Having explored the old Rue Royal and caught a glimpse of the ancient Faubourg Marigny, turn from the United States Mint into picturesque Chartre Street, and return to Canal Street along this route.
Chartres Street was the great business thoroughfare of old New Orleans, the street in which millions of dollars changed hands; it was in early days as great a promenade as the grand boulevard Canal is in our own.
Everything is old, very old, in Chartres Street, and the street itself seems like a bit of old time frescoing, left to ruin and decay amid the busy progress of another age.
The grim houses and odd balconies appear to be in endless confab with one another, but there is a hush as you approach, and they look stern and stolid as though defying your curious gaze. The inhabitants, however, are very kind; they see at a glance that you are a stranger by your eyes, and they smile graciously, while with a pretty air of mingled reserve, they motion you to look your fill.
Thus encouraged you may peer shyly into the tunnel-like entrances of old paved courtyards, with arched porticos such as one may see in Venice under the shadow of St. Mark's or the old Palace of the Doges. In most of these courtyards you will see plants in huge pots, geraniums, pomegranate trees and flowering shrubs; sometimes you will catch a glimpse of a battered statue of bronze or marble, or immense yellow earthenware jars that remind one of the "Forty Thieves," or which are as big as that in which Ali Baba hid in the wonderful romance of the Arabian Nights.
Chartres Street opens from Canal Street four blocks from the river, but for the purpose of this Guide follow the old street from Ursuline Avenue after you have gotten a glimpse of the quaint life of the oyster and fruit dealers in the vicinity of Esplanade and Barracks, and see the ancient Archbishopric, which is
The Oldest Building in Louisiana.
This historic edifice stands in the center of the square between Hospital and Ursulines Streets. Entrance may be had through a quaintly constructed portal, defended by double gates, piercing the wall in the middle of the Chartres Street front. The porter's lodge is within this portal. The buildings face a spacious lawn. They were erected between 1727 and 1734 for the use of the Ursuline nuns. The nuns resided here from 1734 to 1824. when they removed to their present domicile, in the extreme lower part of the city. The old building has seen various uses, not the least interesting of which is that in 1831 it was the State Capitol, and the Legislature held its sessions within its walls. The building was at that time leased by the State of Louisiana from the Ursuline nuns. Shortly afterward, the lease having expired, the Ursulines presented it to the then reigning Archbishop of New Orleans as
a place of residence for the archbishops of the diocese. It was so used until 1899, when a new residence for the archbishops was purchased in Esplanade Avenue. The historic old site in Chartres Street, however, is still retained as the "Archbishopric," and is used for the transaction of all the official business of the archdiocese. The Archbishop and the Chancellor have their offices here, and it is the official place designated for all important ecclesiastical meetings. No one should leave New Orleans without visiting this ancient building. It remains exactly as when first erected. The visitor should remark the ancient staircase, the steps of which are single, massive pieces of timber, deeply worn by the feet of many generations. The chapel contains a little oratory and shrine. The reception room, on the lower floor, is beautifully paneled in cypress, and contains a curious old clock. The shutters of cypress over the main entrance are over 100 years old and are still perfectly sound. In the dining-room hang portraits of all the Bishops and Archbishops who have presided over the See of New Orleans. On the third floor of the building may still be seen the quaint little cells used by the Ursuline nuns in 1734, the old-fashioned desk in the community room, at which the superioress sat and presided when the nuns were assembled for meditation and prayer. In another room are the quaint, heavy benches on which the slaves sat as they were gathered together morning and evening for instruction and prayer. In the building are preserved all the most ancient archives which are a part of the history of Louisiana from the beginning. A beautiful old garden is in the rear of the convent. Adjoining the Archbishopric is St. Mary's Church. It was the ancient Ursuline Chapel, and is the oldest church in Louisiana.
At the corner of Hospital and Chartres Street, where a small grocery now stands, was the ancient burying ground of the Ursuline nuns. From 1727 to 1824 all the departed members of the community were buried in this spot. When the convent was removed to the new quarters near the Barracks, the remains of the nuns were disinterred and reburied in the present graveyard attached to the ancient convent. The remains of the slaves they owned, and who were buried in the spot on the corner of Chartres and Hospital Streets, however, were not disturbed. It is interesting to note here that the slaves owned by the Ursulines chose to remain with them rather than accept freedom after the emancipation of the black race, and that, some eight
or nine years ago, the devoted nuns buried the last of their slaves, a negress a century old.
