This is the second of three self-guided walking tours of New Orleans developed by Susan Tucker for the CoSA/SAA 2013 local host blog. The first can be found here. To do these tours, I recommend grabbing a neighborhood street map, or a fully-charged smartphone with a good maps app. As New Orleans is a big city, please use common sense safety measures when exploring neighborhoods. The last tour will appear next week.
According to Susan, these are “three adventures that take into consideration both the beauty of vernacular architecture and the August heat in New Orleans.” Susan Tucker is Curator of Books and Records at the Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University. She is the author and editor of a number of books on women, material culture, and archives. -Eira Tansey, local host blogger
Outing Number Two – St. Claude Arts District, Faubourg Marigny, French Quarter
Take bus number 55, the Elysian Fields bus from Canal at Tchoupitoulas (get directions from hotel). Tell the driver to let you off at St. Claude and Elysian Fields.
From here you will be walking towards the river (to your right) after exiting bus. You will be walking down St. Claude. This area looks half seedy and half remarkable recovery. Many young newcomers to the city have moved here. Proceed along St. Claude five blocks to St. Roch. Here across the street you will see the St. Roch City Market, currently being renovated. New Orleans had a system of public markets that was more extensive and lasted longer than those of other American cities. The architecture here gives some example of that system. (For more on the markets see here)
If you would like to see a New Orleans cemetery not often seen by tourists and a truly remarkable testament to a sort of melancholy but magnificent religious spirit, cross over to the market and walk down to St. Roch Cemetery and Chapel. St. Roch is the patron saint of miraculous cures, and so marble tiles, small notes on paper, plaster casts of body parts, and braces will astound you here. It is a neighborhood in which to be careful but worth the trip if you are interested in cemeteries and willing to be conscious of your surroundings. For an interview with the cemetery sextant, see here. If you are fearful, see here.
Again, you can always take a taxi (504 522 9771) or ask a local walking that way to guide you. It is seven blocks from St. Claude, so also the walk could be very hot, but the street is shady, and is divided by a wide expanse of trees in the middle, also typical of New Orleans.
While you are deciding this, you will be at the corner of St. Claude and St. Roch, by the New Orleans Healing Center, complete with a café, an arts collective, bookstore, yoga studio, grocery and more. Ask there about visiting other art galleries and Harold’s Plant Nursery further down St. Claude but remember it is August and nothing is without the cost of being very hot.
If you are refreshed, turn right now back towards town and take St. Roch Avenue (away from market and cemetery) two blocks to Burgundy Street. Turn right onto Burgundy and follow it as it meanders towards Elysian Fields, Esplanade and into the French Quarter. You are now in the Faubourg Marigny. Notice the Lutheran Church at 2624 Burgundy (first German Lutheran Church in the city, 1840) and the Catholic one, St. Peter and St. Paul at 2317 (built in successive steps between 1849 and 1861). Consider here the tradition of “national churches.” St. Peter and Paul served Irish immigrants, as did St. Alphonsus in the lower Garden District (worth a visit too, see online for opening hours, since there is a display of the history of Irish Catholic life in New Orleans there). Among the other national churches were St. Mary’s Assumption (German), Notre Dame de Bon Secours (French) both in the Garden District and St. Mary’s Church (French, but also home to Spanish, Creole, Irish, German, Slavonian, and Italian congregations, as well as for Native American Indians and the African American Sisters of the Holy Family).
On Burgundy (pronounced here Bur-GUN-dee), you will also see many double shotgun houses with their colorful paint colors. This section of the city feels still rather like a Caribbean village but there are miles and miles of architectural wonders.
Proceed across Elysian Fields. If tired, call taxi or at the corner of Elysian Fields and Rampart take the number 57 or 55 bus back to Canal Street. Ask bus driver where to change buses if you take the 57.
If not too tired, proceed straight across, meandering slowly along to Esplanade and into the French Quarter. There are places to stop on the way, bars and restaurants. From here take a left and go down Esplanade (lots of shade here) to the Mint, and see the exhibit on Preservation Hall’s 50th anniversary.
Here you will be at the end of the French Market (not really interesting today but shade everywhere, and worth seeing the architecture to consider this, the oldest market in the city since you have seen St. Roch’s Market). The oldest of the buildings here was rebuilt after the hurricane of 1812, but earlier markets date to 1779 and later ones from the late nineteenth century. Repairs were made by the WPA and again, more recently in the 1990s and 2000s. More history can be seen here.
Go very slowly back to the hotel. You can take the red streetcar that runs along the river and ends right on the far side of the Mint. The Riverfront Street car goes right to the Hilton.
Or, if you are walking through the Quarter, you will find plenty of places to stop but depending on time of day, my favorites are Central Grocery (923 Decatur), 1850 House Museum at 523 St. Ann on Jackson Square (go here too for Friends of Cabildo walking tours), Muriel’s Restaurant on the next corner down on Jackson Square, the Pharmacy Museum at 514 Chartres Street, United Apparel Liquidators at 518 Chartres, Antoine’s Annex (513 Royal Street), Kingfish Restaurant at 337 Chartres, and a number of hotel lobbies worth cooling off in. Bookstores are plentiful. See online or look for descriptions of Faulkner Books, Dauphine Street Books, Beckham’s Book Shop, and Kitchen Witch. There are always pralines too.
Likely this is too much for August but take what you will here.