Then and now – 905 Toulouse Street
Boyd Cruise painting of 905 Toulouse Street
Watercolor painting of the house at 905 Toulouse Street in the Vieux Carré. The artist, Boyd Cruise, captured a number of New Orleans scenes during his career. Here’s the THNOC caption:
Mid nineteenth century depiction of the facade of a two-story building with second floor gallery at 905 – 907 Toulouse in the Vieux Carre. There are people strolling in the foreground and a fruit vendor with cart is on the cobblestone street.
The time frame of this scene is New Orleans at its peak before the Southern Rebellion.The city influenced culture and commerce on both sides of the Atlantic. Cruise brings us back, placing us on Rue Toulouse. The WPA and other government agencies commissioned Cruise as part of projects to provide work for artists during the depression. Additionally, Cruise painted buildings for Historical American Buildings Survey (HABS) projects in the French Quarter.
The house today
Compare this Google Maps shot of 905 Toulouse today to Cruise’s scene. The building’s exterior remains essentially the same as when Cruise visualized it in 1947.
905 Toulouse stands in the block between Dauphine and Burgundy Streets. So, it’s a couple of blocks above the “tourist” sections of the neighborhood. While the building next to it (Dauphine and Toulouse) is an archive facility for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, this block isn’t full of t-shirt shops and bars. It’s possible to walk up Toulouse and take yourself back to the 1850s. The Black woman on the left, carrying a load of laundry on her head, is likely enslaved. Don’t lose sight of the realities of 1850s New Orleans. Cruise flashed back to this period from the 1930s and 1940s, a time of Jim Crow segregation. Like many artists, he combined a number of elements into a single block of the neighborhood. From the black boy sitting on a barrel, to an enslaved housekeeper, to white people strolling and shopping from a street vendor, there’s a lot here. The characters are quite accurate. Go walk down this block on your next visit to the Vieux Carré.