As many cities move toward more bike-friendly infrastructure, including our own, let’s take a trip back to the bicycle craze of the 1890s through this March 23, 1896 Times-Picayune article. Through the hilarious language of this piece, we get a glimpse into New Orleans’ troublesome roads (some things never change!) as well as the changes in women’s attire (and women’s rights) the bicycle helped facilitate:

“‘Fellow cyclers,’ said the young man of the Southern Wheelmen who makes his long-distance runs awheel regularly, ‘when you want to make a day of it it is an easy thing to do. Get out your wheel, dust it up, and then get on your togs. Oil the bearings, graphite the chain and tighten the machine all around. Now while you tighten the machine up you want to loosen yourself. Get on some old garments that are soft and hang loosely, shoes that are comfortable, and then get out and hunt up the fellow who is going with you….

‘About the roads, oh, yes, well, if you read in the papers some time ago that the commissioner of public works intended to furnish shells for the piece of road on bayou St. John [sic]…you were mistaken if you thought they were to be placed decently. I’m just telling you that great big oyster shells are scattered all over this piece of road; some of them in holes, some in the gutter and the most of them any place but where they would do good.…

‘You can’t imagine the number of young ladies that are riding now.…take yourself to a designated spot, like the parks and the lake ends, and there you find them in bundles, in all kinds of wrappers. Didn’t see a single bloomer girl. No use talking, the short skirt will hold its own here, and it’s all right as far as I’m concerned, but I don’t want to getup for a long distance ride with a girl who wears one of those skirts with plenty of material in it. It would just be a day of high wind, and it would be straight at her all the way home. You know what that means.'” [1]

Ladies “in bundles”?! In “all kinds of wrappers”?! Were they pieces of candy?? Without knowing much about the intersection between bicycles and women’s rights in the late nineteenth century, I did notice the charged language this guy used in his descriptions of women’s attire—which sent me down an internet rabbit hole to say the least. But just imagine it! Ladies in outfits like these whizzing along the bayou’s banks!

Georges Montorgueil, 1857-1933 (creator) Henry Somm, 1844-1907 (illustrator)

For more on the bicycle’s role in the women’s movement, check out this very detailed write-up. And then put on your bloomers, “loosen yourself,” and take a cruise along the shell roads!

1. “Cyclers Who Ride To Any Old Place May Find Many a Pleasant City Path to.” Times-Picayune 23 Mar. 1896: 8. NewsBank. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.


Don’t let those wind-induced ruffles on its surface fool you: our Bayou St. John doesn’t have a current of its own to speak of. Like all bayous, it slogs back and forth, and changes levels, largely according to the activity of its “parent waterbody.” Or at least the bayou used to relate to Lake Pontchartrain in this way: well-intentioned authorities blocked off the bayou’s connection with the lake nearly a century ago. That way, when storms raised the lake’s water levels, a floodgate would prevent the water from gushing up the bayou and overflowing.

But this meant the bayou’s health—and the health of its fish—suffered for decades from stagnation and a lack of saltwater. By 2014, however, the old floodgate (stuck partially-shut by rust) was removed, and a new, fully operational gate was installed. Thanks to monitored input from the lake, the bayou can boast some ecological diversity again  (maybe those saucy little ruffles are earned, after all!).

Just for fun, let’s look back and see how populated the bayou was with finned creatures, say, in 1878 or 1902.

This Times-Picayune article references one of the bayou’s many battles with polluted runoff in the nineteenth century. What resulted, in this case, was a morbid inventory of its underwater residents: “It is stated at the City Hall that the fish in Bayou St. John are dying by hundreds. The dead fish may be seen floating on the surface of the water for some distance along the bayou. This piscine epidemic is attributed to the influx of ‘gas water’ from the Orleans Canal through a break in the levee…. People who visited the bayou were surprised by the number, variety and size of the victims.”[1]

And then there’s this 1902 report of what we would nowadays call a paddlefish, caught in only 2 feet of water!

“A peculiar specimen in the way of fish was caught yesterday in bayou [sic] St. John, at a point half-way between the tollgate and Spanish Fort. It was a spoonbill catfish, the bill being fully a foot in length, and the fish measured fully 4 feet from tip to tip, and weighed about 40 pounds, yet it was caught on perch line in 2 feet of water.”[2]

So if you happen to take a swim in the bayou someday soon, don’t be alarmed if you feel something slippery slide against your leg! It’s only a sign of the bayou’s improving health, after all….

