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Garden District, Chalmette Battlefield

Adventurers in New England

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 Garden District Walking Tour, Chalmette Battlefield

New Orleans, LA


Robin Bowers

July 4, 2015


Text and Photos by Author
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...

Happy Birthday, America

    I awoke on this my second morning in the Big Easy with the first duty to get a good breakfast at the buffet here at Maison St. Charles Hotel & Suites. I wanted to be full for a morning of walking in the Garden District. Leaving the hotel, I walked across Saint Charles Ave to the streetcar stop, bought my Jazzy one day pass and waited for the next car to leave for the Garden District and the Carrollton and Claiborne Aves junction. I boarded the streetcar and rode to the Washington Ave stop. The conductor called out the street name. I knew to get off because many people were also exiting excitedly and looking forward to touring the Garden District.


    I started my tour armed with the AAA walking tour guide plus a print out given to me by my cousin from on things to see. I took many photos of interesting homes, but not all had information on them. The homes that I had information on are posted here.

    The fine old homes of the Garden District preserve traces of the era of cotton and sugar empires, when grand antebellum plantations dominated the landscape. This was primarily the American section of town, named for the lush garden estates.

    The district owes its luxuriant vegetation to an 1816 flood caused by the overflowing Mississippi River. Although many plantations between Carrollton and the emerging American sector were destroyed, a rich deposit of alluvial silt created a very desirable feature for future development- higher ground. In the early 1830s Jacques Livaudais sold his sugarcane plantation, which was soon subdivided, later incorporated as the city of Lafayette and subsequently annexed to New Orleans, where it became known as the Garden District.

    In addition to thriving indigenous and exotic plantings and magnolia trees rivaling oaks in size, the neighborhood boasts a variety of building styles, including Gothic, Greek Revival and Renaissance. Many homes are embellished with iron lacework, a hallmark of New Orleans architecture.


Notice the sky blue ceiling of the porch gallery.



Bradish Johnson House and Louise S. McGehee School 2343 Prytania St.
    Architect James Freret designed this Second Empire style mansion for sugar baron Bradish Johnson in 1872. It is quintessential reconstruction era architecture. Today, the property is the private Louise S. McGehee School for girls.

6321 Archie Manning
        House in Garden District in New Orleans, LA

Archie Manning House 1420 First St.
This is the home of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning and childhood home of Peyton, Eli, Cooper Manning. It is not uncommon to see one of the family members coming in and out of the house.


Morris Israel House 1331 First St.
    By the 1860's, the Italianate style was the most popular style of architecture in the Garden District. You will notice how narrow the home is, but it continues very far back into the next block. Property tax, which was calculated by how much of your house fronted the street, was high during these periods and may have been an instigating factor in having narrow homes. People who have visited Disneyland in Anaheim  California might recognize this house as it is the house the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland was based on. The house is said to be haunted.


BrevardMahat/ Anne Rice House 1239 First St


    Originally designed in 1857 as a Greek Revival home you can see modern additions like an Italianate bay have been added. Notice the Rosegate fence, this is said to be one of the first chain link fences in the world. However, when people pass by they often speculate that the rosebuds more closely resemble skulls. When you admire the roses on the Lattice work on the house they also appear to be cow skulls. This was the predominant residence of the novelist Anne Rice and the setting for her Witching Hour novels. She sold the home in 2003 when her husband Stan unfortunately passed away.





Eustis / Sandra Bullock Residence  2627 Coliseum Street.
    This Swiss Germanic Chalet, built in 1867, is one of only three homes of this style in the entirety of New Orleans. It is not a practical style of architecture in a part of the county that gets as warm as New Orleans does. It was designed by Architect William Freret for James Eustis, a one-time U.S. Senator. Today, it is the home of the Oscar winning Actress Sandra Bullock. She bought the home in late 2009, shortly before her adopted son Louis was born in New Orleans. People flock to the home, but she is rarely here. She allows other celebrities to stay inside and you never know who might come out the front gate.





