Street names change over time

Street names change over time

It’s no surprise that street names in New Orleans change over time.

street names

Street tiles for General Pershing Street, renamed from Berlin Street. (Infrogmation photo)

The changing of street names.

City government changes street names for a number of reasons. Here are some examples, using the Robinson Atlas of 1883. Let’s start with the French Quarter.

Custom House to Iberville

street names

Custom House Street, 1883

The first street after Canal Street, inside the French Quarter, was originally named “Custom House.” It was later changed to Iberville Street. While we associate both LeMoyne brothers with the founding of New Orleans, Bienville had the greater role. Iberville’s contributions weren’t initially considered significant enough to earn a street.

Calle del Arsenal

street names

Calle Del Arsenal (Infrogmation photo)

The street was originally named for the Ursuline nuns. When the Spanish took over, streets received names in their language. Spanish troops were quartered on the lower side of the city, hence Barracks and Arsenal. Calle del Arsenal reverted to Ursuline after New Orleans was sold to the United States in 1803.

Hospital to Governor Nicholls

street names

Hospital Street, 1883

In the Lower Quarter, Hospital changed to Governor Nicholls, in honor of Francis T. Nicholls, governor of Louisiana from 1888-1892. The city changed the street after he passed in 1912.

Outside the French Quarter

Tulane Avenue from Common Street

street names

Common Street, from Claiborne to Broad, 1883

Common Street, above Elk Place, changed to Tulane Avenue in 1884, in honor of philanthropist and namesake of Tulane University, Paul Tulane. Several street name changes took place around this time. In addition to the creation of Tulane Avenue, Delord Street (which ended at Tivoli Circle) changed to Howard Avenue.

Adams to Lee to Toussaint

street names

segment of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing Lakeview

Before electric streetcars, transit to the West End and Spanish Fort recreational areas along Lake Pontchartrain was accomplished via steam trains. West End converted first, in 1898. The Spanish Fort train closed, but returned in 1911 as an electrified streetcar line. Both streetcar lines ran out to the lakefront on West End Boulevard. Spanish Fort turned on Adams Street (named after Presidents John and John Quincy Adams). With the increased significance of the street after 1911, the city renamed Adams for Robert E. Lee.

The city renamed the street a second time, in 2022. Perfectly normal course of action. So, is it revisionist? No. Would it be revisionist to say Robert E. Lee had a significant impact on the history of New Orleans? Yes, because, in his entire life, he only spent about thirty-six hours here.

Tivoli to Lee to Harmony

street names

Lee Circle, 1883

The roundabout on Naiads Street, now St. Charles Avenue, at Delord Street (now Howard Avenue). The city originally named it, “Tivoli Circle.” In terms of city ordinances, that name remained until 2022. From Wikipedia:

On July 31, 1877, “Lee Place” within “Tivoli Circle” was authorized by Ordinance A.S. 4064[4][5] Although the traffic circle is commonly referred to as “Lee Circle”, this ordinance makes clear that the “enclosure” containing the statue is to be known as “Lee Place”, while the traffic circle itself continues to be known as “Tivoli Circle”. This ordinance contains no reference to the name “Lee Circle”.

While the monument and park honored Lee, the roundabout never changed from Tivoli Circle. This demonstrates common usage colliding with legal names. So, since the Lee statue stood at the center of the park, the entire area became, “Lee Circle.”

In 2022, the City Council formally re-named Tivoli Circle, Harmony Circle.

street names

Harmony Circle via Google Maps

Was this “revisionist history?” No. Street names changed all the time. Would it be revisionist history to argue that Lee wasn’t on the losing side of the Southern Rebellion? Yes.

Bernardo de Galvez and Spanish West Florida

Bernardo de Galvez and Spanish West Florida

The fifth Spanish governor of New Orleans was Bernardo de Galvez.

Bernardo de Galvez, American Ally

Portrait of Bernardo Galvez, fifth Spanish governor of Louisiana. Artist Andres Molinary created this copy of an original portrait in 1917. The painting depicts Galvez as Viceroy of New Spain, in 1785. In 1777, as an army Colonel, Galvez became the governor of Louisiana. Since the French ceded what later became the “Louisiana Purchase” to Spain in 1762, the Spanish governors in New Orleans technically controlled the entire territory. Practically, that meant New Orleans and South Louisiana.

West Florida

Derby’s post about a section of a 1766 map of West Florida showing the Isle d’Orleans just below it caused a bit of confusion. Claims to Louisiana, going back to de la Salle, relate to land to the west of the Mississippi River. Various treaties not related to the Louisiana territory of New France established the boundaries to the east. The Southern boundary of the British colony of Georgia embroiled Spain and Britain in a number of disputes. The main issue was African enslavement. Indigenous tribes in Florida did not recognize the enslaved status of Africans and their descendants. The enslaved ran from plantations in Georgia and lived amongst the indigenous in Florida. This enraged the slavers of Georgia. These disputes extended west, beyond the Georgia colony. Debate over who owned the land from the Perdido River (near Pensacola) to the Mississippi River continued until well past the War of 1812.

