Congo Square and Jazz Heritage

Jazz and Heritage Festival is less than a month away and has gotten bigger than ever. This event now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to New Orleans but had its humble beginnings in Congo Square, right outside of the French Quarter in what is now Louis Armstrong Park.  Congo Square was originally the gathering space for New Orleans’ slaves on Sundays. Slave owners in Louisiana, being from French and Spanish decent had a more laid back attitude towards slavery than their protestant British counterparts in the colonies. In New Orleans, slave owners  followed the Code Noir, a set of rules and regulations, which explicitly stated that slaves would have Sundays off. This time was used socializing, singing, dancing, and of course making music!  Congo Square continued to be a designated congregation area for song and dance, and in 1970 the first Jazz and Heritage Festival was held in that very spot! Many people are convinced that this old stomping ground is actually the original birthplace of jazz.

Upcoming Twelfth Night Celebration

Even though Christmas feels like it's over after all of the presents are unwrapped, traditionally the Christmas holiday only just begins on Christmas day, and ends 12 days later on the Twelfth  Night.  This day is believed in Christianity to mark the coming of the Epiphany.  While deeply rooted in religious beliefs, the Twelfth Night celebration has evolved throughout the generations into a mainstream holiday with an ever iincreasing importance here in New Orleans! Besides marking the end of the Christmas season, the Twelfth night denotes the beginning of the Carnival season, which is naturally a cause for celebration! One of the traditional ways to celebrate the Twelfth Night in New Orleans is eating King Cake, which gets its name from its association with Twelfth Night religious celebrations. On the Epiphany, the 3 magi visit the Christ Child. This symbolism is reflected in the King Cake with the 3 magestic colors of sugar topping, purple, green, and gold, and the plastic baby found baked into the cake. It is seen as tabboo to eat King Cake outside of carnival season, but between January 6th and Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras day, there will be an abundant supply and demand for King Cake. Every local New Orleanian has a favorite bakery to get their carnival season king cakes. It's definitely acceptable and encouraged to try them all and pick out your favorite! 

Do you know why the WWII Museum is in New Orleans?

Most people know that New Orleans is steeped in history, but few know of the pivotal role New Olreans played in ending the second World War.  Often, visitors wonder Why is the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans?  Well, if you haven’t visited our world-class museum, we highly recommend doing so! As President Eisenhower stated to Dr. Stephen Ambrose Andrew Jackson Higgins is the man who won the war for us. Without Higgins designed boats that could land over open beachesthe whole strategy of the war would have to be rethought.  Andrew Jackson Higgins was the founder and owner of Higgins Industries, a New Orleans based manufacturer of Higgins boats. which grew to be one of the biggest industries in the world, supplying 96% of U.S. Navy ships during the war! By the end of the war, 20,094 boats had been built by 30,000 New Orleanians at the 7 Higgins plants in New Orleans.

French Quarter History: French Opera House

Built in 1859, the French Opera House of New Orleans was a cultural landmark of the city. Opera in New Orleans attracted an audience comprised of all sects of society, people of high and low status, locals and foreigners alike. The French Opera House was the most fashionable establishment in New Orleans of its time, marking the social season with its schedule of performances. One could draw a comparison to the way football moblilizes the city in modern society. Performances at the French Opera House ceased for two years during the Civil war, but happily returned in 1864. By 1913, the house had fallen on hard times and thanks to an anonymous donor, was revived under the control of Tulane University. Not long after the house reopened, it fell victim to the French Quarter fire of 1919 and would never open its doors again. Today, the Inn on Bourbon marks the location of the old French Opera House, at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse. Although Opera never made a significant comeback, several theatres (including the Saenger, the Joy, and the Orpheum) in the city have been revived Post-Katrina, supporting New Orleans' love of performing arts. 

French Quarter Architecture

Despite it's name, the French Quarter, New Orlean's oldest neighborhood, has only a handful of buildings that remain in the French colonial style of our founding fathers.  The major events influenced the transformation of theQuarter's build environment – Louisiana Purchase, fires of 1788 & 1794. 

The spaniards enforced strict building codes (ex: brick!) to avoid fire, the architecture was indirectly influenced by the spanish, by way of the carribean. The creole architecture (mix of spanish, french, and carribean) is what the quarter is made of today (since mid 1800's?)  Compare to Havana or Cartagena. This is the time wrough iron became popular