Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge
Mid-City is the heart of New Orleans, the area where locals come when they want to remember what makes this city the generous, pleasure-loving, hard-boiled town that it is. Stop by any neighborhood eaterie here for an elegant experience or a meal to remember at the numerous formica counter favorites.
Mid-city showcases the spirit of a true neighborhood as defined by that unique measure of camaraderie found only in this city: It has its own Mardi Gras parading society. The Krewe of Mid-City, founded in 1933 by a group of area businessmen, is the fifth oldest Carnival marching organization in New Orleans.
In 1913 a young engineer named Albert Baldwin Wood made Mid-City habitable when he developed the screw pump, a device that allowed water to be pumped from land situated below sea level. Before that, this charming neighborhood was poorly drained swampland that was easily prone to flooding and generally swarmed with mosquitoes.
Turpentine works, lumberyards and other industries flourished along the New Basin Canal, dug in 1832 on the present path of Interstate 10, and along Canal Street. The whole area was known as “back ‘o town” because it was “back of” the natural levees along which the city first developed. Mid-City is attractive today for several reasons including its beautiful oak-lined avenues, like Jefferson Davis Parkway - the second widest street in the city.
World-class exhibitions at the New Orleans Museum of Art come literally to residents' doorsteps, and the annual Celebration in the Oaks turns the park into an elaborate exhibit of holiday lights. Right next to the museum, stroll the beautiful Besthoff Sculpture Garden.
Two American pastimes, Bowling and Rock ‘n Roll, merge as live music floats onto the lanes at Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n Bowl, and Thursday afternoons bring the Crescent City Farmers Market to the American Can Company – also a great place to grab some coffee or a dinner near the bayou - on Orleans Avenue. On the other side of Bayou St. John, headed back downtown, Parkway Bakery and Tavern serves up po’boys and live music on the weekends.
The streetcar that linked this part of Canal Street to the Central Business District from 1861 to 1964 has been restored. Its fixed rail lines prove an incentive for more visitors to discover this convenient district in the heart of the city. A trip in the streetcar can take two routes. The Cemetery cars will take you to the end of Canal to several vast cemeteries – New Orleans “Cities of the Dead” named so because of the unique, ornate, above-ground tombs. If you are looking for a bite before this trip, try hopping off at Canal and Carrolton. Otherwise, there are plenty of spirits and food to be found just a block or two from the cemeteries at Liuzza’s or the Bulldog. The City Park streetcar let’s off near the New Orleans Museum of Art at the end of Esplanade Avenue.
The grand address of the Creole upper class in the 19th Century, Esplanade Avenue is a living gallery of 19th and early 20th century residential architecture. The oak-lined boulevard and surrounding neighborhoods, with proximity to both City Park and Bayou St. John and an excellent stock of historic housing, draw natives and visitors alike to this area.
In 1822 City Surveyor Joseph Pilie mapped the “Esplanade Prolongment” but it would be years before the planned European-style boulevard connecting the Vieux Carre to the bayou would become a reality. Long before the street arrived, however, prominent New Orlenians were building country houses and manor homes along Bayou Road and on large parks dotted across the then-rural area that is now the historic district.
At the same time, the area’s association with The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which is held each Spring in the nearby Fairgrounds, makes the Esplanade Ridge a favorite with artists, musicians, and music lovers.
Both the racetrack and the New Orleans Museum of Art are within walking distance, and public transit puts the downtown and uptown universities within easy reach. The shops and restaurants in the 3000-3200 blocks of Esplanade Avenue are a community haven to the residents.