1. “City Matters. Argument Before the Supreme Court on the Anderson Case. A Decidedly Palatial Railroad.” Times-Picayune 13 Mar. 1878: [2]. NewsBank. Web. 26 Jul. 2016.
2. ”Hunting Grounds And Fishing Camps. Some Fish Around to Reward the Ardent Anglers, With Many.” Times-Picayune 21 Jan. 1902: 16. NewsBank. Web. 26 Jul. 2016.


While attending last week’s July 4th boat parade on Bayou St. John, led by the Krewe of Kolossos, I was reminded of a letter I came across last summer. The flotilla’s preamble was not merely the spreading of picnic blankets along the bayou’s shore, or the adjusting of raft decorations, you see. It also involved several surprising aerial feats!

Like this backlit bike flip, facilitated by a wooden ramp on the bayou’s edge:

Or these guys climbing to the top of Magnolia Bridge (aka Cabrini Bridge) and hurling themselves off:

These guys were the ones to remind me of that letter I came across while doing some bayou research at the New Orleans Public Library last summer. The letter was written by a certain Walter Parker, Chairman of the Bayou St. John Improvement Association (and future mayor of New Orleans), to Honorable George Reyer, Superintendent of Police, and dated April 10, 1934. It read as follows:

“It would help a great deal were some of your men to pass along the Bayou as frequently as practicable. Some boys who do not have bathing suits, do not hesitate to bathe in very scant underwear. At the Dumaine Street bridge many boys make the dangerous practice of climbing on the bridge structure. At the Magnolia Bridge (Harding Drive) boys dive from the top of the bridge pretty much all day.” [1]

Boys in their undies, jumping off bayou bridges “pretty much all day”!

What complicated this practice (aside from the boys showing a lot of skin) was that, at the time this letter was written, quite a few houseboats still occupied the bayou. Many of them had electrical and even telephone hookups, but virtually *none* were equipped with any kind of on-board “sewage management.” Meaning…the sewage went straight into the bayou. The four-foot-deep, barely-flowing bayou. Walter Parker was not only perturbed by their rowdiness, but also apparently concerned for their health.

The letter goes on to cover another issue we’re all familiar with when it comes to outdoor festivals, particularly those along the bayou: litter!

“In so far as I know, people have a right to fish [and organize flotillas] on the Bayou. But when they leave crab bait, old papers and remnants of lunch behind, they create a nuisance. I have found that such things usually are the result of thoughtlessness rather than viciousness, and a simple request or word of warning brings a correction….”

Does this tension between recreational use of the bayou and concerned bayou residents sound familiar? I hope none of you left any crab bait behind when you packed up to head home last Monday evening. Or old papers! Or remnants of lunch! Or jumped off the bridge scantily-clad! But if you did, you’ve simply joined the ranks of the bayou’s many nuisance-makers throughout our city’s history….


In 2013, as part of FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation program, archaeologists conducted a dig at the colloquially-named Spanish Fort site along Bayou St. John. I’m lucky enough to have been given an official report of the dig, which includes both historical information as well as an exhaustive inventory of discovered artifacts.

The behemoth is somewhere around 450 pages long, and much of it is incomprehensible to those of us not trained in the field. However, the artifact list is poet’s dream come true—a veritable treasure-trove of bizarre sounds, a cacophony of seemingly disparate words placed side-by-side, which, to the uninitiated, reads like nonsense delivered with utter authority. Object names—a “post-bottom mold base,” for example—could mean anything, and yet, one knows without a doubt that every object, whatever it may be, is steeped in history.

Right away, I longed to write a poem in which I pretended to be an archaeologist, so I could appropriate some of this language: a hyper-focussed, hyper-detailed sifter of history, another version of myself on hands-and-knees, troweling, brushing, labeling, gently lifting, gently rinsing (you know, all the things archaeologists do, but more whimsical and exaggerated) to find the fragments of forgotten stories.

