From its beginnings New Orleans has been, if not a melting pot, a cosmopolitan kettle for a new and original recipe. After all, it was established by a company owned by a Scot under the flag of France and later had a Spanish governor named O’Reilly. As one of the great world ports of the mid-nineteenth century, it attracted a wide variety of immigrants whose magnificent diversity became one of the city’s defining characteristics. In 1840 New Orleans was the largest city in the South and the fourth largest in the nation. By the civil War it was a sophisticated, multicultural metropolis of grand and ambitious architecture. Today, the Crescent City is still a thriving port, world famous as a vacation and convention destination, generally seen by casual tourists as an easygoing, sexy, free-spirited old town of parties, antiques, and souvenirs. For the truly inquisitive, however, New Orleans can be an almost overwhelming experience of wild beauty and sad decay, innate complexity and studied contradictions—and understanding New Orleans and its architecture and neighborhoods can be as tricky as navigating the conundrum of the surrounding bayous.
Classic New Orleans offers an enlightening tour through the past and present of this unique American city, identifying the qualities and landmarks that make it, as author Bill Mitchell states, “unmistakably itself,” and stressing the importance of preserving them. Within a framework similar to Classic Savannah and Classic Atlanta, the award-winning predecessors in this series, cultural historian and architectural preservationist Bill Mitchell has trained his talent and expertise on one of his favorite Southern cities. The history of New Orleans and her architecture is presented through a concise, comprehensive essay, a detailed timeline supplemented with contemporaneous quotes, a fascinating gazetteer of neighborhoods and historic districts, and articles on fifty landmark homes.
Jim Lockhart’s striking contemporary photographs of some of the city’s most interesting homes are definitely beacons of hope for preservation, for, in addition to the museum houses and period restorations, Classic New Orleans also shows how modern families preserve by adapting—fitting the demands of contemporary life within the charming and distinctive context of earlier eras.
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