Go on a walking tour of the Garden District Mansions and see the amazing architecture. New Orleans Garden District was settled in the 1850’s by successful entrepreneurs — the “nouveau riche” of that time. They built large, elegant mansions exemplifying many architectural styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne Victorians.
Few people from the United States lived in New Orleans during its colonial era and the area had experienced only modest commercial development during its first decades due to trading restrictions imposed by France. With the completion of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans swarmed into New Orleans to take advantage of the boom in Mississippi River commerce. Numerous cash crops such as cotton, the slave trade and national banks, all fueled the local economy.
Friction between the arriving Americans and the mostly Creole residents of the already crowded French Quarter resulted in the snubbed Americans moving upriver to create their own residential district of opulent mansions in the city of Lafayette which was annexed to the city of New Orleans in 1852. Garden District historic homes are a favorite of visitors to New Orleans and taking a tour of these huge homes is high on the list of things to do.
Garden District Walking Tour
A Garden District Walking Tour is one of many escorted tours available to see and learn about this and other areas of New Orleans.
St. Charles Avenue is also lined with historic mansions as it passes through the Garden District. There are more mansion pictures on my St. Charles Streetcar page.
Here’s a small sampling of some of the huge homes and Victorian Mansions in New Orleans’ historic Garden District. You may want to view a Garden District Map (opens in another window) to track our route.
We begin our Garden District walking tour just a block from St. Charles avenue with this French Second Empire-style mansion near First Street at 2340 Prytania Street. Built in 1872 at a cost of $100,000 for Bradish Johnson by Beaux Arts-trained architect James Freret, the interior has a beautiful curved marble stairway.
Continuing on First Street away from St. Charles Avenue we come to the mansion that was the former home of Archie Manning and childhood home of Peyton Manning — New Orleans Saints Quarterback and Indianapolis Colts Quarterback, respectively.
The Pritchard-Pigott house at 1407 First Street is an example of a Greek Revival double-galleried town house. Cross Coliseum Street and you will find another double-galleried town house at 1331 First Street This mansion was built in the 1860’s by builder-architect Samuel Jamison in the Italianate style.
The landscape architect and author Andrew Jackson Downing, with his 1850 book The Architecture of Country Houses, helped make the Italianate style so popular in the U.S. that for a while it was known as “The American Style.”
A short side trip down Coliseum Street toward Philip Street will bring you to a row of eight shotgun houses known as Coliseum Street Row or sometimes the Seven Sisters. Shotgun style houses get their name from the fact that the rooms are lined up so that you could fire a gun through the house without hitting anything. This style is one room wide, one story tall and several rooms deep and has its primary entrance in the gable end.
Back to First Street and head toward Magazine Street. Just after crossing Chestnut you’ll come to a Greek Revival town house that had an Italianate bay (designed by Samuel Jamison) added later. Anne Rice fans may recognize this mansion as the setting for her Witching Hour novels. The home is owned by her and it’s said that if a long black limo is parked in front then Anne Rice is inside.
This mansion was traditionally called “Rosegate” after the rosette pattern worked into the fence. Some claim that the rosette was the precursor to the chain link fence. The photo to the left shows a detail view of the fence and gate.
The Rice family also owns Claiborne Cottage which Anne purchased in 1995 and used as the setting for her novel Violin. The Claiborne Cottage is a raised, center-hall, Greek Revival cottage built in 1857 by John Vittie for Sophronie Claiborne Marigny, daughter of Louisiana’s first Governor and wife of a prominent political and military figure, Mandeville Marigny. The house has had several subsequent owners and served as a grammar school, high school and convent before being restored to a private Garden District residence in 1980.
Continue on First to Magazine, then turn right and walk one block to Second Street where you will see the two Victorian homes pictured to the right. Back down Second Street near the corner of Camp Street is the house you see on the left. These Victorian style homes are typical of those popular in Uptown New Orleans at the end of the 19th century and were probably built for people who left town in the summer since this style of home was intended for cooler northern climates.
One of the few non single family homes in the Garden District, Warwick Manor, at 2427 Camp Street just off Second Street, is an example of Georgian architecture. As you stroll through the Garden District you’re likely to see many interesting homes and may catch a glimpse of the lifestyle and personality of the people who live there.
Turn left when you get back to Prytania and you will see the Women’s Opera Guild House at 2504 Prytania Street. This large house is an odd combination of Greek Revival style, with two storied deck supported by round columns (on the left) and Queen Anne Victorian, with a cone topped tower or turret (on the right). The house was designed by William Freret in 1858.
Across the street at 2523 Prytania Street is another house owned by Anne Rice. Once an active Catholic chapel the building is known as Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. You can view the New Orleans Garden District’s only example of Gothic Revival Architecture a little further down Prytania Street, on your right just after you cross Third Street.
The Briggs-Staub house, 2605 Prytania Street, has a matching Gothic guest house (built as servants quarters) that repeats the lines of the main cottage. Although many mansions built in New Orleans before the Civil War included slave quarters, Charles Biggs — the original owner — is said to have not owned slaves, but instead employed Irish servants.
Colonel Short’s Villa, or the Short-Favrot House, just off Prytania Street at 1448 Fourth Street has a fence that’s similar to one in front of the Cornstalk Hotel in the French Quarter. The Garden District cast-iron fence, in cornstalk pattern, was erected by Wood & Miltenberger, the New Orleans branch of the Philadelphia foundry of Wood & Perot where the French Quarter fence was cast.
There are a couple more stops you might want to make before completing your walking tour of the Garden District; the Garden District Book Shop and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. The Garden District Book Shop, in the Rink at the corner of Prytania Street and Washington Avenue, has many regional titles with plenty of information on the areas majestic mansions.
This is Anne Rice’s favorite bookstore and she would hold her first signings for new books here before her popularity outgrew the space. The Garden District Book Shop does stock a supply of Anne Rice signed first editions so you can purchase one right in her neighborhood. You may also wish to visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District. Its entrance is on Washington Avenue between Prytania and Coliseum across the street from Commanders Palace restaurant. There’s also another entrance on the other side of Lafayette Cemetery on Sixth Street.
Anne Rice frequently uses Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 for locations in her stories — the Mayfair witches’ family tomb is here for instance.
The impression given by above ground tombs in New Orleans cemeteries have resulted in their being known as Cities of the Dead.
Learn about Victorian archicetural styles and view historic Victorian Mansions in San Francisco.