Bishop Dubourg, who occupied the episcopal chair of New Orleans in 1812, lived in a house belonging to the Ursulines, on a part of their Chartres Street property nearest the river. Its site is now occupied by Sambola's macaroni factory. Bishop Dubourg used to spend his winters in New Orleans and his summers in the northern portion of his vast diocese, which extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the great lakes, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast above California.
In the vicinity bounded by Ursuline, Chartres Street and the Levee are the shops of the macaroni-makers and basket-weavers. At the corner of Ursuline and Chartres pause a moment to look at the queer old tiled roof building, one of the few that remain as specimens of Spanish colonial architecture previous to the great fire of 1788.
On Chartres Street, between Dumaine and St. Philip stood the famous old "Cafe des Emigres" or "Emigrants' Cafe" It was the favorite headquarters of the San Domingo refugees and their famous liquer "Le Petit Gouave," was concocted here to perfection.
Walking slowly toward Canal Street, you pass the front of the old Cathedral and the famous
where the ancient Municipal Chapter of Spanish times met. The picturesque structure stands at the corner of Chartres, between St. Peter and Orleans Alley. Within its walls all but one of the transfers of the country from one government to another were effected. Here, representing the King of France, Governor Aubrey absolved the colonists from their oath of allegiance to France and handed them over to the swarthy delegate of His Catholic Majesty of Spain. Here was effected the transfer back to France, and here again the transfer of the country to the United States was made, and from the balcony Claiborne announced the event and displayed the American flag. In 1826 General Lafayette was received here, and in later days President McKinley was formally welcomed to Louisiana just prior to his death.
In December, 1903, the civil ceremonies connected with the celebration of the Louisiana Purchase Centennial took place in the Cabildo. At present the lower floor of the building is used as the Second Recorder's Court and police jail; on the second floor the Supreme Court of Louisiana holds its sittings. The ancient "Spanish Calaboose," or jail, is in the building. In one of the cells can be seen a pair of old-fashioned stocks, a relic of the Spanish domination.
At No. 613 Orleans Place, is the ancient Spanish Arsenal, still used, despite the dilapidated appearance of the building-, as the State Arsenal.
The massive building, a facsimile of the old "Cabildo," standing on the lower side of the Cathedral, between St. Anthony's Alley and St. Ann Street, is the lower court building. The Civil Court sits on the upper floor and the Civil Sheriff has his office on the lower floor. It is a very ancient building, but not as old as the Cabildo. It occupies the site of a former Capuchin monastery, the monks of which were charged in early days with the care of the St. Louis Cathedral. The gardens of their convent extended back several squares. Pere Antoine resided here for many years, as did also the famous Pere Dagobert, who is canonized among the sweet memories of old New Orleans. He was called "the singing Pere," and it is said in old traditions that even now at night, passing through St. Louis Cemetery, one can hear his sweet voice chanting the grand "Te Deum" or caroling the sweet lullabies that Creole mothers sang to their children. The people are not afraid of his ghost. They stop to listen, and still again the old tradition runs, "Blessed is he who hears Pere Dagobert singing the 'Te Deum' at the midnight hour."
The venerable Cathedral, Cabildo and Courthouse overlook
Jackson Square, or the old "Place d'Armes."
It is a noted spot in Louisiana history and was the place that Bienville marked out for the review of the French troops, hence the name, "Place d'Armes." Here were held from the beginning all the most important public meetings in Louisiana. Here Don Antonio Ulloa received the keys of the city and took possession of it in the name of the King of Spain; here met the resolute band of patriots under Lafreniere, and right here may be said to have been made the first declaration of independence on American soil, for Lafreniere declared the independence of the colony in 1768 and sent the Spanish Governor back to his
own country. Here a few days later the brave French patriots were shot as traitors, and here Don Bernardo Galvez, one of the most heroic figures in Louisiana history, appeared before a popular meeting of the citizens in 1779 and completely won their hearts. In the old square General Jackson, the hero of New Orleans, was received in 1815, and passing through a bevy of beautiful Creole girls, representing the different States of the Union, one of them, personating Louisiana, crowned him as her victor and hero.
