Jackson Square (New Orleans)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Jackson Square (disambiguation).
Jackson Square
Andrew Jackson monument, New Orleans, USA.jpg
Jackson Square, with Jackson's statue at center, and Saint Louis Cathedral
Jackson Square (New Orleans) is located in Louisiana
Jackson Square (New Orleans)
Location Bounded by Decatur, St. Peter, St. Ann, and Chartres Sts., New Orleans, Louisiana
Coordinates 29°57′25.93″N 90°3′47.04″W / 29.9572028°N 90.0630667°W / 29.9572028; -90.0630667Coordinates: 29°57′25.93″N 90°3′47.04″W / 29.9572028°N 90.0630667°W / 29.9572028; -90.0630667
Built 1721
Architectural style Other
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 66000375
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL October 9, 1960[2]

Jackson Square, is a historic park in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.[2] In 2012 the American Planning Association designated Jackson Square as one of America’s Great Public Spaces.[3]


Jackson Square was designed after the famous 17th-century Place des Vosges in Paris, France, by the architect and landscape architect Louis H. Pilié. Jackson Square is roughly the size of a city block (GPS +29.95748 -090.06310).

Sculptor Clarm Mills's statue of Battle of New Orleans hero and U.S. President Andrew Jackson, for whom the square was named in 1815, was erected in 1856. Iron fences, walkways, benches, and Parisian-style landscaping remain intact from the original design by Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba, in 1851. She also built the Pontalba Buildings, which flank the square.

The popular pedestrian mall area around the Square was created when three surrounding streets — Chartres, St. Peter, and St. Ann — were closed (1971). The flagpole, commemorating the city's transfer from Spain to France to the United States in 1803, symbolizes the square's rich cultural history. Throughout the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) repainted facades, renovated surrounding buildings, and improved landscaping around the square.[4]


Chartres Street side of Jackson Square in 1842, showing the Cathedral before remodeling and some of the structures later replaced by the Pontalba Buildings. Lithograph from daguerreotype by Jules Lion.
Jackson Square in 1885

Early French colonial New Orleans was originally centered on what was then called the Place d'Armes (lit. "weapons' square"). After the Battle of New Orleans, in 1815, the Place d'Armes was renamed Jackson Square after the victorious United States general Andrew Jackson. In the center of the park stands an equestrian statue of Jackson erected in 1856, one of four identical statues in the United States by the sculptor Clark Mills.

The square originally overlooked the Mississippi River across Decatur Street, but the view was blocked in the 19th century by the building of taller levees. The riverfront was long devoted to shipping docks. The 20th-century administration of Mayor Moon Landrieu installed a scenic boardwalk on top of the levee to reconnect the city to the river; it is known as the "Moon Walk" in his honor.

On the north side of the square are three 18th-century historic buildings, which were the city's heart in the colonial era. The center of the three is St. Louis Cathedral. The cathedral was designated as a minor Basilica by Pope Paul VI. To its left is the Cabildo, the old city hall, now a museum, where the final version of the Louisiana Purchase was signed. To the Cathedral's right is the Presbytère, built to match the Cabildo. The Presbytère originally housed the city's Roman Catholic priests and authorities; at the start of the 19th century, it was adapted as the city hall, and in the 20th century became a museum.

The Place d'Armes was the prime site for the public execution of disobedient slaves during the 18th and early 19th centuries. After the 1811 German Coast Uprising, three slaves were hanged here. The heads from their dismembered bodies were put on the city's gates.[5]

In the Reconstruction era, the Place d'Armes served as an arsenal. During the insurrection following the disputed 1872 gubernatorial election, in March 1873, it was the site of the Battle of Jackson Square. A several-thousand man militia under John McEnery, the Democratic claimant to the office of the Governor, defeated the New Orleans militia, seizing control of the state's buildings and armory for a few days. They retreated before the arrival of Federal forces, which re-established control temporarily in the state.


Portrait photograph of a local resident, taken in Jackson Square by Ben Shahn in 1935.

From the 1920s through the 1980s the square was famous as a gathering place of painters of widely varying talents, including proficient professionals, talented young art students, amateurs, and caricaturists. While still a site for artists and musicians, in the early 1990s the square became popular among tarot card readers. They began to tell fortunes on St. Peter and St. Ann streets. Chartres Street, in front of Saint Louis Cathedral, the Presbytère and the Cabildo, is shared by tourists and artists, musicians and varied street performers, such as jugglers and magicians.

Contemporary features and events[edit]

Mardi Gras revelers in Jackson Square, 1989

Live music is a regular feature of the square. Occasional formal concerts are held here, but for a century or more musicians playing for tips have set up in the square. Nearby residents sometimes try to get them removed, which never continues for long.

On the other two sides of the square are the Pontalba Buildings, matching red-brick, block-long 4‑story buildings built in the 1840s. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; the upper floors are apartments; they are the oldest continuously rented apartments in North America.

Diagonally across Decatur Street upriver from Jackson Square is the Jax Brewery building, the original home of a favorite local beer. After the company ceased to operate independently, the building was converted into several businesses, including restaurants and specialty shops. In recent years, some retail space has been converted into luxury condominiums. Diagonally across Decatur Street downriver from the square is Café du Monde, open 24 hours a day. Part of the historic French Market, it is known for its café au lait, prepared with chicory, and beignets, served there continuously since the 19th century.

Because Jackson Square has been the center of life for many centuries, it is no wonder that many of the city’s tarot readers congregate here to offer their services. A city filled with religious diversity and historic charm makes Jackson Square a significant environment to boast its culture. By the 1920s, the Square was a haven for artists from professionals to students. The 1960s and 1970s saw the beginnings of the Square as a place of business for pagans and New Age devotees telling fortunes and reading palms and tarot cards.

The square has been the site of hundreds of live music events, including the September 9, 2010 Dave Matthews Band and Taylor Swift performance for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints 2010 NFL Season kickoff. Every year, the square hosts the French Quarter Festival and Christmas Caroling in Jackson Square.[6]

Representation in media[edit]

The square in 2012

Jackson Square has been filmed in numerous television shows and movies. Among these are the films Angel Heart, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, King Creole, and television series K-Ville, Treme and Memphis Beat.

It is the setting of an early scene in the graphic novel Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Image in the Sand", Joseph Sisko (Brock Peters) reveals that he met his first wife Sarah (Deborah Lacey) in Jackson Square. Jackson Square is one of the most important locations that can be visited in the computer game Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. The park is a crucial site, with much of the game's action focusing on it and a number of characters making their appearance there.