If I were to write a poem from the perspective of my archaeologist alter-ego, here are some of the words and phrases I might use (jumbled up from the official inventory mentioned above):

grog-tempered ceramic sherds,one rim sherd, two body sherds,one from each stratum

ball clay pipe

pink-bodied/buff-bodied Albany slip

amber, cobalt, olive, aqua

cut nails, cut spike, soft paste

indeterminate amorphous ferrous metal


indeterminate spike

slag, mortar, coquina, concrete

scalloped rim sherd like a segmentof a humpback’s fin [she adds in a metaphor]

a singular stamped pipe stem reading “BELLE/SERVE”

sliders, cooters, painted turtles

tooled bead, tooled blob, applied blob, applied brandy

applied champagne, chert pebbles

button, hinge, wire, dagger

UID bird

faunal material:evidence of butchering: pig rib, cow patella [1]

Ok, ok—back to the history. I learned so much from this report! Last summer, I posted about an adventure I took to the Spanish Fort, and I included photographs of conical piles of rocks (if you’ve been there, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!) that I just couldn’t make sense of….

photo by author

*drum roll please*

The report has informed me that these are the remnants of granite rock fountains built in the late 19th century when the amusement park at the Spanish Fort site was at its zenith. Alligators in pens! Music halls and fish ponds! Carousels! Railroad cars with patrons pouring out of them! And yes, granite fountains, spilling and bubbling, day and night….

Ok, the poet has tired herself out now. I promise more history next time!

1. 2013  Phase I Archaeological Inventory of Portions of New Orleans City Park and Phase II Testing and Evaluation of Sites 16OR626 and 16OR19 in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana & Analysis of 1976 Archaeological Collection from Fort St John/Spanish Fort (Site 16OR19), prepared for FEMA by R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. , New Orleans, LA.


From Wikimedia Commons: 1920 painting of Marie Laveau (1794–1881) by Frank Schneider, based on an 1835 painting by George Catlin. Source: Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans

According to historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, voodoo came to New Orleans not only as a result of the Haitian Revolution—when droves of refugees, both white and black, flocked to New Orleans in the early 1800s bringing the primary popular religion of Haiti with them—but far earlier in the city’s history with the arrival of enslaved Africans in the 1700s.

New Orleans elites in the early years of the 19th century were terrified a similar uprising might happen here. In 1817, City Council forbid blacks from congregating in large groups except in specified places at specified times. Therefore, voodoo rituals of the day had to hide from view, which meant—in the days before the city’s vast cypress forests were drained and developed—they moved into the swamps.

According to Bayou St. John historian Edna Freiberg, these policies explain why the famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau is said to have held her annual St. John’s Eve rituals along the banks of our swampy bayou. And yet, she seems to have invited everyone to come out and see it anyway!

I’m fascinated by Marie Laveau, along with, like, everyone ever, specifically because I want to know more about her success in bringing voodoo into the public (i.e. white) eye—one of the many things she is known for. What was the purpose of this? What was the benefit? I have much more reading to do on the subject, but as we near June 23rd, St. John’s Eve, I wanted to provide you with an interesting (and dated, and hugely offensive) Times-Picayune article of yesteryear describing this annual event. Part of the reason why we can read about the event now is precisely because it was open to white voyeurs, for reasons I still can’t figure out.

Was Laveau simply cashing in on whites’ need to witness what they termed a “barbaric spectacle,” to remind themselves, once again, of their ultimate superiority? Was it all a ploy, a “decoy,” while the “real” ritual unfolded place elsewhere?

In 1924, this Times-Picayune reporter wrote on the supposed history of this annual event: “This cabala of St. John’s Eve was for years a topic of discussion in New Orleans and even attracted national attention. In barbaric color and African hideousness, nothing has ever surpassed it. Thousands of curiosity-seekers, journalists, and freelance writers, who chanced to be in New Orleans at the time of this jubilee, would go out in the swamp lands after nightfall and walk through the rough paths, eager to glimpse the orgy. It is generally known that Marie LaVeau [sic] welcomed whites as this particular saturnalia and it is often remarked that it was the decoy, the real worship of the voodoo taking place at other times in remote regions of the swamp, near the shanty which has been styled the ‘summer home’ of Marie LaVeau.”[1]

For the modern-day St. John’s Eve head-washing ceremony (decidedly less fraught), head out to Magnolia Bridge on June 23rd!


1. Times-Picayune 16 Mar. 1924: 71. NewsBank. Web. 14 Jun. 2016.


Last weekend, I went searching for a bayou’s ghost.

When the French arrived on the scene back at the end of the 17th century, a small trickle of water connected Bayou St. John with Bayou Gentilly—an even smaller, more sluggish slip of liquid, even more deserving of the term “bayou,” than the waterbodies it linked together. There was no indication that the waterway was used for navigation, or much of anything at all, but it appeared on early maps snaking along what would eventually become the heart of Faubourg St. John. Its claim to fame might have been that the old portage route followed its basic arc from Bayou St. John to Bayou Gentilly (to the site of the Place Bretonne Indian market) before continuing on its way toward the present-day French Quarter.

map by author, used in previous post on Place Bretonne

The official name of this bayou (I’ve come across several), and when exactly it got filled in, remain a mystery. But during an interview with a Faubourg St. John resident, I was told that a slight declivity along N. Dupre street marks the old trench of this long-forgotten bayou. And, of course, I wanted more—I wanted to trace the ghost-bayou’s bed from start to finish!

