The French Quarter is most commonly understood to be bounded by Canal Street, North Rampart Street, Esplanade Avenue, and the Mississippi River in New Orleans – an area of 78 square blocks. Generally, buildings facing Canal are excluded, since re-development there had already begun before preservation efforts were underway. When compiling a list of French Quarter homes for sale, understand that zoning laws can also exclude areas between Decatur Street and the river, which was originally home to warehouses and other shipping-related industrial buildings.
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History of the French Quarter
This neighborhood, which once comprised all of the city, was founded by Jean Baptiste Bienville as a military-style matrix of 70 squares. Europeans were attracted to the area for the same reason as indigenous people before them: abundant natural resources and easily navigable waterways leading to the Mississippi River – or “Father of Waters.” The urban core has lasted for centuries, evolving with every era.
Streets and buildings were built outward from the Place d’Armes, today known as Jackson Square, as this otherwise rustic outpost became the capital of the French colony of Louisiana in 1723. By the 1890s, the French Quarter had begun developing into a major tourist attraction. Chartres and Royal streets bustle with businesses and shoppers today, just as they did back then.
The infamous entertainment district along Bourbon Street, however, was once all residential. Over time, many of the area’s largest retailers moved to Canal Street, and by the mid-1800s the streets surrounding modern-day Jackson Square were abuzz with construction as the Cabildo and Presbytere reached into the sky above.
The square’s gardens were redesigned a few years later as a statue of Andrew Jackson – hero of the Battle of New Orleans – was erected. After a period of decline and rebirth, Bourbon Street was transformed into the city’s most famous destination for music and fun.
Restaurants, shops, bars, art galleries and other retail continued to push long-time residents further away from the city center. That’s when advocates became interested in protecting what remained of the area’s distinctive history, and preservation efforts got underway into the 20th century. An uptick in residency followed in the quickly rebounding Vieux Carré.
Today, the French Quarter is a heady mix of old and new, of bustling nightlife and quiet evenings spent in stately residential courtyards. Every element of this storied history remains.
Architecture Then and Now
Though established by the French and commonly called the Vieux Carré – a term meaning “Old Square” in French – the French Quarter doesn’t actually boast French architecture. Blame a devastating fire in 1788, and then a smaller blaze in 1794.
The original buildings in the French Quarter were made with wood, which made them particularly susceptible to rot in the damp river surroundings. But it turned out flammability was the bigger worry. By the time these fires raged through the neighborhood, Louisiana was in the midst of a 40-year tenure under Spanish rule, and they oversaw rebuilding. Updated regulations followed reconstruction, all of it in the style of Spanish – rather than French – buildings. The signature slate and tile roofs of today's French Quarter homes for sale were redolent of Spain’s cities, of course, but were also more flame retardant.
Perhaps the most famous of these next-generation structures is the Cabildo, a National Historic Landmark on Jackson Square that served as the seat of Spanish rule in Louisiana. Walk a few blocks further up Chartres, and you’ll find the city’s – in fact, the entire country’s – only remaining French colonial building. Built in the mid-1700s, the former Ursuline Convent now houses the Archive of the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Features of the Neighborhood
The French Quarter is home to a nearly endless number of intimate local shops, quirky boutiques, antique stores and art galleries:
New Orleans is world famous for its cuisine, and the heart of that legend beats in the French Quarter. Here’s a very small sampling of the many, many taste-tempting options that await:
The closely built buildings of the French Quarter don’t generally lend themselves to sprawling school campuses, but there is one charter option within the area – as well as adult-education programs like the New Orleans School of Cooking. Students otherwise attend classes in nearby neighborhoods. At least two schools, St. Aloysius High and Cathedral Academy were previously housed in the French Quarter, but have closed or moved.
Explore New Orleans Homes for Sale
Located in the epicenter of all things New Orleans, the French Quarter is the place for people who want to live where they play. Some of the city’s very best food, attractions, nightlife and shops – and some of its most fascinating history – are all just steps away from these homes. Contact us today to learn more about this neighborhood and the latest listings.