Commander's Palace Restaurant  1403 Washington Ave.
    The bright turquoise building on the corner was erected in 1883 for Emile Commander to be run as a restaurant. It is now considered to be one of the best restaurants in the United States and has been owned by the Brennan family since 1974. Locals attend the weekday Martini Lunches, but the weekend brunch is also a nice option. Reservations are required and there is a strict dress code.



    The cemetery entrance is in the middle of Washington Ave. and directly opposite Commander's Palace restaurant. Once part of a plantation, Lafayette was New Orleans' first planned cemetery, opened in 1833 for immigrants, affinity groups and the wealthy, and even today welcomes new occupants weekly into its 1,100 tombs.



    This municipal cemetery is the third oldest still standing cemetery today. Due to no affiliation with the Catholic Church there are over 27 different nationalities interred in the cemetery today.



    Due to Southeast Louisiana's high mortality rate the cemetery's structures were erected at break neck speed. Walking down the center aisle on the right are 4 tombs and you will see a grave Sercy, Mary Love and Edwin's children all passing away within 24 hours of each other. You then begin to realize how death helped to mold the way of life in the region. You will notice the above ground tombs that are so popular in New Orleans. Done for practicality as well as tradition you see them in abundance. Embalming was not used predominantly in North America until after the American Civil War. When the deceased were place inside of the tombs without embalming it was realized the tombs were like ovens and the disintegration process would be accelerated. For that reason you can find tombs with up to 35 family members inside.


    Just about everyone says the dead are buried above ground because New Orleans is below sea level. "Not true," said guide John Geiser. "We're standing 8 feet above sea level here." Although half of inhabited New Orleans now is below sea level, much of this part wasn't developed until the 20th century. Geiser said the earliest graves were holes in the ground by the Mississippi River, but after 20 or 30 years, the French settlers decided to copy the burial style they knew in France - above-ground tombs.


This tomb was used in the Tom Cruise film "Interview with the Vampire-The Vampire Chronicles." Tom Cruise refused to enter the tomb as called for in the script. The studio built a false front so Tom could enter without going inside.


The Jefferson Fire Companies Benevolent Tomb.





Leaving the domicile of the departed after a uneventful visit, I had one more street to cover in the Garden District.



Colonel Short's Villa 1448 Fourth St.
    This house was built by architect Henry Howard for Kentucky Colonel Robert Short in 1859.The story goes that Short's wife complained of missing the cornfields in her native Iowa, so he bought her the cornstalk fence. An explanation given by the current owners is that the wife saw that it was the most expensive fence in the building catalog and may requested it. Governor Nathaniel Banks lived inside with Major General Benjamin Butler after the property was commandeered in September of 1862. New Orleans fell early in the war as it was a pivotal port for the Union. Best thing to happen so that New Orleans was not destroyed in Sherman's March.








Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel  2523 Prytania St.


        The beautiful Madonna and canopy in the yard denotes a small Catholic chapel, used to stand here until Anne Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire, purchased the property. It's the setting for her novel Violin. The home was designed by the Architect Henry Howard in 1857. He predominantly used the Italianate style that you can see. Italianate homes in the Garden District on average have 17 foot tall ceilings. You will also notice the exquisite metal work adhered. When looking at the metal columns you will notice Romeo  Spikes. Folklore states that they were installed to keep young men from climbing into young women's rooms. Most likely, they are there to prevent robbery. You will also notice a gas light on the porch that burns all day and all night. That is upholding the tradition that J.H. Caldwell arrived in New Orleans in 1833 and started installing the gas lines into homes throughout the region. The Garden District would have never be without light.




The Women's Opera Guild House  2504 Prytania St.


The stand out homes in Garden District's often include more than one style. Designed by William Freret in 1859, this building combines Greek Revival and Italianate metal work with Queen Anne. Now owned by the Women's Opera Guild, the home can be toured on Monday's from 1 to 4 pm.


This home was the last stop on the tour and back to where I began. From this point it is only one block left to St. Charles and the streetcar.


St. Charles Ave is one of the parade routes for Mardi Gras.
    The event synonymous with the city - and into which it pours its whole soul - is Mardi Gras. This Catholic holiday originated as a final farewell to food and drink before the fasting of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Carnival season in New Orleans starts on Twelfth Night, Jan 6, with a series of glittering private balls and costume parties. The celebration reaches its peak during the 2 weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday, better known by the French as Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday"), when carnival krewes stage more than 60 parades across the city. My cousin said that she and her husband had ridden in several parades with his krewe -Hermes.


