Cabildo courtyard, captured in a 1940 postcard.
“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 map showing the region in 1720.
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 is located in a house in Faubourg Marigny.
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.
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.
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 in New Orleans, 21-March-1788.
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’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.
Spanish Map 1798 is a copy image created in 1875.
“Plan of the City of New Orleans and adjacent plantations,” 1798. (Public domain image via LOC. Click image for higher resolutions)
Spanish Map 1798
My friend Derby Gisclair posts old New Orleans images that catch his eye daily on social media. I love this, because the more of us that promote the city’s history, the more people come around to the subject. And the more books we sell! Derby posted this map yesterday. The wording on the image caught my eye, so I gave it a deep dive.
Plan of the city
The title of the map:
Plan of the City of New Orleans and adjacent plantations.
Compiled in accordance with an Ordinance of the Illustrations Ministry and Royal Charter, 24 December, 1798
Signed: Carlos Trudeau
But this is not the original! It is a copy. The copy illustrator made this note:
COPY and TRANSLATION
From the Original Spanish Plan dated 1798,
City of New Orleans
Its Fortifications and Environs
A note at the bottom says, “Drawn by Alex’ DeBrunner N.O.”
Notes on Plantations
Detail of Trudeau’s map, showing the French Quarter.
The Spanish Map 1798 offers detailed notes on the various property holdings around the city. While the detail of what is now the French Quarter is accurate, the detail outside the Quarter enhances its usefulness. The map shows the “first cemetery,” inside the bounds of the Quarter, as well as St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, on Basin Street. The cemetery sits just west of the turning basin of the Caroldelet Canal. The linear canal stands in stark contrast to Bayou St. John and other waterways in the area.
The map presents what is now St. Louis Cathedral as the “parish church.” While this may be a translation issue, it’s possible that Don Carlos named it that on his original. The city re-built the church after the fire of 1788. It became a cathedral in 1793, when Louisiana became a separate diocese.
Note explaining the land holdings of John Gravier.
Just outside the French Quarter
Land of John Gravier, part of the plantation of the Jesuits, confiscated through his very christian Majesty ; 15 arpents front on the Mississippi River.
The Society of Jesus received a land grant from the King of France, operating a plantation just upriver. The Spanish suppressed the Jesuits in Spain in its colonies in 1763. John Gravier received the Jesuit land. By 1798, the Spanish planned to fully develop what is now the Central Business District.
The Spanish Map 1798 confuses royal titles. While the Spanish controlled colony in 1798, the map references the French king’s title. The king of France used the title, “His Most Christian Majesty.” The king of Spain, “His Most Catholic Majesty,” and the king of Great Britain, “His Most Brittanic Majesty.” Debrunner likely translated the title wrong, since the reference is to the king of Spain.
Don Carlos Trudeau created the Spanish Map 1798
Trudeau was Surveyor General of Spanish Louisiana. While the dominant language of Colonial New Orleans was French, Spanish records list him as Don Carlos Trudeau. Trudeau surveyed and designed what is now Lafayette Square, in Faubourg Ste. Marie. This Spanish Map 1798 fits the pattern of extensive documentation by the government of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
Trudeau was born in New Orleans, in 1743. France owned and governed New Orleans at the time. He became Surveyor General in the 1780s (the Spanish assumed control of New Orleans in 1763). Trudeau held the post until 1805. He resigned after the Americans took over New Orleans. So, Charles returned to public service a few years later, serving as Acting Mayor for six months in 1812, and on the City Council.
Trudeau’s family followed a French naming tradition of the time honoring distinguished women. Charles received the honorific, “dit Laveau,” recognizing his paternal great-grandmother, Marie Catherine de Lavaux, of Montreal. Trudeau married Charlotte Perrault. So, the couple had four daughters. Additionally, Trudeau engaged in a relationship with Marguerite Darcantel, a gen de couleur libre. He had a daughter with Darcantel, Marie Laveau.