The Garden District, Uptown, and Carrollton
The Garden District
The Garden District is a dynamic community grounded in a strong sense of tradition. Some of its homes are still known by the names of the families that built them over a century ago, and official flags designating Mardi Gras Royalty are a common sight here during Carnival season.
Laid out in 1806 by Barthelemy Lafon as an open, semi-urban system of interrelated parks with basins, fountains and canals, the Garden District was “one of the earliest expressions of the Greek Revival to appear in New Orleans,” according to noted architect, the late Samuel Wilson, Jr. The streets still bear the names of the nine muses of Greek Mythology, and many of the mid-19th century Greek Revival and Italianate homes built in this classical setting remain.
Today stroll under the oaks of Coliseum Square or any of the smaller parks in the Garden District and you are likely to find locals playing with their dogs or reading on the grass. Walk down Magazine Street, the neighborhood’s commercial center, and feel the energy as antique shops give way to contemporary design studios, offbeat clothing stores, restaurants, and much more. Visitors can even find an old-world barber shop, operated by Irish barber Aidan Gill, who offers Guinness and whiskey with his hot towel shaves.
Dubbed the “Garden District” for its capacious showy gardens, this New Orleans Neighborhood is noted for its astounding scenery-just one of its numerous attractions. Visitors are amazed by the elegant homes and the stylish setting that lends itself to a very relaxing and enjoyable experience for all.
“To the typical Uptowner, New Orleans was Uptown,” writes author Margaret LeCorgne.
The Uptown District, beginning upriver of the Garden District and stretching to Broadway, is a self-contained residential world. It’s a place where late 19th century homes are scrupulously maintained and small scale restaurants and shops reinforce the feeling that you are visiting a village, not a city.
Today’s Uptown retains many of the grand homes built in the 1890s along St. Charles Avenue and in exclusive cul-de-sac developments like Rosa Park. On oak-shaded streets intersecting St. Charles Avenue, frame houses with ample galleries are the norm. Closer to the river, more modest shotguns built to house 19th century workers are steadily being refurbished, insuring that this premier urban residential neighborhood for over a century will continue its legacy of gracious living.
Uptown was part of lands granted to Louisiana Governor Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sier de Bienville in 1719, then divided into smaller plantations in 1723. It wasn’t until the 1884 World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition on the present-day site of Audubon Park, however, that the areas away from St. Charles Avenue experienced a building boom.
Today you can experience what uptown has gained first hand by visiting the shops, bistros, and galleries along Magazine Street. Two blocks away from St. Charles Avenue, this stretch of stylish and eclectic shopping is only a short streetcar ride away. A shopping haven for all those who love fashion, great food, and lots of it, Magazine Street offers a variety of stores and restaurants that make a very memorable experience.
Perhaps it’s the tree-shaded and spacious houses that make Carrollton feel nostalgic, or perhaps it is the influence of Tulane and Loyola universities that make the neighborhood feel like a college town. Established as a rural resort community outside of New Orleans, the neighborhood still has a laid-back feel.
In 1833 New Orleans Canal and Banking Co. purchased half of the McCarty Plantation to obtain right of way for a planned extension of the New Basin Canal. Investors Laurent Millaudon, Senator John Slidell and Samuel Kohn bought the other half and hired planner Charles Zimpel to create the street grid. By the 1850s, the town had a racetrack, fine gardens, a hotel and an elegant train station.
New Orleans family lore often includes stories of the “long” train ride up St. Charles Avenue, sometimes with an overnight stop at Sacred Heart Convent for the Catholic Creoles coming from the French Quarter and beyond, to holiday in “The Historic Town of Carrollton.”
Oak Street, one of Carrollton’s main shopping districts, still has the look and feel of the 1950s, while Maple Street offers small stores, numerous coffee shops and a well established independent bookstore, Maple Street Bookshop, in converted Victorian houses.
Good restaurants in all price ranges are plentiful in Carrollton, including Mat and Naddie’s and Dante’s Kitchen, which sit across River Road from the Mississippi dine outside and enjoy the pleasant rumbles as trains pass along the levee. For a late night bite, try famous Camellia Grill near the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Carrollton Avenue.
The sounds of the River and the railroad and the streetcar still color life in Carrollton, though this former resort is now solidly within urban New Orleans.