    From here I boarded the streetcar and rode back to the hotel.


Hotel's motor court.


Pool and a very nice whirlpool.

    I talked to my cousin and she said that she would come by in a bit and take me to sightseeing some more of the city. After we meet up, she drove though part of the French Quarter and by the French Market Place. 

You think Pete Fountain is big here in New Orleans.


The Saenger Theatre, at Canal and Rampart Streets, sponsors a Broadway series, bringing major touring companies to the Big Easy each year. Completed in 1927, the restored opulent Italian Renaissance theater gives patrons an outdoors feeling with a ceiling of stars and clouds and a special affects  machine that simulates sunrises and sunsets. Additional features include chandeliers from the Palace of Versailles and a 778-pipe organ.

    Leaving the French Market District in the French Quarter and passing The Old U.S. Mint, we are on Route 46, going through the same neighborhood as yesterday and ending up at the same location only next door.

Chalmette Battlefield


    We parked and walked over to the Visitors Center. Inside we saw excellent displays, maps, interactive exhibits and films that explain the importance of Louisiana and the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. Afterwards we went outside to look at the battlefield.


The Battle of New Orleans

        Maj Gen. Andrew Jackson's stunning victory over experienced British troops in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, was the greatest American land victory of the War of 1812. Although the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, was signed in Belgium on December 24, 1814, it was not ratified by the United States until February 1815, so fighting continued. This battle preserved America's clam to the Louisiana Territory, prompted migration and settlement along the Mississippi River, and renewed American pride and unity. It also made Jackson a national hero.

    The War of 1812 was fought to secure US maritime rights, reduce British influence over American Indians on the western frontier, and pave the way for the US annexation of Canada. Neither side had much success in the early days of of war. Great Britain, battling Napoleon's armies in Europe, could spare few troops to fight in the US; most were sent to defend Canada. America had few victories, most of which were at sea. When Napoleon was defeated in the spring of 1814, the War of 1812 changed dramatically. Thousands of battle-tested British troops sailed for the United States, for a three-pronged attack that included a full-scale invasion from Montreal; skirmishes and raids on Washington, DC, and Baltimore; and an attack on New Orleans.

    The first advance ended when the British lost the Battle of Lake Champlain in September 1814. During the second, the British invaded Washington and burned the White House and Capitol, but Fort McHenry in Baltimore held off British ships, ending this attack. The third began in late December when British Maj. Gen. Sir Edward M. Pakenham led a 10,000 man army overland from Lake Borgne to attack New Orleans. The capture of this important port was Britain's main hope for exacting a favorable peace settlement from the Americans. By controlling the mouth of the Mississippi River, England could seriously threaten the economic well-being of the entire Mississippi Valley and hamper US western expansion.

    Defending New Orleans were about 5,00 regular US troops, state militiamen, and volunteer soldiers, including Jean Lafitte's Baratarian pirates. On December23, British troops landed nine miles downriver from New Orleans,Jackson halted their advance in a fierce night attack. The Americans then withdrew behind the banks of the Rodriguez Canal.

    The Rodriguez Canal bordered one side of the Chalmette plantation, running between the Mississippi River and a cypress swamp. Jackson's plan was to force the British to march through the stubble of harvested sugarcane fields toward his troops. Americans enlarged the canal and filled it with water, built a shoulder high mud rampart thick enough to with stand cannon fire, and waited for the British to attack.
    Pakenham tested the Americans' nerve and firepower with a reconnaissance on December 28 and again on January 1. When these efforts failed, he knew he must either withdraw, risking an American attack, from the rear, or assault Jackson's rampart. Relying on good leadership and his experience soldiers, he chose to attack.



    On January 8, 1815, Pakenham sent 7,000 soldiers head on against the American position. The British concentrated their attack on the rampart's ends, assuming those were the weakest points, but the fire from Jackson's artillery and small arms tore through their ranks with devastating effect.