Alas, the results of my adventure through the neighborhood are not all that impressive. Nothing definitive. No ghost-bayous jumping out to spook me. Just small dips along the relevant roadways that may or may not have anything to do with said trickle of yesteryear. As any New Orleanian knows, irregularities in the elevation of the city’s streets are not exactly rare….

I walked from Moss to Crete streets, zig-zagging between DeSoto and Bell along Hagan, N. Rendon, N. Lopez, N. Gayoso, N. Dupre, and N. White—searching all the while for indications of the ghost-bayou’s wanderings.

It is said that the bayou broke off from Bayou St. John around present-day 1222 Moss Street. It’s as if the house itself—hiding behind its lush foliage—seeks to hide its watery underpinnings….

photo by author

photo by author

Does this puddle along Hagan Avenue indicate a bayou-related dip?

photo by author

What about this driveway’s slope on N. Rendon?

photo by author

Or this mansion’s sunken drive?

photo by author

Is it just me, or does N. Lopez look a little concave right here? (My dog’s second photobomb…he was helping me look.)

Photo by author

What about here? The slightest of dips along N. Dupre….

photo by author

Here is the clearest indication of the ghost trench (shown to me by the same Faubourg St. John resident mentioned above), where Crete meets Esplanade.

photo by author

Ok, like I said, nothing too terribly amazing. But was the journey worth it? You bet! And maybe someone reading this post will have their own bayou ghost story to share, and will tell us all where to look next time we’re in the neighborhood….


Given the recent rejection of a property tax by New Orleans residents to help fund firefighter  backpay, I figured I would focus on a little-known historical landmark on the bayou’s shores.

Rumor has it Bayou St. John is home to the oldest fire hydrant still standing in the city of New Orleans. (If you know of an older one, tell me where it is!)

Photo by author

Photo by author

This proud little dude stands at the corner of Grand Route St. John and Moss Street, and according to his markings, was installed on September 14, 1869. It’s an example of a “Birdsill Holly” hydrant, named for its inventor. Until 1891, the fire department in New Orleans was purely volunteer-run; for 62 years, the Firemen’s Charitable Association sought to protect the city of New Orleans from “conflagrations,” and was organized into several “companies,” or groups, each with their own engine.

Apparently, around the time of our friend’s installation, spectators would gather around to see which engines could “throw” water the farthest. In 1876, four engines were competing for the record: Creole No. 9, Mississippi No. 2, Crescent No. 24, and James Campbell No. 7. No. 7 was by far the reigning champion, having thrown 320-feet-2-inches, until a final contest was called for June 25, 1876, on the banks of Bayou St. John.

The Times-Picayune reported: “At a late hour of the night the decision of the judges on the engine-throwing match, was received, and Mississippi No. 2 once more is proud to be the winner of the champion horns. The match was for $100, through 100 feet of hose, and came off near the Magnolia Garden, on Bayou St. John.” [1]

We don’t know how far Mississippi No. 2 was able to throw that night, but we know she was the winner. Is it possible our Birdshill Holly hydrant supplied the water for such an occasion? Magnolia Gardens, after which Magnolia Bridge (a.k.a. Cabrini Bridge) was named, would have been fairly close by….

In my travels researching this hydrant, I came across this photograph of a carving in Cypress Grove Cemetery—featuring none other than “No. 2,” our reigning champion!

Photo by Michael Homan, Wikimedia Commons

Well, I don’t know that for sure, but given the 19th century origins of this carving and the fine reputation of the Mississippi No. 2, one can only assume. Someday, I will go check it out for myself. For now, I will content myself with visiting Mr. Birdshill (he told me to call him “Birdie” for short) on the banks of my favorite bayou….

1. “Sunday Amusements. All the World in Search of Pleasure A Chronicle of Pic-Nics and Other.” Times-Picayune 26 Jun. 1876: 1. NewsBank. Web. 18 May 2016.


Big Walking Gator at Lake Woodruff. © Andrea Westmoreland. From Wikimedia Commons

This past January, I wrote a post in which I quoted Marc-Antoine Caillot, 22-year-old clerk for the Company of the Indies, from his memoir A Company Man. On Lundi Gras 1730, Caillot initiated the first-known Carnival celebration in New Orleans on the banks of Bayou St. John, having trudged down Bayou Road with his buddies, all of them dressed as women.