American Revolution

Bernardo de Galvez

Galvez in 1777

Galvez immediately moved to secure the Gulf Coast for Spain as the Americans rebelled against Britain. Spain formally declared war on Britain in 1779. Galvez captured British positions from Baton Rouge to Pensacola. So, for all intents and purposes, “Florida” extended to the east bank of the Mississippi River. King Charles III appointed Galvez Viceroy of New Spain in 1783. Esteban Miro replaced him in New Orleans, becoming governor of both Louisiana and Florida. As far as Spain was concerned, they controlled the entire Gulf Coast by the end of the American Revolution.

American involvement

The new United States government desired access to the Gulf of Mexico. the Louisiana Purchase accomplished that, but West Florida remained problematic. From Wikipedia:

The the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800, Spain agreed to return Louisiana to France; however, the location of the boundary between Louisiana and West Florida was not explicitly specified. After France sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, another boundary dispute erupted. The United States laid claim to the territory from the Perdido River to the Mississippi River, which the Americans believed had been a part of the old province of Louisiana when the French agreed to cede it to Spain in 1762. The Spanish insisted that they had administered that portion as the province of West Florida and that it was not part of the territory restored to France by Charles IV in 1802,[13][14] as France had never given West Florida to Spain, among a list of other reasons.

So, West Florida remained disputed until 1821, when Spain ceded all of the Florida territory, including West Florida, to the United States. That settled the issue, and the state boundaries of Louisiana were formally adjusted to include the “Florida Parishes” north of Lake Pontchartrain.

Galvez and New Orleans

bernardo de galvez

Equestrian statue of Galvez, Spanish Plaza New Orleas. Photo by Demcy Dias.

Bernardo didn’t waste time in New Orleans with respect to forging ties with the Creole-French population. Also from Wikipedia:

In November 1777, Gálvez married Marie Félicité de Saint-Maxent d’Estrehan, the Creole daughter of the French-born Gilbert Antoine de Saint-Maxent and the Creole Elizabeth La Roche, and young widow of Jean Baptiste Honoré d’Estrehan, the son of a high ranking French colonial official. This marriage to the daughter of a Frenchman[19][20] won Gálvez the favor of the local Creole population. They had three children, Miguel, Matilde, and Guadalupe.

So, he married into the La Roche and d’Estrehan families. His victories against the British immortalized him along the Gulf Coast. New Orleans named a street for him, as well as his wife (Felicity Street). Galveston was named in his honor, and cities from there to Mobile along the Gulf Coast included him in their Spanish memorials.

Cabildo Courtyard 1940

Cabildo Courtyard 1940

Cabildo courtyard, captured in a 1940 postcard.

Cabildo courtyard

“Courtyard and Prison Rooms in the Cabildo.” This postcard, from the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Digital Collection at the Newberry Library, University of Illinois, is from a photo by Bill Leeper. It features the Cabildo, the building that housed the seat of the Spanish Colonial government in New Orleans. While the original government building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1788, this building replaced it. The Spanish government completed the Cabildo in 1799. The United States took ownership of the Cabildo in 1803, as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Louisiana State Museum

After serving as the seat of the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Cabildo became the home of the Louisiana State Museum in 1911. As such, the building housed a number of exhibits. Since the Cabildo is an exhibit in itself, there’s usually some sort of display/exhibition that brings visitors back to the Colonial period. The courtyard played that role in 1940.

The courtyard and the “prison”

This postcard captures the courtyard behind the Cabildo. Outdoor space is a common feature in the architecture of Spanish Colonial buildings. Homes were built around a central courtyard. The open space allowed heat to rise out through the central space, and let the breeze come in.

The courtyard at the Cabildo differs from others in the Vieux Carré. It appears to be open space surrounded by the Cabildo, but it’s really two buildings. The structure in the rear of the photo is the Louisiana State Armory, commonly known as the Arsenal. The Spanish built their arsenal on this spot. In addition to holding weapons and ammunition, the Arsenal included jail cells. So, that’s how the postcard gets its title. The Americans remodeled the Arsenal in 1839. The street entrance on St. Peter Street received a Greek Revival entrance, but the interior retained the Spanish style.

Friends of the Cabildo

The Louisiana State Museum uses the Arsenal as an extension of the Cabildo’s museum space. There’s a large meeting room on the second floor. This morning, I had the privilege of speaking to the Tour Guides of the Friends of the Cabildo, at their monthly meeting. The meeting was via Zoom. Before the pandemic, the tour guides met on the second floor of the Arsenal. I look forward to my next talk to the group, back in this wonderful building.

Lower Mississippi Valley 1720

Lower Mississippi Valley 1720

Lower Mississippi Valley map showing the region in 1720.

Lower Mississippi Valley

Lower Mississippi Valley

French map showing New Orleans and the Lower Mississippi Valley, ca. 1720. The image features a plan of the Vieux Carre. The draftsman overlaid the city plan on top of a map of the larger region. The regional map shows waterways stemming from the Mississippi River. The map description and commentary are in French.

