If you have ever wondered why Esplanade Avenue looks different from St. Charles Avenue or why Faubourg Marigny and Broadmoor feel dissimilar, the answers will become apparent over the course of the next five Wednesdays when the Friends of the Cabildo and Louisiana State Museum team up to launch the “Neighborhoods of New Orleans” history series.
Each week, a local historian will trace the origins of one or more neighborhoods, beginning with the Vieux Carré on May 28 and ending with the Lakefront on June 25.
“We got the idea for the series because of requests from people who thought it would be fun and interesting to discover how the neighborhoods evolved,” said Jason Strada, director of the Friends of the Cabildo.
“The tour guide class we sponsor provides similar information, but not everyone wants to be a tour guide or can afford to devote the time.”
The first two of five classes will be taught by historian John Magill, a curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection.
At the class on May 28, Magill will trace the history of the city’s oldest Creole neighborhood, the Vieux Carré, as well as that of its oldest “Anglo” neighborhood, Faubourg St. Mary (now known as the Central Business District).
Magill will continue on June 4 with a second lecture that covers the history of Faubourg Tremé, the downriver neighborhoods of Faubourg Marigny and Bywater, and, on the banks of Bayou St. John, Faubourg St. John.
Joyce Miller takes the reins for the third talk on June 11, with a review of the history of the Garden District, Uptown, and Carrollton. Miller is a historian for the Louisiana State Museum and a specialist in Louisiana history.
Her State Museum colleague, Dr. Karen Leathem, presents the fourth class, slated for June 18. She will discuss the city’s early 20th century neighborhoods, including Broadmoor, Gentilly and Mid-City.
In the June 25 finale, Dr. Charles Chamberlain talks about the post-World War II development of areas including the North Shore and the Lakefront. Chamberlain specializes in New Orleans culture, especially its music traditions.
“We expect that people will learn a lot that may contradict what they think they know about neighborhoods,” said Strada. “There will be some new ideas and also discussions that get to the root of why New Orleans neighborhoods have such different personalities.
“A lot depends on when they were settled and by whom, and what’s interesting is that those factors still influence neighborhood character today.”
Strada cited the French Quarter as an example of a neighborhood that has evolved but remains true to its inherent identity.
“First it was French, then Spanish, then the Americans came in. By the early 20th century and up until the 1930s, it was largely Italian,” he noted.
“But there has been a common thread that has carried on for the 300 years of its history. Some cities may need to worry about their neighborhoods becoming homogenous, but not New Orleans.”
Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. She can be reached at rstephanie firstname.lastname@example.org.