The Lafayette Square Historic District Is Designated

Mar 1, 1978

The Lafayette Square Historic District is noted for its role as the nineteenth-century residential enclave of the city’s American Sector.

The Lafayette Square Historic District was established in March 1978 under the jurisdiction of the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission (CBD/HDLC).¹ This district is part of Faubourg St. Mary, which was established in 1788 when Gravier Plantation was laid out as the city’s first suburb. Lafayette Square, the public square that inspired the district’s name, was specified on the new faubourg’s plan as Place Gravier.² By the 1830s the area had become the residential heart of the city’s American downtown, or American Sector, and was home to many elegant townhouses, such as the row of thirteen houses on Julia Street known as Julia Row. The district is also home to some important public buildings, including James Gallier Sr.’s Greek Revival–style City Hall, which was completed in 1850.³

Beginning in the twentieth century, many of the area’s residences were demolished for new commercial buildings, service stations, and parking lots.⁴ As the area declined, once-posh Julia Row became known as “Skid Row.”⁵ Preservation efforts began in the early 1970s with the publication of the Friends of the Cabildo’s volume on the American Sector, the second in its New Orleans Architecture series. In 1976, the Historic Faubourg St. Mary Corporation was established and the Preservation Resource Center purchased one of the Julia Row townhouses as its first rehabilitation project.⁶ Two years later, the HDLC gained protection of virtually the entire American Sector, including the Lafayette Square area, through the creation of several adjoining historic districts.⁷

 

 

1. Dominique Hawkins and Catherine E. Barrier, “City of New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission: Lafayette Square Historic District,” May 2011.

2. Samuel Wilson Jr., “Early History of Faubourg St. Mary,” in New Orleans Architecture, Volume II: The American Sector, eds. Mary Louise Christovich et al. (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1972), 7-8.

3. Hawkins and Barrier, “City of New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission: Lafayette Square Historic District.”

4. Ibid.

5. “HFSM closes Ed’s beds,” Preservation Press 7 no. 4 (June 1980): 1; and Patricia H. Gay, “Julia Row,” Preservation in Print 40 no. 5 (June 2013): 37.

6. “PRC Busts Julia Block,” Preservation Press 3 no. 2 (December 1976): 1.

7. Paul Atkinson, “3 Historic Districts, CBD Panel Passed,” The Times-Picayune, March 17, 1978.

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