History of Faubourg Marigny — continued
Single and double Creole cottages were built on the predominantly 30” x 100” lots. By 1811 over 150 households were listed in the city directory. Occupations such as shoemaker, carpenter, physician, butcher, blacksmith, grocer, hunter, tailor, architect, lawyer and gentleman of private means suggest that by this time the faubourg must have had the appearance of a suburb with stores, bars, small professional offices, and even manufacturing businesses. The only public space, today’s Washington Square, remained undeveloped until an 1829 ordinance directed the City Gardener to plant three symmetrically arranged rows of live oak trees around the perimeter of the square.
The original Marigny plantation ended at what is now Franklin avenue, but the area from Franklin to Press was included in the Historic District application as the train tracks seemed a natural division between the Marigny and Bywater (the next neighborhood below the tracks).
In the early years of the 19th century, Franklin (at different times named La Corderie, Rue d’Enghein, Almonaster, or Lafayette street) was a ropewalk that physically separated the old Faubourg Marigny from the lower part of the city. The ropewalk extended from Chartres to Dauphine and was still in use in 1831.
But the history of this lower section predates the building of the ropewalk by 86 years. The original City of New Orleans, founded in 1718, was laid out in 1721. The Company of the Indies granted land for the first plantation below the City (today’s French Quarter) to either Pierre or Mathurin Dreux sometime around 1720. Known then as La Brasserie this tract of land was actually the site of the first manufacturing establishment in New Orleans, a brewery (see map left).
After Drew’s death in 1743, his heirs sold the property to C. Villars Dubreuil, owner of the adjoining plantation. After a succession of owners (including Don Bernardo de Galvez the 1777 Spanish Governor) Nicolas Daunoy purchased the land in 1795. From this time on the land tract was known as the Faubourg Daunoy and defined by the land between Franklin up to and including Press, and from the river up to and including St. Claude (blue outlined area on map).
Brigitte Daunoy, daughter to Nicolas, sold the land to the Company of Architects in 1832. She retained several lots and would build the house at 2709 Royal (see photo) where she would die in 1866.
It was only in 1871 that Chartres (Moreau street) was opened to allow for passage from the City through the Faubourgs Marigny and Daunoy into what is now the Bywater neighborhood.
Life in New Orleans during these early years must have been trying. Water had to be brought by cask and cart into the neighborhoods for washing as well as drinking. The ground water’s high mineral content left it unusable for anything but putting out fires, and wells for that purpose were strategically dug. The sewage system was an open gutter into which much filth was emptied. City night soil wagons traversed the neighborhood collecting human waste that was then emptied from the wharves into the river creating what must have been an unbearable stench.
In 1830 Bernard filled in the canal along Elysian Fields and sold the canal bed to the newly chartered Ponchartrain Railroad. Soon the Americans claimed that interests in the French sections of town overpowered those of the English speaking section, and the city was divided into three municipalities, under one mayor but each with its own police, council, budget and schools. Now part of the Third Municipality, suburb Marigny conducted all of its business in French.
Immigrants continued to pour into the city. The Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods became home to a large wave of German immigrants during the 1840’s. Shotgun cottages, some with side halls and side galleries, were built with increasing frequency eventually making them the single most dominant 19th century house type in New Orleans. Settled groups of French, German and English (Irish) speaking people led to many churches being built in the area each offering services in their respective language. Private schools offered instruction in one of the three predominant languages to both black and white students. An increasing number of corner stores, still easily recognized by their angled door openings, flourished. The first floating baths in the city, situated opposite Mandeville, were “an agreeable walk from any part of the town; yet, those who prefer riding can go from Canal street in ten minutes in the omnibuses that run to the Lower Cotton Press” (today’s Press street).
The large houses that served as boarding houses along St. Claude remind one of the many jobs found in the area’s active riverfront and railroads, and in the rice mills, lumber yards, bottling companies, breweries, and brickyards scattered throughout the suburb. Manufacturing concerns were built along side residential sections, as no clear zoning rules seemed to exist.
In 1851 reunification took place and the Third Municipality became the Third District. It became apparent that the English language dominated commerce and trade in the city —Marigny and other French speaking areas gradually took on a second-class role. The American sections and Central Business District fared much better than the downtown suburbs, i.e., funding for street lighting, sidewalks, street repair, garbage pickup and other public amenities was less forthcoming in the Third District, and remained so until well into the twentieth century.
Frenchmen street businesses constituted the most concentrated shopping area in the suburb, but unlike other areas of the city no “main street” developed. In the late 1890’s the Columbia Brewing Company on Elysian Fields and Chartres along with several other German owned breweries controlled the distribution of beer in the city. By buying property and setting up bar rooms and saloons they tried to ensure that their beers were the only ones sold in New Orleans. Bars arguably became the most common business in the Marigny area.
With the advent of the municipal sewer system (circa 1914) room needed to be found in the old houses for indoor plumbing and toilets. Newly built homes elsewhere in the city routinely included indoor plumbing and electric lights that made them more desirable. This area attracted an increasing number of Italian and Spanish immigrants looking for inexpensive rental property.
The post WWII era and integration instigated the biggest changes in the Marigny since the early days when the Santo Domingo refugees flooded the area. Investors bought up land and built thousands of small affordable homes on the outskirts of the city where returning veterans took advantage of the Veterans Housing Act and purchased homes. The new suburbs became even more attractive with integration in the mid twentieth century. Whites fled older neighborhoods as African Americans moved into them. Between 1950 and 1975 the built up area of metropolitan New Orleans almost doubled in size and the “inner city neighborhoods” became more run down.
Faubourg Marigny’s renaissance began in the early 1970’s when young professionals saw the charm of street after street of predominantly nineteenth century buildings. Their new organization, the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA), dedicated its early years to protecting the built environment to the point that the area arguably now has one of the most intact nineteenth century stock of houses in the country.
The Marigny again attracts residents looking for a close-knit community. Restoration continues at a rapid pace as houses are refit for life in the twenty first century.
Contributed by Dean Reynolds