Posts tagged “New Orleans

New Orleans: The Paris of America

Posted on May 7, 2012

This early 1900s postcard, sketched by Z. A. Hendrick and published by the St. Charles Hotel, depicts a hypothetical tourist itinerary in New Orleans, “The Paris of America.” With three of thirteen pictures devoted to mild winter weather, the card reveals how actively New Orleans promoters courted northern winter tourists in the early 20th century. Of course, the thermometer’s 75° Fahrenheit reading is a bit optimistic even for New Orleans on a typical winter day. The card offers clues about how tourists reached and encountered American cities in the early years of the past century. Arriving by passenger train, tourists could opt for a “sight-seeing trip” on board a motorized touring car in a time before automobiles reached wide use. It also suggests much…

A Prehistory of New Orleans Jazz Fest

Posted on May 6, 2012

Today marks the final day of the 2012 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Officially this is the 43rd annual Jazz Fest in the Crescent City, but a close look at history shows that the inaugural festival in in 1970 in Congo Square (across North Rampart Street from the French Quarter) followed years of earlier efforts to stage such an event The earliest jazz festivals in New Orleans grew out of the work of the New Orleans Jazz Club, founded in 1948 after its short-lived predecessor, the National Jazz Foundation, folded. The NOJC held a small jazz festival of sorts with several concerts in Congo Square in 1949 and 1950. After a promising start, a series of unfortunate events in the 1950s and 1960s…

Venice Beach’s Battle of the Boardwalk

Posted on April 24, 2012

Venice Beach is widely known for its carefree, bohemian air. Having enticed successive waves of Beats, hippies, punks, roller-derby fiends, and other nonconformists for decades, the funky Los Angeles neighborhood along the Pacific is among the inheritors of a long tradition of quirky enclaves in America: New York’s Greenwich Village, New Orleans’s French Quarter, San Francisco’s North Beach and Haight-Ashbury, Cleveland’s Coventry Village, Miami’s Coconut Grove, and Atlanta’s Little Five Points, to name but a few. This image is so pervasive that few can believe Venice had its origin as a master-planned residential community laced with gondola-plied canals that conjured its Italian namesake, as architectural historian Philip Gruen describes in American Tourism. Like other counterculture havens, Venice Beach became noted for the free-spirited joie…

Sensory Overload in New Orleans?

Posted on March 2, 2012

Recent days and weeks have seen the latest round in a long, storied struggle over the essence of New Orleans’s biggest attraction – the French Quarter.  Shopkeepers have protested efforts to curb storefront advertising that some say mars historic integrity; residents have railed against amplified music blaring from courtyards behind Bourbon Street nightclubs; and some worry that sanitation efforts fall short of the cleanliness that the city’s top destination needs. New Orleans’s famous Vieux Carré has long staked its reputation on sensory experiences at odds with mainstream America. Even in the nineteenth century, Americans understood the old French district of the Crescent City as a place apart where sights, sounds, and smells bespoke an exotic flair.  Variously likened to an American Paris or Cairo…