Thinking about New Orleans: Walking Tours (Part I)

Cue music: Walking Through New Orleans

Put on your walkin’ shoes!

John Klingman, architect, historian, Favrot Professor of Architecture at Tulane University, and longtime Garden District resident, will be our guide for three different walking tours of iconic New Orleans neighborhoods and places. Tour size is limited by City ordinance, so sign up before they fill up! Check out the full range of NOLA 2017 experiences on the ARLIS/NA 2017 Conference website.

Three Squares / Three Cultures

Sunday February 5, 2017 1:30pm – 3:30pm 

L to R: Diego Delso, Henry Clay Statue, Lafayette Square, New Orleans, [CC BY-SA 3.0]; Bart Everson, I Feel the Spirit of Congo Square, [CC BY 2.0]; MusikAnimal, Musicians at Jackson Square, [CC BY-SA 4.0] . Via Wikimedia Commons.
This tour focuses on three urban spaces in New Orleans: Lafayette Square, Congo Square, and Jackson Square, the significant buildings in their environs and their contributions to New Orleans’s architectural and cultural history. Each of these spaces is of profound historical importance to the city. Although they are of identical size, each arose from and has contributed to a completely distinct historic culture. Throughout the tour, we’ll discover a wide variety of contemporary/modern/historic juxtapositions that manifest the city’s changing fortunes.

We will walk from the hotel to Lafayette Square and the buildings of institutional importance that surround it, evidence of its place as the seat of government in the American Sector from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. From there we will traverse the Central Business District places and buildings of significance, revealing layers of history and the cultural shift as we transition into Treme.

Our second destination is Congo Square, a place of seminal importance to the history and development of African American music and culture. We will discuss the transformation of Congo Square over time and its current condition being subsumed within Louis Armstrong Park.

Crossing from the Treme side of Rampart into the Vieux Carré, we head towards Jackson Square. Once in the Square, we will discuss its vast prospect along the Mississippi riverfront, and the cultural significance of the Cabildo, the Presbytère, and St Louis Cathedral, from the original French settlement of the eighteenth century. We will also consider the role of the Pontalba buildings in their urban, cultural and architectural contexts. A stroll up Chartres Street to the historic Napoleon House (a dining opportunity) completes the tour.

Please note that this tour requires a substantial amount of walking. Those preferring a more leisurely tour might prefer the Vieux Carré tour.

The Vieux Carré (French Quarter)

Thursday February 9, 2017 10:00am – 11:30am

L to R: Yair Haklai, “Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Bourbon Street, French Quarter, New Orleans,” CC BY-SA 4.0; Yair Haklai, “Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans,” CC BY-SA 4.0; ALA Techsource, “French Quarter, New Orleans,” CC BY-SA 2.0. Via Wikimedia Commons

This tour explores New Orleans’s original city, the famed Vieux Carré founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1718. Learn how the 1721 city plan reflected the unique site and environmental conditions and see how the plan has evolved over almost two centuries. See the architecture that grew from roots in France, Spain, Africa, and the West Indies into the unique building typologies of Creole cottage, Creole townhouse, and the later shotgun. Along the way, following Malcolm Heard’s seminal French Quarter Manual, we will note the range of designs for the signature elements of New Orleans architecture: courtyard, carriageway, loggia, gallery, balcony, service wing, entresol, abat-vents, shutters, and casement windows.

We will see the oldest surviving building in the Mississippi Valley, the Ursuline Convent; the beginning of “Creole” architecture in Madame John’s Legacy, Spanish colonial buildings and the later American influence. We will experience Jackson Square: the Cabildo; Cathedral of St. Louis, King of France; and the seats of religious and secular government, the Presbytère and the Cabildo, enfronting the Mississippi River. We will discuss the story of the flamboyant Baroness de Pontalba’s namesake buildings. We will also see Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s last masterpiece, the Louisiana State Bank.

We will also discuss critical preservation issues: the changing socioeconomic status of the neighborhood over time, the early formation of the Vieux Carré Commission and the documentation and supervision of French Quarter buildings. Finally we will focus upon the stresses of the twenty-first century: tourism, declining population, tectonic and infrastructural issues. The tour will highlight current successes and challenges of this national treasure.

Those interested in a more comprehensive and exhaustive tour might prefer the Three Squares/Three Cultures tour.

The Garden District

Thursday February 9, 2017 1:00pm – 3:00pm

L to R: Elisa.rolle, “Garden District,” CC BY-SA 3.0; Infrogmation of New Orleans, “Terpsichore between Prytania Street and Coliseum Square, New Orleans,” CC BY 2.0; MusikAnimal, “Tombs at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, Garden District, New Orleans,” CC BY-SA 4.0. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Garden District is sometimes described as the First American Suburb. The nineteenth century layout of the neighborhood matches the block dimensions and the overall size of the Vieux Carré but with only a third of the number of properties per block. This creates a verdant landscape of houses set in gardens, completely distinct from the feel of the French Quarter.

This walking tour begins on St Charles Avenue, at a stop of the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. The tour will focus upon the wonderful residential architecture and horticultural landscapes dramatically visible along the tree-lined sidewalks. We will see many of the oldest and grandest homes that are concentrated in the lower blocks of the neighborhood.

At the midpoint of the District, Washington Avenue and Magazine Street provide glimpses of the vibrant commercial activity that also characterizes the area. (We’ll try to include a quick stop at the Garden District Book Shop, located in a repurposed 19th century skating rink.) We will then explore the historic location of Newcomb College and the resulting midcentury modern houses that arose following Newcomb’s departure for a new campus farther uptown.

The tour will conclude with a visit to Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the center of the Garden District. Tombs there date from the long history of the neighborhood, and the architectural detail is varied and extensive. Even one of the walls of the cemetery houses tombs, another indication of the unique character of the local environment.

So looking forward to New Orleans!

Kathy Edwards, Conference Development Coordinator

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