Earlier in the account of his time spent in New Orleans, we find another mention of our beloved bayou. This time, it involves a gigantic Monster of the Deep fiending after some paté!

One day, Caillot gathered up some of his friends and they walked along the only passable road from the present-day French Quarter to the bayou—Bayou Road. Along the way, they would have seen a brickyard and an earthenware factory, and the homes of a few wealthy planters backed by indigo plantations, and maybe some grazing livestock here and there. They may have passed a few carts heading into the city, laden with goods that had been brought down Bayou St. John on flatboats.…

I’ll let Caillot take it from here!

“We had brought as provisions some good paté, a few dozen bottles of good wine, and some cured meat from the butcher’s in order to spend the day at the home of a certain Joseph Bon…who lived on the other side of the aforementioned bayou. In order to go to his house, we got into a little pirogue with our provisions.

We were only halfway when, all of the sudden, a huge crocodile [alligator] came and put his two front feet on the edges of our little boat, which he almost turned over, to get our meat. We were in a great deal of trouble, so, in the meantime, having loaded our muskets, together all shot him in the head and blasted out his eyes. He left us, making a dreadful turbulence in the water. Not knowing where he was going anymore, he beached himself on the bank.” Some slaves from a nearby plantation, having witnessed the encounter, “ran and pulled him out of the water. We measured him and discovered that was twenty-two feet long.” [1]

Now, Caillot is known to exaggerate throughout his memoir, so who knows if this 22-foot measurement is totally accurate—but needless to say, that alligator was big! Given his aggressive leap for Caillot’s cured meat, we might safely characterize him as a “nuisance gator.”

For more information on gators in our current bayou (certainly not 22 feat long!) read this nola.com article from last summer.

For a parallel gator-moment from recent times, check out this video of an innocent kayaker and his daughter out in Fausse Pointe State Park, and what they discovered at the end of their line….

1. Marc-Antoine Caillot, A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies, ed. Erin M. Greenwald, trans. Teri F. Chalmers (New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2013) 114-115.


If you plan to hit up Jazz Fest this weekend, you may be interested to learn about a few noteworthy events that have taken place at the Fair Grounds since its birth in 1852. Aside from horse races, the Fair Grounds has played host to a number of other…let’s say, lessexpectedoccasions over the years.

Take, for example, the circus that rolled onto the Fair Grounds infield in 1906. An ad in the Times-Picayune read: “Barnum and Bailey, Greatest Show on Earth! A Circus That Is a Circus! A University of Marvels! Glorious Peace Spectacle! Furore-Creating Auto Somersault! Sensational Bicycle Twirls!”  An article describing the circus mentions “hundreds of sleek, well-groomed horses,” “rare and curious animals,” elephants, and a “mammoth hippodrome pavilion.”[1]

Or take the mysterious “fairy garden” constructed to house the February 1911 automobile and motor-boat show in the Fair Grounds grand stand. What this magical, leafy world was intended to convey is any modern reader’s best guess, but it sounds pretty exciting—seeing as it was to boast “the most elaborate” floral decorations “ever attempted in New Orleans”:

“During the coming week the Fair Grounds grand stand building…will be transformed into a fairy garden…. U. J. Virgin has the contract to furnish the potted plants, boxwood trees and the various floral decorations which are to be the most elaborate ever attempted in New Orleans.…Hundreds of plants will be used, while thousands upon thousands of yards of wild smilax [a type of vine] will be placed to lend attractiveness.… More than 3,500 electric lights will be added.… These will be festooned in an artistic way, with the wires covered with wild smilax. Everything will be done to make the electrical display of the most brilliant order.”[2]

In May 1901, a public wedding was held at the Fair Grounds. The name of the bride and groom were withheld up until the day of the event because “a guessing match as to the first name of the bride and her age and nationality” was to go on beforehand. The wedding participants got dressed at the St. Charles Hotel, and as soon as everyone was ready, seven automobiles “whizzed up to the ladies’ entrance” and the procession made its way to the Fair Grounds, each car “decorated with flowers and colored electric lights.” There was no mention of the results of the guessing game, however….[3]

Lastly, we hear of an automobile race at the Fair Grounds in 1921. The feature event was a “50-mile match race between Bill Wade’s Studebaker, Ray Bardin’s Lexington and George Weiblen’s Stutz.” The program also included events like: “Three-mile Ford races,” “Truck tug of war,” and “High-gear slow-speed race for fully-equipped stock cars.” Twenty policemen were on hand to “keep the crowd under control.”[4]

When you’re standing in your own crowd, listening to the gospel, jazz, bluegrass, or rock music this weekend, perhaps you’ll think of some of the strange things that have taken place below your feet over the past century and a half. I know I will!

