- Broad Street
- Programs + Projects
Broad Street is surrounded by some of the most vibrant, colorful, and culturally salient communities in New Orleans. From the world-famous Tremé to Faubourg St. John, Mid-City and Lower Mid-city, and Esplanade Ridge, the communities along Broad Street are the diverse backstreet neighborhoods that are the repositories of the Crescent City’s unique culture.
“Back of Town”, what the area was called in the 19th century, was an expansive swampy land with a few dairy farms operating in the area and cemeteries. Although the Carondelet and New Basin Canals were functioning adequately by the mid-1830s and streetcars were in operation during the last quarter of the 1800s, it was not until the latter part of the century and into the early 1900s that significant development occurred. This was due to improved drainage systems, including the construction of the pumping station in the 1890s at Broad and Bienville Streets.
Industrial development was seen along the canals and the railroad systems and was still in place by the 1920s, the year Mid-City was completely developed. The American Can Company, New Orleans Roofing and Metal Works Company, and Southern Sheet Metal Works were among some of the industrial establishments that ran along the St. Louis Street corridor. Some are still in operation today.
Lower Mid-City/ Tulane-Gravier
The first Europeans to hold claim to the Tulane/Gravier area were The Order of Jesuits. The King of France expelled the Jesuits from Louisiana in 1763 and the land was sold at auction. It changed hands many times over the next 50 years. Some of its owners in that period were Juan Pradel, Andres Reynard, and Bertrand and Jean Gravier.
With the building of the Carondelet and New Basin Canals providing drainage and water connections between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, and rail lines later supplementing the water route, a boom in industrial development occurred establishing a corridor along the canals and railway.
In the early 1900s, commercial development expanded, particularly along Tulane, Broad and Canal Streets, disrupting residential areas. Major improvements to Canal and Poydras Streets further upset the neighborhoods and multi-family housing began replacing the single- and two-family structures along the corridors. This pattern picked up in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the 1990s, however, some reversing of that pattern occurred as multi-family homes were converted to a lower density. Some residential buildings have been demolished to make way for office and commercial uses.
The brewery business boomed in New Orleans during the early 1900s, and Tulane/Gravier was the home of the old brewery district. Jackson Brewing Company and Dixie Brewing Company were two of the profitable companies in the early years. The Falstaff signage can still be seen along the smokestack, but the company closed in 1978, and the building now houses apartments.
Other areas of the neighborhood are primarily residential, especially along Bienville Street, lined with shotgun houses.
Faubourg St. John
In 1699 Native Americans showed French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville the Esplanade Ridge portage route, which allowed for easy access to the Mississippi River from Bayou St. John. In 1718, the trade advantages of this portage route directly influenced where Jean-Baptiste Bienville, another French explorer, decided to locate the city of New Orleans. Because of the portage route, houses and businesses were built along the banks of Bayou St. John in the early 1700s, and bridges soon followed.
Bayou St. John was the primary industrial waterway in New Orleans until the mid 1800s. As many as 80 barges and boats a day passed through its narrow, brackish, cypress-stump clogged waters. During this time, most of the barges brought in from Lake Pontchartrain were broken apart after off-loading at the portage, and the sturdy barge-board lumber was then used to build the houses that still line the bayou in Faubourg St. John.
In 1720, a land grant to Charles de Morand defined what is now known as Historic Faubourg Tremé. The land was sold and subdivided before the turn of the 19th century and Tremé’s namesake, Claude Tremé, married into the land’s ownership. By 1812, the City of New Orleans formally annexed the area, making Faubourg Tremé the city’s third oldest Faubourg (French for suburb). During this time, Tremé was populated by Creoles (people of mixed French, Spanish, and African heritage) and Free People of Color, making it the oldest African American neighborhood in the country. These original land owners brought along with them fine craftsmanship, music, architecture and a culinary heritage that emerged as a singular amalgam, establishing Tremé as New Orleans’ cultural cradle.
Whether grand mansions on Esplanade Avenue, authentic Creole Cottages dating to the 18th century, or charming shotgun houses throughout the area, Tremé is an architectural wonderland with such gems as St. Augustine Church. Built in 1842 so that free people of color and slaves could have a place of their own to worship, St. Augustine is where notable people of color were baptized, married and/or worshiped such as civil rights activist Homer Plessy and A.P. Tureaud. Tremé is also home to one of the most significant landmarks in the City, the Meilleur- Goldthwaite House, the first location to manufacture and provide bricks for the city of New Orleans. This Creole Style building dates back to 1829 and now houses the New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History. Beyond the boundaries of what is now known as Historic Faubourg Tremé is the Greater Tremé community which includes neighborhoods from North Claiborne Avenue to Broad Street. This area is home to a major economic corridor, Bayou Road, which is also the oldest street in the city. Bayou Road was a portage route for Native Americans that was shared with the city’s founders as a shorter route from the Mississippi River to the city, crossing Lake Pontchartrain to the Bayou. One of the legendary Native American markets sat at the corner of Dorgenois and Bayou Road, where a public market building built in the 1930s is
now surrounded by a small renaissance of stores and cultural programming. In recent years, an emergence of notable venues has re-anchored the neighborhood’s cultural identity and economy.
To further enhance Tremé’s cultural identity, the State’s official Louisiana African American Heritage Trail begins here and the entire area is designated as a City and State cultural district that offers tax free shopping for original works of art. Congo Square, the location where slaves and free people of color were allowed to congregate for African drumming and dancing, remains a cultural heritage site within Tremé’s Louis Armstrong Park. The U.S. National Park Service’s New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is also located here. Fresh farmers’ markets in Tremé have emerged as a must-do monthly cultural event. Other notable venues in Tremé, like the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, the Municipal Auditorium, historic Joseph A. Craig School and the Tremé Community Center, have all undergone or are in the process of undergoing multi-million dollar upgrades. Indeed, with its architectural gems, proud residents, a thriving musical culture and adjacency to the Vieux Carré and Faubourg Marigny, Faubourg Tremé has resurrected itself as the cradle for all things authentic to New Orleans. Truly, it’s the people of this neighborhood that built New Orleans as we see it, hear it and taste it today.
Once the most prestigious Creole neighborhoods in the city, the Esplanade Ridge Historic District boasts one of the largest and most impressive concentrations of historic buildings in the nation. Esplanade Avenue, with its great width, is the spine of this District and contains its largest houses. In 1807, an act of Congress gave the City of New Orleans title to a strip of land that would become Esplanade Avenue, located on a ridge between the Mississippi River and Bayou St. John.
This ridge was the site of an ancient Native American portage. The Esplanade Ridge Historic District illustrates the development along this ridge from Claiborne Avenue to Bayou St. John. Esplanade Ridge is generally residential with scattered neighborhood commercial strips. Major boulevards, such as Esplanade Avenue and Ursulines Avenue, are wide and generally tree‐lined with park‐like neutral grounds in the center. By the 1850s, numerous fine homes had been constructed. The great double galleried homes along the avenue reached their peak at the end of the antebellum period. In the second half of the 19th century, Italianate,
Queen Anne, Second Empire and other Victorian styles became popular. In the area above Broad Street, there is a strong concentration of residences in early 20th century styles. The Esplanade Ridge Historic District terminates at Bayou St. John, just across from City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art. The neighborhood plays host to thousands of people every year as they stream through the neighborhood to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which takes place at the New Orleans Fairgrounds.