This week, our Realtors and friends got the chance to hear from our very own David Favret, manager at the Garden District office, about New Orleans architecture. It was a nice reminder, especially right now, that it’s always good to learn about where you live and be a tourist of sorts in your own hometown. It was truly a treat, and we wanted to share it here with you!
To understand the architecture, we need to have a knowledge of where the people came from who lived in and built up New Orleans to what we know today. In 1690, De La Salle claimed all land that the Mississippi River drained for France and called it Louisiana after King Louis XIV.
New Orleans was then built out and up like a European settlement with city blocks, and much of the French Quarter is still laid out today. As the 1700s progressed and the territory became more inhabited, a formal map of the grand city of New Orleans was drawn up. So think about that the next time you’re using Waze or Google Maps to find that new hip cocktail spot. Much of the same routes we take today on foot or on a bike or in an Uber can be traced back to these original drawings.
Like many famed cities of its time, the Crescent City has seen its share of hardships, and that has had a large effect on the architecture we know today. Twice, in 1788 and 1794, New Orleans suffered heavy losses from large fires that burned much of the city. Specifically, much of what would have become historical French Architecture was tragically lost in the flames. Fortunately, however, there is much to be studied in the various types of architecture found in New Orleans. To this day, people from around the globe flock to New Orleans in the thousands to get a close-up view of the wonderful art and culture that settlers from various parts of the globe brought to this amazing city. We are grateful to call this unique city home, and it’s a joy to be in the Real Estate business surrounded by so much history. Let’s dive into that history today and begin our journey of looking at the home types and styles of our beloved New Orleans.
House Types vs. House Styles
Before we begin our series, let’s start by explaining the difference between a type of home and its style. The type refers to the bones i.e. how the homes are built and set up. The style refers to the way they are ornamented or decorated. In Part 1 of our series, we’ll start with the gumbo of eclectic styles that fill our streets.
These classic homes are known by their 4 bay openings across the front. They are easily recognized for their symmetrical display of shutters, steps, windows, and doors. Some 2, 3, or 6 bay cottages have also been found locally, but they are not typical to our area.
The Shotgun House is a very narrow structure with a room-on-room-on-room layout from the front to the rear of the house. There are multiple theories for the name. One such theory you may have heard is that you could fire a shotgun from the front door, through the home, and it would go through the entire home and out the back door without hitting a thing. Whatever the reasoning for the name, these homes are also set up well for ventilation to flow from room to room. Still very common throughout the city, many people have converted the walls in the house to have a side hallway down the length of the home instead of traveling from room to room through each living space. Speaking of space, when more was needed, the rise of the camelback was seen throughout the city as pictured here.
Townhouses are one room wide and two rooms deep with an open-air alley from front to back. Many are two stories, but there are some three-story buildings as well. These classic Nola homes were built with double parlors, and pre-air conditioning, were fitted with fireplaces in each. It is likely that these rooms were used for conducting some type of business and then the two smaller rooms in the rear of the townhouse were servant quarters or for bedrooms for members of the family.
This style of home became popular after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Homes began to feature pronounced front doors with enclosed hallways, whereas the previous styles had the open-air alley that was exposed to the elements. See if you can spot one next time you’re in the French Quarter!
Creole Townhouses are one room wide, two rooms deep and have an open-air alley from front to back. The main living floor, called “au premier étage,” was actually the second floor in these lovely homes. You can imagine that perhaps there was a store below and the family lived above. Like us, New Orleanians of that time also enjoyed the patio life. The rear of the home opened up into a courtyard where there were stairs to the main living floor.
Center Halls are raised slightly off the ground with a few steps required to enter the house. These homes featured double parlors with stairs to a second floor in the rear of the home. Fireplaces were often found in each room, and there would be a porch in the front and in the rear. From new construction in Lakeview to old homes in the French Quarter, these homes are still very popular today and can be found all across the city.
Popular in the Gentilly Terrace area, there were once kit houses for this type of home made available for purchase and building. The exposed rafters visible from the front of the house are characteristic of this type. Porches were created by the rafters reaching beyond the front of the home for outdoor living. While there is no standard for this style of home, the floorplans are generally simple. Below is an example of an advertisement for a kit house once sold by various companies. Built with minimal modifications to the windows, this is a photo of a kit house on Music Street in Gentilly.
Stay tuned for part two when we’ll dive into the styles of New Orleans homes and all the little details that make our houses so unique.
Are you ready to make a move? Contact your local trusted advisor at GARDNER, REALTORS today, and let us help you create the life you love!