This roughly 5-by-10 block area of New Orleans feels very much like the Old South and very different than the French Quarter. Established between 1840 and 1816 by Americans and immigrants who found themselves less than welcome in the Creole French Quarter, this area is on the National Register of Historic Places and is famous for its architectural collection of Antebellum, Victorian, Greek Revival and Italianite homes. Named for the profusion of gorgeous flowers, trees and shrubs that are simply everywhere, the soil is unusually fertile due to a deposit of rich silt from flooding in 1816.
The very best way to experience this district is on foot. You can take a guided walking tour (see my tour tip) or you can do it on your own. There is a very nice Visitor's Center on St. Charles Av. (between Josephine and St. Andrew Streets) that has brochures for a self-guided walk. Take a St. Charles streetcar (green ones) to either of these streets (pull the cord to be let off) and stop in for all sorts of good info on the area. The center is only a block from the edge of the district. Also, http://www.inetours.com/New_Orleans/Garden_District.html has a short guide that can be downloaded before you go.
For sure, you'll want to combine your walk with a visit to Lafayette Cemetery - which lies in the middle of the district between 6th and Washington (see tip). I might suggest planning your tour early in the day, when it's cooler, and wrapping it up with lunch at nearby Commander's Palace (lunch M-F, www.commanderspalace.com). It's expensive and they have a dress code (check website) but it's supposed to be very good and lunch prices are less spendy than dinner.
under the tip for Local Customs, I recommend walking the dog in this area, and provide two photos. But, for pleasant strolling and sightseeing of lovely old homes, the Garden District is hard to beat. The architecture of the homes is consistent with the Yankee origins of the neighborhood, in contrast the French Quarter (which is largely Spanish in style). The cotton market attracted wealthy business people to the area during the last two centuries, and so the homes are quite ornate. Today, the gentrified neighborhood remains a busy place for renovation, especially after Katrina. The Garden District escaped any flooding, but I noticed that a few roofs were under restoration after the storms winds took a toll.
New Orleans's beautiful Garden District was established in the 1830s and it's mostly famous for its impressive collection of 19th century southern mansions. In fact, the architecture and peacefulness of the place offer quite a contrast to what can be found in the French Quarter, so it's truly worth hopping on board the streetcar that goes along St. Charles Avenue to discover this other part of the city, which some locals describe as the "English Quarter". There are several guided tours offered in the Garden District, but most travel guides also include self-guided walks through the area (or you can easily find one online) and that's what we decided to do. The most interesting mansions are roughly located between Jackson, Magazine, Washington and St. Charles Ave., which is also where you'll find the homes - or former homes - of a few local celebrities, including Anne Rice, Nicolas Cage and Archie Manning, just to name a few. Also part of the Garden District is Lafayette Cemetery, another "City of the Dead" that was featured in Anne Rice's famous novel "Interview with the Vampire".
Whereas the French Quarter is a bit garish though not without its flavor and charm, the Garden District embodies the aristocratic "gentile" of the Old South. It is one of the 2 most prestigious New Orleans neighborhoods (the other is the University section near Tulane). Ironically it is noted for its gorgeous antebellum mansions and homes - not for any gardens.
Developed mainly between 1840 and 1900, the Garden District runs from Magazine Street to St. Charles Avenue and from Jackson Avenue to Louisiana Avenue. It comprises one of the best-preserved collections of historic mansions in the South -- if not the entire country.
The tacit rivalry between the Garden District and the French Quarter began shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, when the Americans moved into this Uptown area to settle - the gentrified Creoles and French living in the French Quarter area looked down their noses at the more recent upstarts...and thus the concept of "Downtown" and "Uptown" was born.
The garden district is in my opinion the most beautiful part of New Orleans. The quiet tree lined streets with all of the beautiful homes are a stark contrast to the decadent fame of Bourbon Street. But it too is an important part of the city and adds yet another flavor to this city. This is what I love about New Orleans. There are so many different types of neighborhoods and activities to be found. Its like the city is changing right before your eyes.
As a huge Anne Rice fan, seeing the home where she wrote about the Mayfair Witches and Lestat was so exciting to me. I had goose bumps as I admired this enormous house. Sad that she no longer lives there, and even sadder that her inspiration and love of her life, Stan, died. The tour guide told stories of Anne and Stan that brought the house back to life, at least in my imagination.
The St. Charles Streetcar Line takes you to the Garden District. The distrcit is located from Magazine Street to St. Charles Avenue and from Jackson Avenue to Louisiana Avenue. There are several excellent but expensive restaurants in this district along with some less expensive coffee shops. The Garden District is also home to one of my favorite authors Anne Rice. Her vampire novels use many New Orleans settings.
the sam zemurray mansion is one of scores of beautiful and architecturally significant homes in the garden district. sam zemurray has a jewish immigrant to america from bessarabia russia in the early 20 th century. zemurray also known as "sam the banana man" made a fortune growing and importing bananas from honduras. zemurray founded the cuyamel fruit company which he sold to the united fruit company in 1930 for 31 million dollars. today the zemurray mansion is owned by tulane university and is home to it's president. see my garden district travelogue for more pictures of garden district homes.
