Scores of historic buildings were demolished after a 1946 city ordinance removed North Rampart Street from the protection of the Vieux Carré Commission.
The Vieux Carré neighborhood of New Orleans has been under the regulatory oversight of the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) since 1937. An amendment to the Louisiana State Constitution defined the Vieux Carré’s boundaries as Esplanade Avenue, the Mississippi River, the lower side of Iberville Street, and the river side of North Rampart Street.¹ In March 1946, however, upon recommendation of the VCC, the New Orleans Commission Council passed an ordinance that removed North Rampart Street from VCC protection, stating that the area was “located in a purely industrial and commercial neighborhood.”² One letter to the editor decried the idea, declaring that “persons who know anything either of the aesthetic or cultural value of the Vieux Carré…are both shocked and horrified by the official recommendations of the body set up by the constitution of Louisiana to preserve it.”³ Yet despite protests, including VCPORA’s attempt to repeal the ordinance, the new boundaries remained.⁴
As a result, the former northern edge of the district suffered severe losses of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century residential structures, including Gallier and Dakin’s trio of Greek Revival houses, nicknamed the “Three Sisters” (1834), and a unique row of eight adjoining townhouses built in 1829 on the site of a former tannery.⁵ In the late 1940s and 1950s, the area was largely rebuilt with automotive sales, service, and parking facilities.⁶ The exceptional blend of residential and commercial structures along North Rampart Street was forever changed by the time the Louisiana Supreme Court reinstated the district’s original boundaries in 1964.⁷ Today, vacant lots and poorly designed modern structures continue to hamper efforts to redevelop the street as a historic corridor.
1. “Act No. 139,” State-Times, July 11, 1936.
2. Samuel Wilson Jr., “History and Architecture of the Vieux Carré,” in Plan and Program for the Preservation of the Vieux Carré (New Orleans: Bureau of Governmental Research, 1968), 19; and “Council to Act on Vieux Carre,” The Times-Picayune, March 21, 1946.
3. James J. Morrison, “Hits Vieux Carre Shrinkage,” Views on Sundry Topics, The Times-Picayune, March 26, 1946.
4. “Altrusa to back Vieux Carré Claim,” The Times-Picayune, October 9, 1946.
5. Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carré Digital Survey, “232 N. Rampart”; Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carré Digital Survey, “320-22 N. Rampart”; and Richard Campanella and Marina Campanella, New Orleans Then and Now (Gretna: Pelican Publishing, 2000), 72.
6. Campanella and Campanella, 72-73; and Bureau of Governmental Research, “Appendix,” in Plan and Program for the Preservation of the Vieux Carre (New Orleans: Bureau of Governmental Research, 1968), 155.
7. Campanella and Campanella, Then and Now, 73; and “Quarter Units Hail Decision,” The Times-Picayune, July 3, 1964.