Thanks to HBO, the Treme neighborhood has become one of the most famous neighborhoods in New Orleans.
The Treme TV series has received praise for “getting New Orleans right” and feeling true to the post-Katrina city, even to natives.
But Treme is much more than a TV series. It’s one of the city's oldest neighborhoods – You can usually tell it's one of the oldest when that Faubourg (suburb)is attached to its name.
Faubourg Treme was multicultural from its start with Free People of Color, new immigrants and refugees settling there from the late 1700s. It’s historically been a majority African American neighborhood and is known for jazz funerals, Mardi Gras Indians, Congo Square, and great Soul Food.
The name comes from Claude Treme who owned a plantation and began the development of the neighborhood in the late 18th century.
The famous Congo Square is in Treme. From early colonial times in New Orleans, Congo Square was a gathering spot for African Americans, including slaves, on Sundays. The colorful market, dancing, and music was even kind of an early tourist attraction and was noted in period writings by visitors.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG PARK & EVENT VENUES
Nowadays Congo Square is inside the Louis Armstrong Park. The Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts Center, which often hosts the Louisiana Symphony Orchestra, is located at the back of the park.
Also attached to the park is the shuttered Municipal Auditorium which hosted major events for decades in New Orleans including Mardi Gras Balls and high school graduations. It was severely damaged by the post-Katrina flood and is still closed. Also nearby is Perseverance Hall #3, an old dance hall that occasionally is open for special events.
STORYVILLE RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Although there is virtually no evidence of it past existence, the notorious Storyville was located in Treme. Prostitution was legal between North Rampart and North Claiborne Streets.
This red light district was created to corral widespread prostitution into a limited area. The attempt to limit prostitution was led by local official Sidney Story, who was not happy that the area adopted his name.
Storyville was shut down at the Navy’s insistence when lots of sailors were in New Orleans with the outbreak of World War I. There’s not much left to show for the old red light district today.
The Backstreet Museum celebrates New Orleans African American culture with exhibits and resources that include Mardi Gras Indians, social aid & pleasure clubs, and jazz funerals.
The museum also covers lesser known Mardi Gras Day traditions in Treme such as the Skull & Bone Gangs who wear skeleton costumes, carry animal bones and walk on stilts, as well as the fancy dressed Baby Dolls. Open Tuesday – Saturday. Admission is about $8. 1116 St. Claude.
ST. AUGUSTINE CHURCH
St. Augustine Church has been an influential institution and landmark in the Treme neighborhood since before the Civil War. It was reportedly the most integrated church in the U.S. when it opened in 1842.
ST. LOUIS CEMETERY
St. Louis Cemetery #1 at 451 Basin Street is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans today and is still a functioning graveyard with new burials. Historic and famous New Orleanians are buried here including the purported Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau. Be careful in the cemetery; Criminals have been known to stake it out looking for vulnerable victims. It’s best to be with a tour group or at least go when it’s bustling with people.
TOP SOUL FOOD RESTAURANTS IN TREME
Dooky Chase is probably the most famous spot and it was also the inspiration for a long cancelled TV comedy series. 2301 Orleans Ave.
Lil Dizzy’s, 1500 Esplanade Ave, is also open for breakfast. And there’s now a Lil Dizzy downtown in a fancy hotel, the Wyndham Hotel on Poydras St. So the tourists now have an easy way to get a taste of local Soul Food.
Willie Mae’s Restaurant a.k.a. Willie Mae’s Scotch House, 2401 St. Ann St., is best known for its fried chicken and has fans all over the world. There’s no Scotch food here or even Scotch whiskey. The “Scotch” is just leftover term from the days when the site was a bar.
LOCATION & SAFETY
Treme is right by the French Quarter towards the Lake and bordered by North Rampart St., Esplanade Ave., St. Louis St., and North Broad St. It was badly hurt by post-Katrina flooding.
Treme is known as a neighborhood with crime problems. Be careful especially at night or if alone in the area.