New Orleans has so much to offer tourists!!! Where do you begin? After exploring the French Quarter which is both exciting and little crazy, it is fun to step away from the madness for a bit and see other parts the city. We hopped on the St. Charles Line for $3 round trip and headed to the Garden District where we embarked on a free, self-guided tour down the narrow sidewalks. Hop off at the St. Charles Ave. and Washington Ave. stop to see the Garden District. Step off to your left, cross St. Charles Ave. and head 2 blocks down Washington Ave. where you will run into the beautiful, sea-blue, two-story house with white trim restaurant called the Commander’s Palace. The Commander’s Palace is famous for their 25₵ Martinis! Sadly, we were not dressed for the event and were not able to dine. However, it is a great place to take pictures in front of and a fabulous place to dine for lunch. Be sure that you plan your day accordingly and are dressed the part if you wish to stop in for lunch. Shorts, flip-flops, and non-collared shirts are not permissible. They do not accept reservations and there was a line of people waiting out front. Step inside the Commander’s Palace and pick up the free pamphlet about the Garden District which includes a walking map.
The Garden District was laid out by an architect named Barthelemy Lafon. It is a very old neighborhood located right off of St. Charles Ave. bordered by 1st Street, Magazine Street and Toledano Street. The neighborhood has beautiful, large trees consisting of oaks, magnolias, and pines throughout the streets with elegant homes and gardens. The homes in the Garden District include Spanish, French, English and Greek architectural influences. Many of the homes have 20-30 bedrooms with hand painted murals, hand carved banisters, winding staircases, verandas and Italian marble mantles.
Step back into 1832, when the first Americans settled in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase. It is considered to be one of the most well-preserved collections of historic Southern estates. Prior to the development of these homes, the area was made up of plantations. Wealthy Americans purchased this land as an alternative to living in the French Quarter. The Garden District officially became part of the city of Lafayette in 1833 and part of New Orleans in 1852. The new Americans built their own community in the Garden District to include a church, a grand hotel, cemetery, theater and a railroad.
When the Garden District was first designed there were only a couple of homes per block and each one was surrounded by a large garden, thus earning the name. Some of the lots were subdivided in the late 19th century. As a result the style of the homes vary, some are early 19th Century while others have the gingerbread Victorian appearance. Many of the homes in the Garden District today are owned by the descendants of the original owners.
Many famous people have called the Garden District home. Some of them include Drew Brees, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Mos Def, John Goodman, Gloria Henry, Archie Manning, Eli Manning, Lola The Vamp, Peyton Manning, Trent Rezno, Anne Rice and Sean Yseult.
The Women’s Opera Guild owns the home with grilled ironwork fencing and large, white columns pictured below. The home was built in 1859 for an American merchant and is open for tours today. The architecture of the home is influenced by Italianate and Greek Revival styles. The grilled ironwork on many of the homes was a sign of wealth.
Probably the most famous of the Garden District, is the Nolan House located at 2707 Coliseum Street. The Nolan House is known as the “Benjamin Button” House as it was featured as the nursing home in the move “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. The house was built in 183 and was home to three generations of the Nolan Family, one of whom played the role of the doctor in the movie. The Garden District is a family friendly, free, stroll at your own pace, activity. We loved viewing the homes and walked down St. Charles Ave. afterwards to grab some oysters on the half shell at The Blind Pelican!