New Orleans Garden District History
From 1832 to 1900 (or so), the Garden District was The Place for the newly wealthy in New Orleans to set up their households in genteel style.
Instead of the charming but “working class” French and Spanish bungalows and townhouses of the Vieux Carre, these houses demonstrated the latest in Victorian elegance, a mélange of high styles gleaned from not just the Spanish and French, but also from the Italians, the British, and the “Greek Revival.”
In particular, the houses showcased that essential British element of taste: the homeowner’s garden. The grounds of these residences were designed to be as impressive as the structures and were protected, yet accented, by their scrolling cast iron gates.
Walking through the streets of this neighborhood today can feel like strolling through a living museum. Yet it is also a thriving commercial neighborhood, particularly on Magazine St.
Garden District Area
As defined by the City Planning Commission, the boundaries of the Garden District are: St. Charles Ave. to the north, 1st St. to the east, Magazine St. to the south, and Toledano St. to the west.
Garden District Population
As of the 2000 census, there were 1,970 people, 1,117 households, and 446 families residing in the neighborhood. The figures are probably still representative, as the area suffered little damage from Katrina, and there has been little construction in the residential areas in the last decade.
Garden District History
The land was first developed as a number of plantations, particularly the Livaudais Plantation, and then was sold off in parcels. Barthelemy Lafon, an architect, planner, and surveyor, laid out the original neighborhood configuration as large residential lots, usually two per block.
As lots were divided, late-style Victorian “gingerbread” houses appeared in clusters. Today, many blocks retain this arrangement, with a large manor house (20 to 30 rooms in some cases) surrounded by smaller homes.
The mid-20th century brought commerce into the area, as well as some cheaply constructed homes and apartments. Nevertheless, the neighborhood remains one of the most well-preserved and impressive collections of historical homes in America. Indeed, many residences are still in the possession of the original owner’s family.
Garden District Landmarks
- Commander's Palace, one of the world’s great restaurants, is tucked into this neighborhood on Washington St.
- Lafayette Cemetery is tucked in right next to Commander’s Palace. The George Washington Cable House, a National Historic Landmark, can be found at 1313 8th St.
- The Rink, originally a 19th Century skating rink building, is now a small shopping mall.
- Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel is still owned by author Anne Rice, though Rice herself no longer lives in the district.
- The death site of Jefferson Davis is here, as a friend took him in after he became ill while traveling.
There are literally hundreds of places to spend your money and be happy in the Garden District. Just a few of my personal favorites are:Blue Frog Chocolates
As long as you like chocolate, there’s little in this shop that won’t make you want to pig out until next Lent. Try “Sin in a Tin” and the bag of French Truffles. Trust me.
Garden District Needlework Shop
The southeast's largest combined knitting and needlework store is just five minutes from the French Quarter. It’s like a candy store, but no calories.
This barber and haberdashery is for men only, got it? Let them pour you a nice whiskey, wrap your mug in a hot towel, and remind you why it’s nice to be ruled by testosterone.
If you think a dog’s life is to lay in the sun and leave you alone, this isn’t your place. If, however, you want to pamper your pet to an inch of its life, this is heaven.
Silk Road Collection
Out of the dozens of antique shops on Magazine, this one stands out for having a unified theme (Asian), reasonable prices, and great service from Donald and Robert.
Of course, the Garden District is home to one of the world’s greatest restaurants, Commander’s Palace, but as tempting as it may be to eat there every day, quite a few others are not to be missed, including:
- Cuvée, 322 Magazine St. French and Spanish style applied to New Orleans fare.
Lilette, 3637 Magazine St.
- La Petite Grocery, 4238 Magazine St. Casual yet sophisticated, gourmet food in a delightful bistro setting.
- Martinique, 5908 Magazine St. Classic, country-French fare. Courtyard dining recommended!
Garden District Schools
- Benjamin Franklin Elementary School
- Bethune Elementary School
- Laurel Elementary School
- McMain High School
- McDonogh 35 High School
- Trinity School of New Orleans
- The Louise S. McGehee School
Garden District EssentialsPublic Transportation: New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
City Council Representative:
Stacey S. Head - District B
City Hall Room 2W10
1300 Perdido Street
Police District: New Orleans Police Department - 6th District
Area code: 504
Zip Codes: 70131, 70130, 70115