Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
New Orleans
Crescent Cities

Compare Maps | 1798 | 1849 | 1862 | 1920s | 2005

1798: A European City
France governed New Orleans for five decades before ceding all of Louisiana to Spain to keep it out of British hands. Spain later gave the territory back to France just two years before Napoleon sold it to the United States in 1803. Despite the official governance, the city remained culturally and economically a French city throughout the 18th century. A French city with slaves: by the end of the century more than half the population was black. And everyone clustered around the river; the backswamp between New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain was inhabited mostly by mosquitoes.

Map of New Orleans with highlighted places from 1798

Place d'Armes Vieux Carré French Quarter. Carondelet Canal. Batture. St. Louis Hotel.

In front of the old St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, La. 1. Place d'Armes.
In 1729, when a panicked woman reported hostile Indians in the area, the residents of the town took arms and gathered at the Place d'Arms. Although no hostile Indians appeared, Governor Etienne Périer captured some Natives and had them buried alive at the Place d'Armes. From the beginning a Catholic church stood here and in 1849 the St. Louis Cathedral was built.

Vieux Carré / French Quarter, with pedestrians. 2. Vieux Carré: French Quarter.
The original French settlement was set by the river. The neighborhood suffered two devastating fires, in 1788 and 1794, and was rebuilt in a colonial Spanish style; the "French Quarter" is, architecturally, Latin American.

Boats at Old Basin - Head of Canal Carondelet. 3. Carondelet Canal.
Transportation in and out of New Orleans still relied on waterways, including Bayou St. John. Governor of Louisiana Francisco Luis Hector, Baron de Carondolet had a canal dredged to allow boats to unload on the north side of the settlement.

Banks of the Mississippi at New Orleans. 4. Batture.
Bertrand Gravier claimed the silt batture deposited on the east bank of the Mississippi as private land and deeded a portion to New Yorker Edward Livingston as a legal fee when the city claimed the riverfront to be public land. Livingston fought for his property in the courts for 15 years, before agreeing to a compromise that left the banks public property.

Rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel where slave auctions were once held; (old slave block is visible.) 5. St. Louis Hotel.
The grand St. Louis Hotel opened in 1838 and immediately became a center of economic activity and social celebrations. Slave auctions were once held under its rotunda and the hotel served as the state capital after Reconstruction but fell into disrepair in the 20th century.

back to top page created on 12.1.2006

New Orleans American Experience

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: