New Orleans Between The Storms
by B.J. Novitski
News reports since late August have been full of stories of human tragedy and governmental incompetence in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Understandably less prominent has been information about the architectural victims, which express the unique character of historic New Orleans. The fate of these buildings is emblematic of the fate of the city itself.
La Nouvelle Orléans was founded in 1718 by the French, later occupied by the Spanish, and finally sold to the young United States in 1803. The city, like its people, reflects a multicultural wealth of influences from European cultures as well as African, Native American, Creole, and Latin American. The historic buildings represent many styles, including Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, High Victorian, Italianate, and Moorish.
Elizabeth Bollinger, a Louisiana native and professor of architecture at the University of Houston, describes the "Crescent City" with great fondness. "Frederick Law Olmstead fell in love with New Orleans," she says, "when he designed the beautiful Audubon Park in the Garden District. A stroll through the French Quarter under the balconies dressed in lacy wrought iron, peeking into the beautiful courtyards that hide in the middle of each city block, is a delight to the resident as well as tourist."
She continues: "And a trolley ride down St. Charles Avenue, with its incredible mansions, provides a leisurely means of soaking up the charm of the Deep South. Where else does one find a city's cemeteries to be a top tour attraction? Even the burial vaults are rich in style and ornate in design." >>>
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Its geography made New Orleans an important center of international trade (drawing from 1852).
Image: Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University
Le Petre, House of the Turk, Dauphine Street, in New Orleans's French Quarter.
Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
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