When the city became part of the USA, many anglo-saxon 'americans' came to get a share of the wealth. They managed to do so with cotton, sugar and shipping. But the creoles from the french quarter never excepeted them socially. That is why they started a new neighbourhood in 1832, with elegant gardens to show off their richness.
In the garden district are some of the finest houses of New Orleans. Lots of ironworks in them. Some still have the authentic gaslamps burning on their porches.
The district is called garden district because there is much green around. Huge trees, but also lovely private gardens.
It was developed mainly between 1840 and 1900.
Take the St. Charles streetcar into the Garden District to view the gracious and stately neighborhood that embodies the glory of Southern aristocracy of legend. You'll find lots of fine dining in this area!
After seeing the Lafayette Cemetery #1 we spent some time (about 90’) at the Garden District.
We walked for an hour around the district for some blocks and we stopped several times in front of some houses, we didn’t see any from the inside though but the guide told us which ones we could visit some other days and times. We didn’t return but we kept walking on our own after the tour ended. It’s easy to do it on your own too and just enjoy the architecture of the beautiful district which is full of trees and some of the houses have some wonderful gardens (didn’t you guess that?).
It’s better to do it early in the morning so to avoid the heat, we felt safe there but we wouldn’t bother to come in the evening, the daylight will help to admire the architecture anyway…
There many impressive houses and mansions here, now I can understand why I saw so many books about the architecture of the area in the local bookstores, most of the structures are great ones, many of them based on the greek revival style. Have in mind that Garden District was once called Lafayette, and it was a different city from the French Quarter that was built by Creoles(18th century) while here was the Americans that came at the beginning of the 19th century. The Americans had different language, religion and culture but what we really saw during our tour was the different architectural style, so different to colonial Louisiana.
The streets we focused more were Prytania St, Coliseum St, Camp St, First St, Second St and Third St. I’m sure there were much more to see but we couldn’t walk more with the high heat. Some of the house are famous from movies (like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) while some other structures belong to famous actors (pic 5 shows the chapel that belongs to Nicolas Cage, once to Anne Rice)
Follow St Charles Street from Canal St, through the Central Business District, and after a mile or two you'll hit the Garden District. This area is full of huge houses with big gardens from the 1840s when cotton and sugar were booming, and it was established by the new American presence in the city.
A tourist favorite is to take the St Charles line streetcar from its Canal Street Station through the Garden District. It costs about $1.25 each way, and it takes you past Audubon Park, the New Orleans Zoo, Tulane University, Loyola University, and several shopping and dining areas.
The Garden District in New Orleans is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. The historical area has a lot of houses from the mid- to late-19th century, back when they knew how to make houses. Most have developed wonderful gardens over the years (hence the name), with immaculate and detailed installations throughout the area. Take a map and wander around and poke around. Don't forget your camera.
This is the area where the “Nouveau Riche” settled 150 years ago, where the successful people built their homes, and as “Nouveau Riche” from nowadays, they wanted their homes big, visible, that they show they were successful, and the area is spotted with big mansions of every style, from the Victorian mansion to the Italian villa, passing through Greek colonnades adorned houses or Normandy farms. . . (You remember the house Scarlett asked Rhett Butler to build for her, in “Gone with the wind”? Plenty of that sort of houses here!)
But after 150 years, many of them have real charm, and the colourful gardens with their big trees, hiding a bit the mansions are the real charm of the area.
You will not see the houses alone here, but the gardens, the combination of houses and gardens; a big wooden house with iron cast veranda behind the leaves (picture 1), another wooden house surrounded by colourful rhododendron (picture 2). . . . . Brick houses with matching colours of the alleys and again red rhododendron (picture 3) are also charming, and the big houses in nicely landscaped gardens (picture 4) with various colours of the flowers do not anymore “nouveau riche” taste, but very nice.
And you may see here or there some nice romantic details (picture 5)
Houses along St. Charles range from the average to the sublime. Some are very old Antebellum houses (like Civil War Plantatation homes), some have been renovated, and some are brand new. All are very easily seen from the streetcar that runs St. Charles' entire length. At $1.25 for the ride, I'd say that its a pretty good bargain. For those of you staying in the quarter, just get to Canal street and follow the tracks until you see a little yellow sign which indicates a stop on the ride. If you are staying uptown, then this is the best way to get to all of the action of the Quarter, Jackson Square, Riverwalk mall, Flea Market, etc. Its super cheap and means you can avoid driving in New Orleans, which believe me, you want to do at all costs! And for those of you who "partake", it means that you don't have to drive while trying to sober up from a Pat O's hurricane!