Julia Row

The restoration of these historic row houses, nicknamed “Skid Row” in the 1970s, began with 604-06 Julia Street and the dedication of a small group of preservationists.

The thirteen side-hall row houses on Julia Street between St. Charles Avenue and Camp Street, popularly known as Julia Row of the Thirteen Sisters, were built in 1832-33 as a speculative development.¹ Upon its completion, Julia Row became one of the most affluent addresses in the American Sector.² Each three-story house with attic and three-story service wing was a single-family residence that architect Alexander Thompson Wood designed in a transitional Federal to Greek Revival style. Defining elements included an elegantly detailed front entrance with faux bois paneled door and Ionic columns, a delicate wrought-iron balcony, and a finely jointed red-brick facade in the American fashion.³ Some if not all of the addresses originally had a commercial ground-floor space with arched openings, a Creole townhouse feature that makes Julia Row a distinctive hybrid of building types as well as styles.

With the commercialization of the American Sector and the development of upriver suburbs such as the Garden District, families began moving out of the neighborhood after 1850 and Julia Row slowly declined. In the 1870s, one of the townhouses became a boardinghouse, and soon the entire row was crudely converted into rented rooms. This arrangement persisted in perpetually degrading form until the 1970s, by which time Julia Row had become a series of decayed and dangerous flophouses. Fire escapes marred the facades and modifications for low-rent commercial uses disfigured the ground level. One of the service wings collapsed.The surrounding neighborhood suffered a similar depression. Yet in spite of these changes, Julia Row still exhibited hints of its former glory, and in 1976 the young Preservation Resource Center (PRC) purchased 604-06 Julia Street as its inaugural rehabilitation project. With the help of architect F. Monroe Labouisse Jr., PRC restored the townhouse and moved its offices into the ground-floor space, where it remained until 2000. In addition to PRC’s labors, the establishment of the Historic Faubourg St. Mary Corporation in 1976 and broader city planning efforts such as the 1984 World’s Fair also served as catalysts for the regeneration of both the neighborhood and Julia Row, which is once again one of the most desirable addresses in New Orleans. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

 

1. Samuel Wilson Jr., “Julia Street’s Thirteen Sisters,” in New Orleans Architecture, Volume II: The American Sector, written and edited by Mary Louise Christovich, Roulhac Toledano, Betsy Swanson, and Pat Holden (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1972), 174-75.

2. Wilson, “Julia Street’s Thirteen Sisters,” 175.

3. Monroe Labouisse Jr., “Julia St. Discovery,” Preservation Press 3 no. 2 (Dec. 1976): 1-2.  

4. Labouisse, “Julia St. Discovery.”

5. Hilary S. Irvin, “Our Building,” Preservation Press 3 no. 2 (Dec. 1976): 2, 16.

6. Ibid.

7. History Engine, “The Thirteen Sisters of Julia Street,” The University of Richmond.

8. Preservation Resource Center, “PRC Busts Julia Block,” Preservation Press 3 no. 2 (Dec. 1976): 1.

9. Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office, “Julia Street Row,” Louisiana National Register of Historic Places, March 28, 1977.

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