When you picture the gorgeous, sprawling mansions of the South, there’s no better living monument than the Garden District of New Orleans. This charming neighborhood, blending a mixture of modern gentility and old world decadence, is also the backdrop for most of The House of Crimson and Clover series.
The land that makes up the Garden District was originally the site of several large plantations. As the city grew post-Reconstruction, the need arose for a neighborhood that was slightly more sophisticated for the upscale crowds and so the land was parceled out in the early 19th century. Built on each lot were large townhomes bearing the popular European styles like Greek Revival, along with Spanish, French, and Italian architectural influences. Each home was surrounded by an ornate garden, giving this neighborhood the name it still has today.
The Garden District remains an elegant, living museum of beautiful mansions and a showcase of wealth. The neighborhood was heavily featured in many of Anne Rice’s novels (where she wrote about, among other buildings, her own home), and although she no longer lives there, you can still visit 1239 First Street. Among the other notable mansions that you can walk past are The Briggs-Staub House, Colonel Short’s Villa, Magnolia Mansion, and the Women’s Guild of New Orleans Opera Association House. The Claiborne Cottage on St. Charles Ave was the inspiration for Oz Sullvan’s house, architecturally.
Aside from the homes, you can find notable features such as Audubon Park, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, the Universities of Loyola and Tulane, and the Garden District bookstore. And, of course, a visit would not be complete without stopping in for a jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace.
The historic St. Charles streetcar runs through the heart of the Garden District, stretching 13 miles, from Carrollton to Canal Street. Many people still use it as transportation to and from work.
I’m including some pictures here from my personal collection, as a glimpse into the lives of the Sullivans and Deschanels of New Orleans.