    As the British assault against the American rampart near the swamp begin to falter, the 93rd Highlanders were ordered to march diagonally across the battlefield from their position near the Mississippi River. The regiment was exposed to raking fire and suffered heavy casualties. Pakenham rode forward to rally his men and was mortally wounded. Many other high-ranking officers, including Maj. Gen. Samuel Gibbs and Maj. Gen. John Keane, were killed or wounded. Although a small force continued a brave advance, Gen. John Lambert, the surviving British commander, ordered a retreat.

    The Battle of New Orleans lasted less than two hours, with the major fighting confined to about 30 minutes. More than 2,000 British troops were dead, wounded, or taken prisoner; American casualties numbered fewer than 20. With days the British withdrew, ending the Louisiana campaign.


Looking across this open field and where you see the smokestacks and pipes of a modern oil refinery, a British army was camped from December 23, 1814, through January 8, 1815. After a night battle in the British camp on December 23, General Jackson's forces fell back to this spot, where they spent Christmas 1814 constructing a defensive rampart at this location behind the Rodriguez Canal.





Chalmette Monument.
The cornerstone of this shaft honoring the American victory at New Orleans was laid in January 1840, within days after Andrew Jackson visited the field on the 25th anniversary of the battle. The State of Louisiana began construction in 1855, and the monument was completed in 1908.

    The British left Louisiana after their defeat at the Battle of New Orleans, turning their attention back to Europe and what would be their final battle with the French Emperor Napoleon at Waterloo and the end to more than 20 years of war. Canadians were proud to have defended their border against American invasion. Americans were counting their blessings for having ended the War of 1812 on agreeable terms and feeling a new sense of pride in their nation and its ability to overcome differences in a common cause. The American victory also secured the lands of the Louisiana Purchase and encouraged white settlers to move into American Indian lands to the west without the worry of interference by any European powers.




    The Malus-Beauregard House was not here when British troops crossed the field in January 1815. However, its early 1800s architecture offers a convenient historical backdrop to explore the scene of the British troops assembled to capture New Orleans.

    It may surprise you to know that some English ladies accompanied their husbands across the ocean. As the soldiers slept in swamps and suffered from the cold on their way to New Orleans, the women remained in the relative comfort of the ships. Waiting for the news of a British victory and the opportunity to visit the exciting city of New Orleans, they played games, read books, and enjoyed theatrical performances on the decks of their ships. These women would never see New Orleans, and some would never be reunited with their husbands . The fallen soldiers were buried at the plantations near the battlefield, and the women returned to England with the fleet.

    From the battlefield, Dawn and I walked to the top of the levee for a look at "Ol' Man River."





Battlefield dock.
The Paddlewheeler Creole Queen has a historical battlefield cruise where passengers can disembark and learn about this decisive battle that changed American history.



Leaving the levee we walked over to the Malus-Beauregard House.
    Built nearly 20 years after the Battle of New Orleans, the house is named for its first and last owners. Madeleine Pannetier Malus and Judge Rene' Beauregard. Today's restoration reflects the Greek Revival style of a mid 1800s home. We walked inside for a look. Not much to see, just bare walls and several rooms.


    From here we returned to the other side of the city and drove to Audubon Park where we stopped to view the river. As it was a holiday weekend, the park was filled with picnickers, people playing ball and others just relaxing on a summer evening. In 1884-85 Audubon Park was the scene of the World's Industrial and Cotton Exposition, which started the world with electric lighting indoors and out.



Huey P. Long Bridge in distance.


People on bank of Mississippi River in New Orleans, LA

After our visit to the park, Cousin Dawn dropped me off at the hotel and we said good-by and I thanked her for taking time to show me around town. Later on I went out to the pool area and spent a hour or so relaxing in the warm water and talking with fellow travelers. Later fireworks were seen and heard in the night sky.

Tomorrow -Original Beignets and Cafe' Au Lait at Cafe' Du Monde, walking tour of the French Quarter and a river crossing to Algiers

Go to next Chapter Twenty-eight

Return to last Chapter Twenty-Six St Charles Street Car, Chalmette Cemetery

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Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...