Where is the Garden District?
The Garden District is part of the area known as Uptown New Orleans, and according to the City Planning Commission it covers an area from St Charles Avenue in the north, to Magazine Street in the south, and from 1st Street in the east to Toledano Street in the west.
There is also a Garden District National Historic Landmark District, the boundaries of which spread a little further than those given by the City Planning Commission – east to Josephine, west to Louisiana, and north to Carondelet.
A History of the Garden District
Since 1803, when the United States agreed the Louisiana Purchase, areas which were further out from the original city of New Orleans were developed by migrants coming here from all of the United States and beyond. The Garden District, which was once full of plantations, did not begin to be developed until 1832 at which time the area was sold off to those wealthy enough to be able to afford such a prime location.
These wealthy Americans didn’t want to live in the French Quarter so instead they bought land here and built large mansions. The blocks were originally divided into only a small number of lots so that larger properties surrounded by their own private gardens could be built here, and hence the name of the Garden District!
But as demand for space exceeded supply, many of the lots were subdivided in the late 19th century and smaller, late-Victorian period homes, known as ‘gingerbread’ houses, were built here too. Eventually all of the large gardens disappeared though thankfully most of the original mansions survive to this day, making the Garden District one of the best preserved examples of Southern historic mansions in the whole of the United States.
The Garden District Today
Today, because of the sub-divisions in the late 19th century, the Garden District is far more well known for its wonderful mansions and architecture than for its gardens! Some of these properties are open to the public for tours, which are highly recommended to give you a taste for how the wealthy lived back in the 19th century!
Amongst the attractions in the Garden District is the George Washington Cable House on 8th Street. This was the home of the American novelist, George Washington Cable, who lived here for ten years between 1874 and 1884. The house is a US National Historic Landmark, though unfortunately it’s privately owned so no tours are available. Also of note is the Commander’s Palace, considered to be one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. This is located on Washington Avenue within an impressive building dating from 1880. And then there’s the historic Lafayette Cemetery Number One, plus the Garden District properties which were formerly owned by Anne Rice.