Plan of the city

This map is dated as 1720. While that’s close enough to develop a sense of the region at the time, it is off by at least a couple of years. Adrien de Pauger, an engineer and cartographer on Bienville’s staff, arrived in New Orleans in 1721. Bienville tasked de Pauger with surveying the land and planning out the city. He completed the project towards the end of 1721. Additionally, de Pauger traveled to Mobile, planning the original layout of that city. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette lists the publication date of this map as circa 1730. That matches better than the 1720 origin date.

Just a plan

This map reflects a serious issue researchers face when examining old maps and surveys. While de Pauger laid out the full grid for the neighborhood we now call the French Quarter, it was a plan. It would be decades before residents moved away from the streets closer to the river. There are several reasons for this. First, civilians built homes in the Southwest corner of the grid in the first half of the 18th century. Bienville established Fort St. Charles in that corner. The fort housed the small garrison assigned to New Orleans. Additionally, it offered a refuge to citizens in the event the settlement was attacked. So, naturally, New Orleanians desired to be close to the fort.

Maps showing the extent of fire damage in 1788 detail areas of de Pauger’s grid that were occupied at that time. Almost all of the planned grid above Dauphine Street (called “Calle de Bayona” during the Spanish Colonial period) remained occupied, fifty-plus years after this 1720ish map.

This trend isn’t limited to 18th century maps, as we’ve seen with railroad maps in the 1840s-1850s. Exercise caution when using a single source!

Musee Rosette Rochon 1515 Pauger Street #HABS

Musee Rosette Rochon 1515 Pauger Street #HABS

Musee Rosette Rochon is located in a house in Faubourg Marigny.

musee rosette rochon

Musee Rosette Rochon

This house, located at 1515 Pauger Street, dates to the late 1820s/early 1830s. It’s a “creole cottage,” a typical architectural style found in the Marigny. Rosette Rochon purchased the lot (no. 249) from Bernard de Marigny in 1806. While the house has had a number of owners, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is its current owner. The hope is to fully restore the house and open it as a museum.

Rosette Rochon

Marie Louise Rose Rochon, who went by “Rosette,” was born in 1767, in Mobile, Alabama. Her father, Pierre Rochon, was a Quebecois shipbuilder. Rochon owned her mother, an enslaved woman named Marianne. While he did not choose to free Marianne, Pierre freed Rosette at the age of three.

Rosette “lived in concubinage,” (HABS description) with a man named Hardy, when she came of age. They lived in Haiti until the revolution in that country in 1797. Arriving in New Orleans as a refugee, she entered into several plaçage relationships, These relationships enabled her to purchase property in the city. Beginning with the lot at 1515 Pauger, Rosette built several homes in the neighborhood. de Marigny offered preference to Creoles of color when selling lots.

The house

1515 Pauger sits between Dauphine and Burgundy Streets. It is a six-room Creole cottage. Rosette built three houses on lot 249. Unfortunately, only 1515 remains. After Rosette’s death in 1863, the house passed through the Lavon, Claiborne, and Soniat families. Local attorney Don Richmond acquired the house in 1977. He lived there for a number of years, then sold it. Richmond then moved to San Francisco. Upon his return to New Orleans in 1995, Richmond found 1515 Pauger scheduled to be auctioned by the Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff’s Office. He purchased the house a second time. Richmond willed the house to SoFab. So, the museum acquired the house upon his passing in 2014.


Map of the Great Conflagration

Map of the Great Conflagration

Map of the Great Conflagration in New Orleans, 21-March-1788.

Great Conflagration

You’ve likely seen this map before, since it dramatically shows the extent of damage. The fire began on Good Friday, March 21, 1788. The starting point was the home of Don Vincente Jose Nuñez. He held the position of Treasurer for the Spanish Colonial Army garrison. Nuñez and his family lived at the corner of Chartres and Toulouse. The fire spread from there, extending to the riverfront, then up to Dauphine Street, towards Canal Street to Conti, and downriver to St. Phillip. Numerous families were displaced as a result of the fire. The Cabildo, the seat of the Spanish Colonial government, along with the “Capuchin Church” dedicated to St. Louis, were destroyed. Many structures along the riverfront survived, including the Ursuline Convent.

Governor Miro ordered the reconstruction of the city. Don Andres Almonaster y Rojas financed the rebuilding of the Cabildo and the church. The Cabildo was again destroyed in the second great fire, in 1794. The Cabildo building we now know dates to after the 1794 fire. The Spanish government required that the reconstruction conform to their building codes. So, brick-and-mortar replaced wood.

The Map

The map’s origin is unclear. The Library of Congress copy bears a stamp from the “Map Division” dated 15-Aug-1908. The book, Louisiana Under the Rule of Spain, France, and the United States, by James Alexander Robertson, includes a reproduction of the map. The Robertson book, published in 1911, presents a cropped version of the map. So, Robertson may have used the LOC copy. Either way, the map predates the book. The map lists the French names for the streets rather than the Spanish, but the parade ground bears the name, “Plaza de Armas,” the Spanish usage. This combination of languages indicates it was printed in the 19th Century, when the city was under American control. Most publications using the map simply cite the Library of Congress.

We’ll keep going down the rabbit hole!

NOTE: Clicking on the image on this page or here takes you to the LOC page for the map, where you’ll find a hi-res TIFF copy available.