When the monument was erected in the center of the square, taking the place of the flagstaff from which had been unfurled successively the flags of France, Spain and the United States, the name of the hero of Chalmette was bestowed on the square by the grateful citizens. The Jackson monument, in the middle of the square, was made by Clark Mills, at a cost of $30,000. The artist has been highly praised for the manner in which he succeeded in balancing such a mass of metal — 20,000 pounds — without any support or prop beneath. In this position the statue has withstood the storms and hurricanes of half a century. The inscription on the granite base of the monument was cut by General Butler's orders during the Civil War. It runs: "The Union must and shall be preserved."
Jackson Square is one of the few remaining public places which are inclosed. It is shut to the public at 9 o'clock at night. It has long been under the management of a special Board of Commissioners, who have greatly beautified the parterres by planting them with tropical fruits and flowers. The fountain near the Chartres Street entrance is equipped with a mechanism by which the jet may be illuminated at night.
The two long rows of quaint buildings, drawn up like twin regiments of red-coated soldiers, on either side of the square, are the Pontalba Buildings, erected in the early part of the century by the Baroness de Pontalba, daughter of Don Andres Almonaster. They are still owned by her descendants. It was a great mark of gentility in early days to reside in the Pontalba Buildings. The tide of fashion has, however, long since flown away. The long, narrow courtyards, the grand old stairways, the curious transoms and brass knockers, whose click reverberates through the ancient halls, are worthy of notice.
And now you are in sight of the famous
You know it by the busy rush, the noisy rumbling of carts and wheels, the ceaseless clatter of foreign and native tongues combined, the outlandish garbs, the curious faces, the strange cosmopolitan scene to be nowhere else witnessed on American soil. The market is open daily from 5 a.m. to 12 m. The "meat market" was erected in 1813 at a cost of $30,000, and stands on the exact spot where the first market was built in New Orleans, according to the plan of LeBlond de La Tour, in 1723, and which was destroyed by a hurricane in that same year. The best time to visit it is in the early morning, and Sunday morning of all others. It is the most remarkable and characteristic spot in New Orleans. Under its roof every language is spoken, and this will be noted through its four divisions, the fish, the meat, the vegetable and the fruit market. The buyers and sellers are men and women of all races. Here are the famous coffee stands, where one gets such delicious "cafe noir" or "cafe' au lait," with a "brioche" or "cala," as the taste may suggest. There are the Gascon butchers, and the Italian and Spanish fruit vendors, and the German and Italian vegetable women; there are Moors, with their strings of beads and crosses, fresh from the Holy Land; peddlers and tinners and small notion dealers; the "rabais men," with their little stores on wheels; Chinese and Hindu, Jew and Teuton, French and Creole, Spanish and Malay, Irish and English, all uniting in a ceaseless babel of tongues that is simply bewildering. The old Creole negresses are there, with quaint bandana and tignon, offering for sale "pralines" and "pain patates" and "calas," the latter a species of soft doughnut made of rice and flour. Squatted about the ground between the markets are strange, half-civilized beings, with queer little papooses strapped to their backs or rolled up in shawls and blankets. You catch the odor of wild herbs and
woodland leaves, and get a glimpse of the dried sassafras leaves from which the famous "gumbo file" is made. These patient, dark-skinned women, with their straight, flowing hair, are the last remnants of the once powerful tribe of Choctaw Indians, who were once the very owners of the soil on which New Orleans stands. They have come all the way from the old Indian settlement of Bayou Lacombe, across Lake Pontchartrain, to the French Market, where they always find a ready sale for their "gumbo file" and fragrant "tisanes." And in the French market, above all, there is the charm of local life and color, especially of a Sunday morning, when the Creole belles and beaux saunter leisurely through, buying roses and jasmines, after hearing mass in the old Cathedral.
deserve more than a passing notice. The history of this tribe is one of peculiar interest. They were the only Indians who never once rose in arms against the United States. They were bound by ties of deepest friendship to the early settlers of Louisiana, and called the good Bienville, their "father." In all the early troubles of the infant colony they were always at the side of the colonists, and when Jackson led the Americans against the British, on that memorable Eighth of January, 1815, they followed the fortunes of the Americans and merited a compliment from the famous "Old Hickory" in his report to the Government.
In token of their fidelity, they were never sent to the Indian reservation; but years since they were crowded out of New Orleans by the superior and cultured race, and they have lived quietly on the ground allotted to them by the United States at the Indian settlement of Bayou Lacombe, over in St. Tammany Parish. Twice a week, on Sunday and Thursday, they come to the city, crossing, free of fare, on the steamer that plies between Old Landing and New Orleans, and then walking from Lake Pontchartrain to the French Market, where they always find a ready sale for their good "gumbo file" and bunches of herbs from which the Creoles concoct such fragrant "tisanes" for the sick.
The amenability and docility of the Choctaws have been attributed by historians to the wonderful influence exercised over them by the Catholic priests who labored among them in the beginning, from generation to generation in Louisiana.
Very sweet among them, especially, is the memory of Father Rouquette, a famous poet and scholar of Louisiana, who devoted nearly sixty years of his life to unremitting labor among these simple untutored children of the forest. When he died the tribe came all the way from Bayou Lacombe bearing their bunches of sassafras and "laurier" to lay upon his grave.
You turn from the market, with its singular complexity that interests while it challenges admiration, and
Emerge upon the Levee.
The scene along the Levee is at all times extremely animated, especially in the vicinity of the French Market.
The Levee in front of the fish market is called the "Picayune Tier" or Lugger Landing.
The "Dago" fishermen from the lower coast land their cargoes of orange and oysters here, and here gathers a swarm of luggers, with their sails tied down on their long booms or flapping idly in the breeze to dry, while their motley
crew of traders through the bayous and lakes of the lower Louisiana coast— Greeks, Italian, Dagoes, Gascout. negroes and nondescripts — bustle about unloading cargoes of oranges, oysters, fish, vegetables and all the various produce of the land and water of their section; or else, while waiting for some sort of a cargo to set sail again, loiter idly about, smoking their cigarettes and cooking
their meals over queer little furnaces fired with charcoal. The "Picayune Tier" is always a picturesque sight.
Walking up the levee one or two squares, you reach the site of the old "Government House;" this stood at the corner of Levee and Toulouse Streets in the old colonial days. It was burned in 1826, after the sale of Louisiana to the United States.
One square further up, between St. Louis and Customhouse Streets, are the Sugar Sheds. At this point one gets a fine view of the shipping.
The Sugar Exchange, where the merchants conduct many of those operations which regulate the price of sugar throughout the country is on the corner of Front and Bienville Streets.
One cannot pass this section of the Levee without realizing the greatness and importance of the sugar industry of Louisiana. Block after block along about midwinter is packed and crowded with barrels and hogsheads of sugar and molasses. Large as the area is, it scarce affords room for the product that seeks this greatest sugar market in the United States. The barrels of sweets overflow the sheds, crowd all the warehouses in the vicinity, block the sidewalks and overrun the Levee. There is sugar everywhere. A word right here about the cultivation of sugar cane in Louisiana will be of interest. In 1794 Etienne de Bore', a planter living about six miles above New Orleans, in the spot where Audubon Park now stands, succeeded in making the first crop of sugar ever made in Louisiana. He disposed of his crop for
$12,000. The cultivation of cane was first introduced by the Jesuit Fathers in 1751, but up to 1792 no planter had ever succeeded in making the syrup granulate, and so convert it into sugar in sufficient quantities to make the culture profitable. To Etienne de Bore' belongs this honor. His portrait hangs in the Sugar Exchange in this city. The cultivation of sugar cane has contributed more to the prosperity of Louisiana than any of her other products.
Close by the Sugar Exchange are several great refineries where the crude products of the sugar-houses on the plantations is changed into the beautiful white sugar seen upon our tables.
Continuing up Chartres Street, to Canal, one passes many quaint old courtyards and dilapidated mansions telling of the glory of departed days.
In Chartres Street, near Canal, are some famous antique shops' and wonderful bird stores, where the chatter of magpies and parrots, mingling with the songs of mocking birds and canaries, and the crowing of roosters and cackle of fine breeds of chickens, and the squealing of monkies, seem to transport one into a South American forest. The gay plumaged birds from the tropics always to be found in these quaint stores give them a tropical color and beauty that fascinate strangers- The Picayune's Guide to New Orleans (1904)
Chartres Street— The French Market and Vicinity
A Short History of New Orleans
Revised and Enlarged
Price, By Mail 30¢
At Picayune Counter 25¢
Picayune Job Print
The Picayune, New Orleans, La.
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