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Jackson Square, New Orleans
Where the Old Meets the New
A must-see when you are in the French Quarter in New Orleans is the famous and historical Jackson Square. In the 18th century, this area along the Mississippi River was called Place d'Armes and was a center for the public execution of "misbehaving" slaves into the early 19th century. Later, it was used as an arsenal and was the site of the Battle of Jackson Square. In 1815, Place d'Armes was renamed Jackson Square in honor of General Andrew Jackson after he proved himself a hero in the Battle of New Orleans a few year previously. In 1960, Jackson Square was declared a National Historic Landmark and is currently visited by millions of tourists and locals year-round.
On the north side of the square, you will find three very historic buildings: The Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and The Presbytere. The ever-famous Upper and Lower Pontalba Apartments, the oldest apartments in the United States, stand magnificently on either side of the square, flanking The Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and The Presbytere. Another of the best parts of Jackson Square is the many different types of artists, from painters to portrait artists, you see working and displaying amazing art along the streets of the square day in and day out all throughout the year. Many of these artists' families have been displaying their work there for generations.
Jackson Square is located along the Mississippi River on Decatur Street between the famous French Market and Jax Brewery. Today, visitors in the area enjoy sipping coffee and devouring fresh beignets at Cafe du Monde, learning about the rich history of the area and of New Orleans, gazing upon unique and beautiful works of art, and watching talented and entertaining street performers, among many other things. A trip to the amazing city of New Orleans would simply not be complete without a visit to the square.
This page is dedicated solely to Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana and will delve a bit more into its rich history and culture. Read on and enjoy a couple videos as you learn all about this magical and beautiful place. Enjoy, and visit the Square soon!
Photo Credit: http://goneworleans.about.com/od/tours/ss/jsqsurro...
For other photo credits, roll over image.
In the above picture you see The Cabildo on the left, St. Louis Cathedral in the middle, and The Presbytere on the right. What a lovely showing of the horse-drawn carriages that are seen throughout the streets of New Orleans. Behind the carriages, in front of St. Louis Cathedral, a horse-bound Andrew Jackson tips his hat. According to some of the carriage drivers, Jackson is tipping his hat to Madame de Pontalba, who was a great admirer of Jackson and, some say, his mistress.
Exploring Jackson Square - Great video overview of Jackson Square
St. Louis Cathedral
Steeped in History and Culture
The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, aka. St. Louis Cathedral, is the oldest cathedral in use in the United States today. The Cathedral dates all the way back to the year 1718 when its French designer Adrien DePauger began his plans for the building and it was dedicated to Louis IX, King of France. As a result of The Great New Orleans Fire in 1788, the church was destroyed along with the building that is now known as The Cabildo. One year later, in 1789, new construction began on the Cathedral and it was completed in December 1794.
Around the year 1844, Baroness Pontalba had a huge hand in the design and construction of The Cabildo and The Presbytere on either side of the Cathedral. Her intention was to bring a bit of Parisian architecture to the city of New Orleans. Because these two buildings were now sort of overshadowing the Cathedral, because the Cathedral was beginning to deteriorate, and because it was getting too small to house its growing congregation, it was decided that St. Louis Cathedral would be restored. However, during the restoration process in 1849, the central tower collapsed which required almost the entire cathedral to be rebuilt. So, most of the current St. Louis Cathedral dates back to the year 1850.
Pope Paul VI designated St. Louis Cathedral as a minor basilica in 1964 and the famous Cathedral was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Today, the Cathedral boasts a parish of more than 6,000 members.
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The historical building known as The Cabildo is located next to St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square and was once the location for the seat of New Orleans' colonial government. The Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 destroyed a large part of New Orleans, including the Cabildo. Its reconstruction was begun in 1795 during the time of Spanish rule in Louisiana and the building was completed in the year 1799. During this period of time the building was called Casa Capitular, or Capital House. The final version of The Louisiana Purchase was signed within its walls. The Cabildo, along with The Presbytere, became the home of the historic Louisiana State Museum in 1911 and in 1960 it was named a National Historic Landmark.
As you can see from the picture above, the Cabildo is an impressive, majestic, and picturesque structure that is the perfect complement to its adjacent St. Louis Cathedral. Within its walls are over 1,000 art pieces and artifacts that really tell the story of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. When you visit the museum, you catch a glimpse of the rich culture of the city, the state, and the people within. Numerous famous and historical artifacts are housed within The Cabildo, including old historical photos of New Orleans, pieces Huey P. Long's furniture, one of Louis Armstrong's personal trumpets, and the largest collection of New Orleans jazz instruments in the world.
Very Cool Video About Hidden Treasures in the Cabildo
Originally known as the Casa Curial, or "Ecclesiastical House", The Presbytere was designed and built in 1791 to match The Cabildo. If you are looking at St. Louis Cathedral, The Presbytere is to the right of the Cathedral and The Cabildo is to the left. Beginning in 1834, The Presbytere building was used as a courthouse for the Louisiana Supreme Court and then it became part of the Louisiana State Museum, along with The Cabildo, in 1911.
The Presbytere is home to a vast and impressive array of Mardi Gras artifacts and memorabilia that help tell the story of New Orleans' most popular and famous celebration. Exhibitions in this part of the museum include "Mardi Gras: It's Carnival Time in Louisiana", and "Living With Hurricanes: KATRINA and Beyond". I am not positive the latter is open quite yet.
Traditional, Jazzy, and FUN Mardi Gras Music
The Pontalba Apartments
The Baroness Pontalba led an interesting and very complex life. To shorten the story a bit and to dive into talking specifically about The Pontalba Apartments, let's start with when the Baroness was legally separated from her husband and returned to New Orleans, where she grew up, to claim the fortune that was rightfully hers. As a shrewd, and some say conniving business woman, she ended up purchasing land on either side of the Place d'Armes and built the two buildings known as the Upper and Lower Pontalba buildings, in elegant Parisian style.
The buildings still stand magnificently flanking Jackson Square today and attract millions of tourists year after year. The lower floors of the Apartments house cafes, coffee shops, art galleries, boutiques, and souvenir shops while the upper floors of the buildings house apartments.