1. “Circus Comes To-Day, And For Two Days Fair Grounds Will Revel In the Sounds and.” Times-Picayune 6 Oct. 1906: 5. NewsBank. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. Times-Picayune 6 Oct. 1906: 9. NewsBank. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
2. “Fair Grounds Fairy Garden To House Automobile Show.” Times-Picayune 12 Feb. 1911: 8. NewsBank. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
3. “A Fair Wedding. An Automobile Parade to Precede the Ceremony, And the Presents to the.” Times-Picayune 17 May 1901: 9. NewsBank. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
4. “Studebaker, Lexington and Stutz Race Today in Fair Grounds Feature.” Times-Picayune 2 Oct. 1921: 71. NewsBank. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.


In a post last fall, in which I documented my trek along the modern-day path of the historic Bayou Road portage route, I mentioned the Ossorno House on Governor Nicholls Street. Well, I just can’t get enough of this old house, and soon after I posted about it, the house went up for sale. Oh, and it went up for sale for the first time in over a century!

Ossorno House, 913 Gov Nicholls St, photo by author

Ossorno House, 913 Gov Nicholls St, photo by author

The house, originally built on the bayou, was dismantled sometime around 1781, presumably carted down Bayou Road, and reassembled in the French Quarter by 1784. Its owner, Gabriel Peyroux, apparently wanted to move it from the rural village that surrounded the lower bayou at the time into town, although the reasons for such a move remain unclear.

In the 1830s, its hipped roof (a roof with four sloped sides; see pictures of other examples below) was replaced by a gabled one, but other than that, the house still retains its French colonial plantation-style characteristics. The only other plantation-style house in the Quarter is the famous Madame John’s Legacy, but the Ossorno House is the only truly authentic plantation-style structure in the Quarter since it was actually utilized as such in a rural setting before being moved to the city. As Richard Campanella tells us in his Geographies of New Orleans, “[the Ossorno House] is over twenty-five years older than any building in the surrounding sixteen blocks, eighty years older than the area’s average age, and possibly the only structure ever to occupy its parcel.” [1]

On top of this, only three families have owned the house over the course of its 230-year history, and it hasn’t changed hands since 1912.

Colloquially-named Spanish Custom House, c. late 1700s, on Bayou St. John; photo by author; note the hipped roof

“The Sanctuary” on Bayou St. John, another French colonial plantation-style house hailing from the same era as the Ossorno House; photo by author; note the hipped roof

So, in short, we have a totally badass house here.

It witnessed the early days of bayou living—saw schooners gliding down the bayou, heavy with smuggled goods; saw fields of indigo and herds of cattle and orchards planted with rows of orange trees; maybe it even witnessed a runaway slave as she slipped silently along the bayou to hide in the cypress swamp beyond. Then, it was broken up and hauled along Bayou Road like nearly all the other goods arriving in the city at the time.

Again, Campanella sums it up elegantly: “That the Ossorno House may have literally come down Bayou Road from the Bayou St. John plantation country and ended up on Gov. Nicholls Street, where Bayou Road entered the city, is also of great significance. One may view it as a structural monument to the historic flow of materials and peoples traveling this route from city to bayou.”[2] Physical proof of the ancient artery of Bayou Road, once a stream of movement and activity, in the form of a slightly run-down plantation-style four-plex—which could be yours today for only 2.7 million dollars!

For awesome photos of the house’s current interior—six bedrooms, four baths, with a little retro kitchen tacked onto the back, and original fireplaces and wood floors—visit Curbed New Orleans.

 To continue traveling down the rabbit hole of this house’s unique history, visit the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Vieux Carré Digital Survey (complete with a brief history of the house, photographs from the 1930s-1950s, old drawings, surveys, and maps).

Better yet, go visit the house! You may not notice it at first, since it’s set back from the street and tucked in between the more stately and ornate townhouses that were built up around it in the 1800s. But don’t let its modest visage fool you—this house has stories to tell!



1. & 2.  Richard Campanella, Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before the Storm (Lafayette: University of Louisiana Press, 2006) 106.Campanella, Geographies of New Orleans, 107.