Since its inception in 1721, Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans has been nationally recognized for its pivotal role in the story of NOLA.
Read on as we take you through the past life of Jackson Square that has stood as the Crescent City’s center for nearly 300 years.
A few years after New Orleans was founded in 1718, a landscape architect from France, Louis H. Pilie, sketched a layout to organize the city into a formal colony. His design was inspired by Place des Vosges, which is one of the oldest squares in Paris built in the 17th century.
Thanks to its central location, and strategic position on the banks of the Mississippi River, the public square quickly became the focal point for local commerce and shipping. It continues to be the heart of everyday life in the French Quarter, even today.
Purchase Site for Louisiana
As Spaniards used to call it back then, “Plaza de Armas” or Place d’Armes was run by the French, the Spanish, and the French again under the colonial administration until 1803. That was the year of the Louisiana Purchase which occurred right at the public square in New Orleans!
As France made the territory deal with Louisiana, the US acquired nearly 827,000 sq. miles of territory that ran from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. This is still considered the largest territorial achievement in the history of America and perhaps the best real estate deal in the history of the world.
The Grisly Public Executions
Place d’Armes gained a scandalous reputation as a public executions site throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. After the country’s largest slave revolt in 1811 – also known as the German Coast Uprising – three slaves were lynched at the square. That’s not all. Heads of some of the executed slaves were put on a display over the city’s gates as well.
Major General Andrew Jackson
Place d’Armes was renamed Jackson Square sometime in the first half of the 19th century to honor Major General Andrew Jackson.
A hero of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, Jackson led a force of 4,500 soldiers and secured a victory over the British, thus thwarting British efforts to invade the newly bought territory by the Port City. This win not only made Jackson a hero but also helped him become the seventh president of the United States in 1829.
A Melting Pot of Cultures
Jackson Square started to welcome artists, caricaturists, painters, musicians, portraitists, magicians, jugglers, and fortune tellers in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
The trend hasn’t slowed down a bit in the 21st century as evidenced by its portrayal in popular television shows and movies, including T.V. series like Memphis Beat and K-Ville, and films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Angel Heart.
Whether you are a local or a traveler passing through, Jackson Square awaits you with its glorious history, colorful culture, charming horse-drawn carriage rides, and yes, world-famous beignets!