Jackson Square (New Orleans)

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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°5′25.93″N 90°3′47.04″W / 29.0905361°N 90.0630667°W / 29.0905361; -90.0630667Coordinates: 29°5′25.93″N 90°3′47.04″W / 29.0905361°N 90.0630667°W / 29.0905361; -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]

Design and development[edit]

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 Clark Mills' equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, Battle of New Orleans hero and U.S. President for whom the former military parade ground was named, 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 old square.

The flagpole, symbolizing the 1803 ceremonial transfers from Spain to France and then from France to the United States, reflects Louisiana's rich colonial history. During the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) repainted façades, renovated buildings, and improved landscaping in and around the park.[4] In 1971, the pedestrian zone in the vicinity of Jackson Square was created, when three surrounding streets were closed to vehicular traffic — Chartres, St. Peter, and St. Ann.


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 centered on what was then called the Place d'Armes (lit. "weapons' square"). Under Spanish colonial administration in the second half of the 18th century, the name was Plaza de Armas.

Following the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, during the first half of the 19th century, the former military plaza was renamed Jackson Square, for the battle's victorious General Jackson. In the center of the park stands an equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson erected in 1856, one of four identical statues in the U.S. 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 construction of higher 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 was initially planned for housing the city's Roman Catholic priests and other church officials. At the start of the 19th century, it was adapted as a courthouse, and in the 20th century it became a museum.

The Place d'Armes was the site for public execution of criminals and rebellious slaves during the 18th and early 19th centuries. After the 1811 German Coast Uprising, three slaves were hanged here. The heads of some of the executed rebels were put on the city's gates.[5](The same thing happened in St. Charles Parish, and a third slave-trial tribunal was held in St. John the Baptist Parish.)

In the Reconstruction Era, Jackson Square 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 temporarily re-established order.

Artists, musicians, and New Age[edit]

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.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the beginnings of the Square as a place of business for New Age and pagan devotees telling fortunes and reading palms and tarot cards. They sit on St. Ann or St. Peter street, alongside of the park.

Chartres Street, in front of Saint Louis Cathedral, the Presbytère, and the Cabildo, is shared by visitors and artists, musicians, and varied street performers, such as jugglers and magicians. The performers generally work for tips.

Points of interest and events[edit]

Mardi Gras revelers in Jackson Square, 1989

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, 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 for its beignets, served there continuously since the Civil War days.

Jackson Square has been the site of hundreds of live music events, including the September 9, 2010, Dave Matthews Band and Taylor Swift performance to kick off the 2010 NFL season for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.

Every year, the square hosts the French Quarter Festival and Caroling in Jackson Square. [6] Occasionally, formal concerts are given in the park.

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.