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Garden District Neighborhood Snapshot

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

The area known as the Garden District was created by wealthy New Orleans society families and is still the home of many families with money in New Orleans. In antebellum days it was considered the social center for the American aristocracy of New Orleans. Many consider it to be the most elegant of New Orleans’ neighborhoods with some of the city’s best-preserved antebellum mansions and magnificent gardens.

A little bit about the Garden District’s history

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. (

  An excerpt showing the City of Lafayette from Norman's plan of New Orleans & environs, 1845.

In the 1820s, as the city of New Orleans continued to expand upstream, the nearby plantations were subdivided into lots and a cluster of faubourgs – Annunciation, Livaudais and Lafayette – were developed. By 1833, these suburbs were combined by legislative act into the City of Lafayette and local government set up. Lafayette City was originally part of a grant belonging to Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans.

The town of Lafayette, named for the Marquis De Lafayette, presented curious contrasts. Along the riverfront there were steamboat landings, cattle pens and slaughterhouses. This is the area where the German and Irish immigrants settled. At the rear of the town, around Chestnut Street, Prytania Street and St. Charles Avenue, were the charming homes of well-to-do New Orleans merchants who built large houses surrounded by beautiful gardens. This area became known as the Garden District. Many of the magnificent homes and gardens still exist today.

The city of Lafayette had its own newspaper, a street railway, a fire department and its own cemetery, Lafayette No. 1. Lafayette existed as a separate city for nineteen years. In 1852, the thriving community of fourteen thousand was consolidated into the city of New Orleans.

The Garden District was laid out in the 1830s and settled by wealthy white families in the 1840s. The construction of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad in 1833 spurred development in the area. The Americanization of New Orleans was in full swing.

A new wave of urbanization hit in the 1840s with a new breed of wealthy businessmen. Cotton, wholesale goods such as sugar (which both relied heavily on enslaved Africans working on plantations), and allied fields such as insurance and shipping were the moneymaking activities of this time period. These pursuits generated the money that built the beautiful homes and gardens in the Garden District. These newcomers wanted residential spaces large enough to build the prestigious houses that they felt would outshine the French and Spanish bungalows and townhouses that filled the Vieux Carre.

Spacious, high-ceilinged rooms and well-detailed plaster and woodwork characterized interiors of the mansions in the Garden District. The outside spaces of the homes were equally impressive with ornate cast iron work and fabulous gardens. Many of the houses, built near the middle of the 19th century, contain between twenty and thirty rooms and have been very well preserved. A large number of the homes in the Garden District are still in the possession of descendants of the original owners.


The architecture of the homes is a fusion of classic styles with influence of Spanish, French, Italianate and English, as well as Greek Revival. These homes represent some of the best work of some of the leading-edge architects and builders of the 1800s. Among the architects are James Gallier Sr., James Dakin, Lewis Reynolds, Henry Howard, Frederick Wing, William Freret, Thomas Sully and Thomas Wharton. In many homes, artists were brought from abroad to paint murals or portraits. Bronze chandeliers, marble mantels and statuary were common. These homeowners spared no expense decorating the interiors of their homes.

For the most part, Americans who settled in the Garden District shunned local Creole influence. They were more interested in something more permanent that clearly showed their wealth and taste. The one exception to the American rejection of local architecture is the raised center-hall cottage. In the Garden District, the raised cottage typically is a five-bay structure, sometimes made of brick, sometimes with plastered facades and Corinthian columns. These cottages were particularly ornate.

Image courtesy New Orleans Public Library ( Permission for reuse required.

Margaret Haughery statue in the 1950s [Alexander Allison Collection]  

At the intersection of Prytania and Camp Streets stands a statue honoring Margaret Haughery, one of New Orleans’ best-known philanthropists. She used the profits from her bakery businesses to feed the hungry and was a significant support of several institutions including St. Theresa Asylum, St. Elizabeth’s Asylum, and St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum.

Changes in the last century

Over the years, the Garden District has experienced its share of neglect and demolition. The area’s once totally residential character has given way to apartments and commercial buildings. During the Depression, people sold off their large side yards to make money and the buildings that were built during that time were cheap and poorly constructed because money was so scarce. In spite of that, the architecture in the Garden District has fared nicely.

Major restoration projects have been ongoing in the area for the past couple of decades. Because of the absence of historic district status, residents and contractors have enjoyed freedom to renovate as they pleased, sometimes with no regard for architectural detail. Recently, a bill was passed in the state legislature that would grant limited historic district status to the area, establishing a review process for demolitions and new construction.

Tourist landmarks

Picture courtesy of
  The Ponchartrain Hotel along St. Charles

No visit to New Orleans is complete without a streetcar ride from the French Quarter up St. Charles Avenue to the Garden District. The Garden District is an ideal neighborhood for a walking tour to see the beautiful homes and gardens and visit the antique shops, restaurants, bookstores and coffee houses along Magazine Street.

Some of the landmarks to see on a walking tour of the neighborhood are the Westfeldt House, also known as Toby’s Corner, at 2340 Prytania Street, which is said to be the oldest home in the Garden District, erected about 1830. In the garden at the rear of the house is one of the finest live oaks in the city, used as a subject by many artists. The Louise S. McGehee School for Girls on Prytania Street is a private school housed in the Bradish Johnson home built in 1870 by architect, James Freret. The school building is an example of free Renaissance design with fluted Corinthian columns and Greek Revival style in the interior with a stained glass skylight and marble flags on the floor of the entrance hall. Another interesting stop on the tour is the Short Villa built in 1859 at 1448 Fourth Street, which features a magnificent and unique cast iron cornstalk and morning glory fence in front of a spectacular home and garden. Every block has something to see.

Travel and real estate links

The Garden District by Relocate New Orleans
Description of the Garden District by New Orleans 24-7, a nonprofit working to revitalize New Orleans through positive population growth

Realtor Tommy Crane’s web site
Tommy Crane’s description of the Garden District and nearby neighborhoods

123 New Orleans
Description of the Garden District and nearby neighborhoods on

New is a travel website that provides a description of the Garden District plus walking tour, dining and shopping information

Travelape article
Description of the Garden District and nearby neighborhoods on

For more information:

Garvey, Joan B. and Mary Lou Widner. Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans. New Orleans, Louisiana: Garmer Press, Inc. 1984.

Huber, Leonard V. New Orleans: A Pictorial History. New York: Crown Publishers, 1971.

Carll, Angela. “Garden District Hidden Houses.” T he Times-Picayune, 18, November 2001: G1.

Abry, George. “Garden District: A Piece of Design History.” The Times-Picayune, 30, June 2001: Real Estate Section 12-15.

LeBreton, Digmar Renshaw, Ethel Wight Usher and Marcelle Peret. A tour of the Garden District. New Orleans: American Association of University Women, 1042.

Samuel, Martha Ann, Brett Samuel and Ray Samuel. The Great Days of the Garden District and the Old City of Lafayette. New Orleans: Parents’ League of the Louis S. McGehee School, 1961.

Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the City of New Orleans. New Orleans City Guide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1938.

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

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Last modified: December 7, 2006