New Orleans French Quarter
The French Quarter is also known as the Vieux Carré Historic District and is the oldest section in New Orleans. New Orleans’ French Quarter was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1718 when it became the city’s central square. Today, the French Quarter is a reflection of the French influence after the Louisiana Purchase.
Most of the historic buildings in New Orleans’ French Quarter were built during a period of Spanish rule in the late 1700s, or after U.S. annexation and statehood in the early 1800s. The French Quarter is a National Historic Landmark, and many of the buildings in this district have received designations of significance. Today, the French Quarter is a district bustling with tourists and locals.
The French Quarter consists of the land stretching along the Mississippi River, from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue, and inland to North Rampart Street.
Most of the buildings in the French Quarter date back from before 1803, when the United States acquired New Orleans through the Louisiana Purchase. 19th and 20th-century buildings have been added to the area since its acquisition, and historic buildings have been protected by law since the 1920s and cannot be demolished. New renovations and construction projects in the neighborhood have to be done in accordance with the city’s regulations and preserve the historic architectural style.
New Orleans and the surrounding military bases and shipyards welcomed thousands of servicemen and war workers, many of which paid visits to the French Quarter. The war produced a significant and permanent presence of exotic and risqué entertainment on the city’s most famous strip, Bourbon Street.
During the late 18th century is when more of the French Quarter’s architecture was built. However, the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788 and another fire in 1794 destroyed much of the Quarter’s French colonial architecture, leaving the Spanish to rebuild it. The previous French peaked roofs were replaced with flat, tiled ones. The wooded siding was banned and replaced with fire-resistant stucco which was painted in pastel hues.
Later, in the early 1900s, the French Quarter attracted a bohemian artistic community with its cheap rent and air of decay. These new bohemian residents played a major role in the first efforts of preservation of historic buildings in the French Quarter. In 1925, the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) was established and started as an advisory body. In 1936 however, an amendment to the Louisiana constitution gave the VCC some regulatory power, and in the 1940s the VCC began to exercise that power to preserve and protect the historical attributes of the district.
In 2005, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina and while many other areas of the city were devastated, the French Quarter received relatively light flood damage in comparison. Some of the streets had minor flooding, and there were several buildings that were hit with significant wind damage, but most of the major landmarks in the French Quarter were dealt only minor damage. After Hurricane Katrina hit, several parts of New Orleans were subject of looting and violence; however, the French Quarter, with all of its shops and art galleries, remained largely untouched.