New Orleans Architecture Tour
Architecture lovers' favorite tour of the Garden District
Discerning the differences between the various architectural styles and building types can be difficult if you are not an expert. Luckily, Katrina and the people at New Orleans Architecture Tours are experts whose passion for beautiful buildings is contagious. They offer architecture tours of various neighborhoods (and even a cemetery) including their popular Garden District tour, which we highly recommend.
New Orleans Architecture Tours
Dolliole’s Creole Cottage
Jean-Louis Dolliole’s classic Creole Cottage
This beautiful, orange building is one of the many Creole Cottages that can be found all over the Quarter. This building type is characterized by side gabled roofs with four openings on their symmetrical facades that are raised a foot or two off the ground. These 1.5 story homes don't have hallways, with each room opening into the next, creating a two room by two room square. While this building is a great example of a Creole Cottage, its architectural significance goes beyond that because it was the home of Jean-Louis Dolliole, a prominent architect in the city in the first half of the 19th century. Around the same time, Henry Howard, who has a hotel named after him, William Freret, who has a street named after him, and James Gallier, who the old city hall is named after, were all prominent architects as well. The big difference between these men and Dolliole is that they were white and he was a free person of color. While Dolliole didn't build mansions and government buildings, he along with other free people of color like Norbert Soulié and Joseph Chateau were responsible for many of the Creole Cottages and Townhouses the city is known for today.
Old Ursuline Convent
Oldest building in the region
In 1726, Ursuline nuns came to the city from France to start a convent and hospital, as well as educate young girls. In 1752, the Old Ursuline Convent was constructed and it housed the nuns until they outgrew the space in the 1820's. In addition to its ecclesiastical history, this building is architecturally significant because it is the oldest building in the city. It is one of the few remaining examples of French-colonial architecture in the city, a style exemplified by its hipped, slate shingle roof and dormers on the roof to let light into the attic. You might be wondering why the oldest building in a city founded in 1718 was build 34 years later. That is because two great fires in 1788 and 1794 burned down the majority of the city.
Old Ursuline Convent Museum
St. Charles Streetcar
Historic public transportation with views of the mansions
Running since 1865, the St. Charles Streetcar is the oldest operational streetcar line in the world and you can ride it for only $1.25. Many people take the beautiful open air ride along the live oak lined Avenue to see the opulent mansions. While the large homes used to line the most of the streetcar line, the majority of the remaining mansions are between Napoleon Avenue and Audubon Park. Keep in mind that the RTA system is cash only and they return your change on a change card that you can use for future rides. You can also get a day pass for $3 so that you can hop on and off as many times as you would like. If you don't want to deal with exact change or want to see when the next streetcar is coming, download the RTA GoMobile app. The arrival times they provide don't tend to be accurate, but if you look at the tracker map, you can see how far away the next car is.
Canal at Carondelet
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
One of the oldest structures in the city
This New Orleans institution is a local and tourist favorite. This structure also happens to be the second oldest building in the Quarter. Even though the exact date of its construction has proved hard to determine because much of the supposed facts about the building are in fact just legend, experts often settle around 1761 as the date of construction. The year it was built was one year before the Spanish took control, so the cottage is built in the French-colonial style with a slate covered hipped roof with dormers and it was constructed using brick and post construction. What makes this building special is that you can actually see the brick and post construction on the exterior of the building where the plaster has worn away. Because those sections of wood easily caught fire during the two great French Quarter fires, this French style of construction fell by the wayside in order to prevent further fires from demolishing the city. In addition to its historical significance, this building is shrouded in legend. The name of the bar comes from a popular legend that famous privateer Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre ran a legitimate smithery out of this building in the 1700's as a front for their illegal fencing operation. While they did import and export illegal goods south of the city in Barataria (what is now Jean Lafitte Nature Preserve), it is unlikely that the story surrounding the bar is true. Another popular claim is that this is the oldest structure used as a bar in the US or even the oldest bar in the country. There are much older structures holding much older bars and this space didn't become a bar until 1933.
Vieux Carre Commission
The house that saved a city
Elizabeth Werlein was walking around the French Quarter when she passed a California bungalow that had replaced a traditional Creole cottage. Many people thought that the French Quarter, filled with immigrants and artists as it was, should just be torn down. But she was appalled at the new construction at 813 Royal St., so she decided to do something about it. After over ten years of lobbying, she managed to get the Louisiana Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment in 1936 that gave the local advisory committee, the Vieux Carre Commision, the rights to prevent alterations from being made to classic architecture in the Quarter. So this out of place bungalow is the reason the rest of the French Quarter has maintained its architectural charm after all these years.