after church and family gatherings of all sorts.
To see the upscale menus for Commander’s Palace, just go to http://www.commanderspalace.com/menu/index.html.
One more beautiful old home…which I can’t identify. The 2010 census revealed that just under 2,000 people reside in the Garden District.
Just a block from St. Charles Avenue we noted this “French Second Empire-style” mansion. It was built in 1872 at a cost of $100,000 for Bradish Johnson by Beaux Arts-trained architect James Freret.
Note: Bradish Johnson was an American industrialist who owned plantations and sugar refineries in Louisiana as well as a large distillery in New York City. In 1858 his distillery was at the heart of a scandal when an exposé in a weekly magazine accused it (and other distilleries) of producing altered and unsafe milk, called "swill milk", for sale to the public. The swill milk scandal helped to create the demand for consumer protection laws in the United States.
For some really great photos of many of the historic homes in New Orleans’ Garden District, check out the many pictures posted on TripAdvisor at http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60864-d105733-Reviews-Garden_District-New_Orleans_Louisiana.html.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a lengthy walk!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave