Two Cities
New Orleans, in its social customs and aspects differs radically from all other cities of the Union. Indeed, we have here two cities, the one lying below Canal Street, called the "French Quarter," or "down-town section," the other lying above Canal Street, called the "American Quarter," or "up-town section."
The American section
is best seen from the street cars; to properly see the French Quarter the tourist must make up his mind to walk. It is practically impossible while "doing the French Quarter," to lose one's way in New Orleans despite the winding streets and queer little alleys that appear so unexpectedly at a fresh turn of the main thoroughfare. Every cross street leads to the river, every other street eventually leads to Canal Street, which is the central thoroughfare of New Orleans.
Municipal Boundaries
The city exercises jurisdiction over the whole Parish of Orleans, an area of 187 square miles. The populated section embraces about 30 square miles. The city slopes gradually from the river to Lake Pontchartrain, which is in the rear. The levee system has been perfected to a degree that excites the wonder and admiration of strangers. New Orleans is surrounded on all sides by huge walls of earth called Levees, the height of which along the river front averages from twenty to twenty-five feet.

© 1997 -> current

Canal Street

Cars may be taken to any part of the city, and one has only to remain long enough in any car to find himself again in the heart of New Orleans within walking distance of any of the hotels. New Orleans has 173.2 miles of Street Railway; this includes the Spanish Fort Line, which is a steam road, but is classed as a street railway. All these lines converge to Canal Street, running across or from and back to that thoroughfare.

Street Numbers

Throughout New Orleans the streets are numbered on the decimal system. The numbers begin at Canal Street and run up or down as the case may be on the streets running parallel with the river. The cross streets are numbered from the river. There are supposed to be 100 numbers in each block, so that at every intersection a fresh hundred is begun. In this way the visitor will know that if a house is situated at No. 1100 — Street, that it is eleven squares from Canal Street, or from the river.

In the streets running parallel with the river, the even numbers are on the river side of the street, and the odd numbers on the lake side. In the streets running across the town parallel with Canal Street the even numbers are on the left hand side going from the river and the odd numbers are on the right hand side. Street names are posted conspicuously on every corner.

Small Towns and Villages

It often puzzles the visitor to hear the names of "Jefferson City," "Lafayette," "Carrollton," "Algiers, etc. In former days the city was surrounded by a number of small towns and villages, each with a distinct municipal government. Jefferson City and Lafayette were then quite populous little corporations, the limits of which correspond roughly to those of the present Fourth and Sixth Districts. All the city above Upperline Street was then the municipality of Carrollton, while intervening between Lafayette were the little towns of "Greenville," "Bouligny," and "Napoleonville." The uninhabited spaces which separated these towns from one another, were gradually built up, and then the towns were absorbed by New Orleans, of which they now form an integral part. Algiers lies across the river and is now the Fifth District. There are still a number of suburbs not yet annexed, although immediately adjacent to the city. Of these McDonoghville, Mechanicsville, and Gretna, lie on the south-eastern bank of the river, above Algiers. "Bucktown" is a negro settlement at West End.

Names of the Streets

The curious circumstances that attended the growth of the city and her historic, religious, artistic and material development are suggested at every turn by The Names of the Streets.

New Orleans has in fact the most picturesquely named streets of any city in the Union, and there are character and thought in all. For instance, all through the old French Quarter the streets suggest the city's royal descent and ancient faith and customs. We have Bourbon and Orleans, Dauphine and Burgundy, St. Louis, St. Peter, St. Ann.

Bayou Road, now a well paved street; bespeaks the once fashionable drive of old New Orleans, and Rampart Street, in which there are no fortifications to-day, the city's ancient fortified line.

We have memories of Dukes and Princes galore, such as Chartres, Conde', Du-Maine — Marquises and Generals, as Casa Calvo, Marigny, Moreau, Lafayette.

We now cross Canal Street on dry land, and find that Americans pitched tents in Union Street, within sight of the old Spanish Government "Magazine," that gave to this street its name. Camp Street was once the "Campo de Negros," or Negro Camp, the space allotted to the free negroes who came to New Orleans after the San Domingo revolution; and this land opened upon the "Terre Commune," or "Common" ground.

Indian herb doctors once lived in Tchoupitoulas Street and sold the "millet seed," for which the street is named, and which grew in abundance there.

Further on we find the Nine Muses all in a row, leading gracefully into Felicity Street.

All the Generals of the Mexican War are drawn up in soldierly array, and Napoleon is commemorated not only by the avenue which bears his name, but by a half dozen streets, christened after his most famous battles, such as Jena, Austerlitz, etc.

Calhoun, Henry Clay and Webster march along side by side; Cato and Brutus confer in close proximity to Socrates, who looks with calm philosophy over at the passionate Byron in the curious vicinity of Vienna and Dublin.

Passing through the "Vieux Carre" into the "Faubourg Marigny," Love leads you gently on into Elysian Fields, while just beyond Science and Art clasp hands, Agriculture and Industry yield Abundance and Independence, and Congress stands near ready to enact any Law necessary for the good of the Union, and to back it up by Liberal Force.

And what is there lacking in poetry and romance when you are told that a beautiful prima donna once lived in Music Street, that a French King in exile occupied a mansion in Victory Street, that "Greatmen" passed in review while bad boys played "Craps" and gave the name of the game to the adjoining street; that the band of children trooping gaily on are going to play on the campus in "Good Children Street," and that the sweet-faced, black-veiled nun leading the little orphan by the hand dwells in an old convent in Piety Street.

All through the city you will find that history, romance, religion, the times have been exhausted for characteristic street names. Every now and then a petition is introduced into the City Council to change the names of the streets to North, South, East, West and add the numerical distance of squares from the river or from Canal Street, the dividing line of the city; it is represented that such change in nomenclature would greatly facilitate the efforts of the business community, as well as afford a better guide to strangers who are here for commercial purposes. But these resolutions are invariably voted down in accordance with public sentiment. What would West Forty-fifth or East Twenty-seventh Street mean to us in comparison with these old names that express the life, the growth, the thought of the city from its foundation to the present. And so there has been comparatively little change in the names of any streets since they first received their titles. This fact has been made the subject of many pleasant magazine articles.

Vieux Carre

The terms "Vieux Carre," "Faubourg Ste. Marie," "Faubourg Marigny," are often used throughout this Guide. It may be said The "Vieux Carre," or "old square," is that interesting section of the French Quarter that was laid out by Bienville when he came from Biloxi to build his city in 1718. The cleared space had a frontage of twelve squares, and comprised all the land that lay between Esplanade Street on the north, Canal Street on the south, the Levee on the east and Rampart Street on the west. The names of the streets running parallel with the river were Levee, Chartres above the Cathedral, Conde' below it; Royal, Bourbon, Dauphine, Burgundy, Rampart, so-called because being the city limit on the west, ramparts were erected all along the line. Crossing these streets from the river, were Bienville, Conti, St. Louis, Toulouse, St. Peter, Orleans, St. Anne, Dumaine and St. Philip. Later, when the Ursuline Nuns came over, the old street on which was their property received the name of Ursuline, from their convent in Chartres Street. The "Barracks," or soldiers' quarters, were located two squares from the convent, hence the name, "Barracks Street," or "Quartier." Intervening was the Military Hospital, which gave to the street directly below Ursuline the name "Hospital." The Esplanade" was located in the beautiful street that runs below Barracks, from the river to the woods. The names of these original streets have remained unchanged through all these years. They are dear to the people, because they are the living reminders of a beautiful historic past.

Faubourg Ste. Marie

The "Faubourg Ste. Marie" lies on the upper side of Canal Street. It was the first distinct "American" section of New Orleans, and extended from the "Terre Commune" or Government Reservation (now Common Street) outside the walls of the ancient city to the line marked by Delord Street. It was owned by a wealthy planter named Jean Gravier, and was first called the "Ville Gravier." After the cession of Louisiana to the United States and the Americans came pournig into the city from the West, there was a contest for mastery between the Creoles with their elegant manners and luxurious homes, and the hardy, thrifty band of invaders. Finally, there grew so much jealousy and distrust that the Govenor and State officials began to feel the difficulties of their position, and trouble seemed imminent. At this juncture the coolness of the American Governor and the foremost American citizens prevailed. The Americans decided to have a city of their own, beyond the ancient French limits. Gravier was willing to divide his land into lots and streets, and found a ready sale among the discontented Americans. Gravier changed the name of the section to the "Faubourg Ste. Marie," in honor of his mother, whose name was Mary. This was the beginning of the beautiful American city that lies above Canal Street, and which now stretches to the verge of Southport.

Faubourg Marigny

The "Faubourg Marigny" was the ancient plantation of Philippe Mandeville de Marigny. a provincial magnate, who entertained Louis Philippe and his brothers when they were exiles in New Orleans. The Faubourg extended from Esplanade Street to St. Ferdinand and from the river to St. Claude Street. When Marigny decided to build his own city, that should outrival either the "Vieux Carre" or the "Faubourg Ste. Marie," he cut up the plantation into lots "and streets. A portion became one of the most fashionable residence centres of old New Orleans. But the tide of progress flowed upward, and the dreams of Marigny were never realized.


Algiers was known in early Creole days as "Plantation of the King." This was the name given by Bienville. In time swarms of negro slaves alone inhabited it. They were constantly at work and all day their quaint negro ballads could be heard. The Creoles showing their propensity for giving nicknames, rechristened the "King's Plantation" "Algiers," and the name clings to this day. It is now the Fifth District of New Orleans, and has a large population of thrifty white people. {The Picayune's guide to New Orleans (1904)

New Orleans History, 1897-1917