The Canal Street Historic District was designated in 1984 to protect New Orleans’ most famous commercial thoroughfare.
The Canal Street Historic District was designated in November 1984 under the jurisdiction of the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission (CBD/HDLC).1 The linear district extends no more than a block to either side of Canal Street, which forms its spine, and stretches north from N. Peters Street to South Saratoga Street. Historically the merchandising heart of New Orleans, the area is densely commercial in character, with rows of multi-story masonry or masonry-clad steel-frame buildings ranging in date from the 1840s to pre-World War II.2 They originally accommodated a wide range of uses, from offices to department stores, and continue to house restaurants, hotels, and retail shops, among other uses. There are fine examples of several architectural styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate, Beaux Arts, and Art Deco. Other distinguishing features of the district are Canal Street’s substantial width, which was designed to accommodate a canal that was never built, its historic streetcar line, and its many theaters, which have experienced a twenty-first-century renaissance.3
Given Canal Street’s proximity to the Vieux Carré, which draws millions of tourists each year, inappropriately scaled high-rise hotels proliferated in the historic district in the late twentieth century, and preservationists frequently battle proposals for more high-rise hotels in the area. In 2015, the Preservation Resource Center (PRC) successfully led the fight against a proposed hotel development at Canal and Tchoupitoulas streets that aimed to eviscerate three 1840s commercial buildings and exceed the site’s height limit by almost two hundred feet.4
1. “A ‘Historic’ Canal Street,” The Times-Picayune/The States-Item, November 19, 1984.
2. Dominique M. Hawkins and Catherine E. Barrier, “City of New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission: Canal Street Historic District,” May 2011.
3. Peggy Scott Laborde and John Magill, Canal Street: New Orleans’ Great Wide Way (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2006), 22-23; and Katherine Sayre, “New Orleans theater openings bring city closer to ‘Broadway South’ vision,” nola.com, September 25, 2013.
4. Katherine Sayre, “Canal Street high-rise hotel proposal dropped by developers,” nola.com, March 27, 2015.