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Next Up: New Orleans’ Garden District

I don’t think I ever got over my love affair with the historic Garden District...

St Charles Mansion

Creative Commons license from Infrogmation –
Elegant old houses on St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans CC BY 2.5

I don’t think I ever got over my love affair with the historic Garden District in New Orleans.  It’s just up the river from the French Quarter. With gorgeous early 19th-century antebellum mansions surrounded by Victorian gingerbread homes, accented by brick-lined sidewalks as well as sprawling oaks and willows, the district is one of the most picturesque areas of the city.

And I set an important scene in Core Punch in the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. 

The Livaudais Plantation

In bygone days the Livaudais Plantation stood where the district is now. The Livaudais’ are one of the old French (Creole) families of New Orleans. The first of this noble line to come to New Orleans was sent via a promotion to the position of Pilot of the Port of New Orleans by The Company of the Indies, later he advanced to the role of Captain of the Port of New Orleans. In 1733 he married a French noblewoman from Mobile and the Louisiana Livaudais family descended from them. The Livaudais’ were among the largest landowners and wealthiest citizens of New Orleans, at one time they owned the entire American quarter of the city. 

In 1832, the Livaudais plantation was divided into lots and purchased by rich Americans moving into the bustling city. Faubourg is French for suburb and from then on, the Livaudais property was known as Faubourg Livaudais. It was one of the first luxury suburbs in America. In 1833, the area officially became part of the City of Lafayette. However, in 1852 it once again was part of New Orleans.
As far back as 1852, travel writers referred to it as the “Garden District” since it was laid out with only a couple of houses per block, each surrounded by a large garden of hibiscuses, crepe myrtles, angel trumpets, bougainvillea, and other colorful, sweet smelling flowers. The district was designed by the Creole architect, planner, and surveyor Barthelemy Lafon, who also led a secret life as a privateer, smuggler, and pirate. 

The Garden District showcased the latest in Victorian elegance including the popular Greek Revival style of flaunted high ceilings, massive columns, and intricate plasterwork. An example of this style is the Toby‐Westfeldt House, constructed in 1838, the oldest building in the district.

As the population boomed, available land along the river became hard to come by. So, once more, property was sectioned off and snapped up. Soon there were clusters of late-style Victorian homes throughout the garden district. Commercial development of the district and the addition of smaller buildings with low roofs began in the mid-20th century. 

Famous Historical Landmarks:

Novelist George Washington Cable, known as the most important southern artist working in the late 19th century and first modern southern writer, lived in the garden district from 1874‐1884. His home is a National Historic Landmark. 

The Gothic Revival Style Trinity Episcopal Church an architectural landmark has also been a big part of the social fabric of the district since the 1840s.

The rink, a shopping complex has served as a gathering place for Garden District residents since it was first erected as the Crescent City Skating Rink in the 1880s.

Celebrity Homes:

In the garden district, you’ll find the homes of Anne Rice, Trent Reznor, Archie and Peyton Manning, Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, and Sandra Bullock.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

The garden district includes one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. It features the fictional tombs of Author Anne Rice’s Mayfair witches and the vampire Lestat. There are eight tombs describing the ladies buried there as consorts. Several of the tombs list the cause of death like yellow fever, apoplexy, and struck by lightning. It also holds the Secret Garden, a square of four tombs created for “the Quarto,” four childhood friends who wanted to be together for all eternity. Legend has it that the Quarto held secret meetings and performed anonymous acts of generosity. 

The New Orleans garden district is a strikingly well-preserved example of architecture in America. It’s designated as a National Historic Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

And tucked in the back streets, in the less historic looking area, in a shot-gun house, is the Baker house where my Baker’s Dozen grew up—though their house isn’t yet on the National Register. Haha

I hope you’re enjoying the New Orleans tour and if you ever do get there, you’ll have a list of places you want to see. And if you have been to New Orleans, what was your favorite district in the city?

Perilously yours,


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