Sunday, September 16, 2012

La Nouvelle-Orléans

I'm up to page 280 of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans (Harvard University Press, 2012), Lawrence N. Powell's masterful history of French, Spanish and early American New Orleans. This book renders a fascinating overview that covers mostly the 1700s and early 1800s. From this and exploring on the ground, you can fathom how much structurally the first century set up the ethos of the city and surrounding areas. More narrowly, you can see the architectural design courtesy of the Spanish administration overlaying the initial French settlement in and around Jackson Square aka La Plaza de Armas aka La Place d'Armes in the Vieux Carré. You can see the Place d'Armes in the above map at the bottom center, the open box.  

It's probably fair to observe that New Orleans is the only major strategic coastal town or city trading via the Atlantic Ocean in what is currently the USA that was never formally controlled by the British Empire by the time the American Revolution broke out. In fact, the British never managed to capture it and not for lack of trying, even when their Empire controlled East and West Florida (including what is now southern Mississippi and Alabama) from the end of the Seven Years War (1763) until the Spanish drove them out during the American war. A last gasp of an attempt by the British was made in late 1814, early 1815.

New Orleans clearly has a rich and complex history and has frequently through the centuries suffered mightily from fires, floods and pestilence. As Powell puts it: "New Orleans was never for the faint of heart, not when calamity, cyclonic and otherwise, seemed just around the corner. Yet somehow the town always managed to muddle through" (The Accidental City, page [197]).

Map: 1763 Plan of La Nouvelle-Orléans (US Library of Congress), slightly cropped with tinting added.

Today's Rune: Signals.  


Charles Gramlich said...

Not for the faint of heart. I'll agree with that.

jodi said...

Erik, I truly wish I would have visited New Orleans before the hurricane. 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' taught me so much about it's grandeur.