Jackson Square: New Orleans, Louisiana


Situated between the oldest continually operating cathedral in the United States and the city's peaceful riverfront, Jackson Square serves as a gateway to all New Orleans has to offer.  Designed in the image of Paris's oldest planned square, the Place des Vosges, the iron facades surrounding the square blend seamlessly into the old Spanish city hall, creating a uniquely New Orleans feel. Grand walkways wrap around the central statue of President Andrew Jackson, for whom the square is named, leading pedestrians to the French Quarter's alleyways and the waterfront "Moonwalk."

Designated Area

Square is bounded by Chartres Street to the northwest; St. Anne Street to the northeast; Decatur Street to the southeast; and St. Peter Street to the southwest.

Adding vibrancy to Jackson Square are its adjacent pedestrian malls along Chartres, St. Peter, and St. Ann streets, which were closed to traffic in 1971. Flickr photo by Isaac Wedin (CC BY 2.0)

Planning Excellence

Lying in the heart of Adrien de Pauger's 18th century plan for New Orleans, Jackson Square is the cornerstone of the city's strong planning tradition. As the center of nation's first municipal historic district, as well as the first business improvement district, the square has been constantly improved by colonial generals and modern mayors alike, while still preserving its historic features.

From 18th century military parades to the 2010 season kick-off party for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, Jackson Square has remained a hotspot of civic activity for nearly 300 years. Jazz musicians, street artists and the world-famous Café du Monde continue to attract locals and visitors every day to the festive atmosphere of the square and adjoining streets created by Tarot-card readers, living statues, hotdog vendors, magicians, musicians, and artisans.

Jackson Square, seen from Decatur Street. In the background is the famous St. Louis Cathedral on Chartres Street. Photo courtesy Jeniece Black, New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Three centuries of planning

  • French engineer Adrien de Pauger lays out first plan for New Orleans; architect Louis Pilié designs square in image of Paris's Place des Vosges (1721)
  • Military general and architect Allison Owen prevents destruction of Spanish Colonial buildings framing square (1895)
  • Vieux Carré Association, a preservation society, formed (1926) to protect colonial French, Spanish, and American buildings
  • 1927 Great Flood stirs city to strengthen levee, blocking view of river from square
  • Square designated National Historic Landmark (1960)
  • On October 24, 1958, the City of New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways became the stewards of this magnificent piece of U.S. history
  • World's Fair (1984) prompted a "restricted use" policy ensuring the integrity of the park's history and infrastructure for generations to come
  • Department of Parks and Parkways has repaired the 160-year-old original ornate iron fence and improved landscaping and promenades in the square
  • To counter plans to build Riverfront Expressway, Mayor Moon Landrieu orders preservation study; waterfront "Moonwalk" restores square's river access (1976)

Square design, features

  • Sculptor Clark Mills's statue of Battle of New Orleans hero and future president Andrew Jackson, for whom the square was named in 1815, erected in 1856
  • Iron fences, walkways, benches, and Parisian-style landscaping remain intact from original design by Baroness Micaela Almonester-Pontalba in 1851
  • Popular pedestrian mall area around Square created when three surrounding streets — Chartres, St. Peter, and St. Ann — are closed (1971)
  • Flagpole, commemorating city's transfer from Spain to France to the United States in 1803, symbolizes square's rich cultural history
  • Throughout 1930s, Works Progress Administration (WPA) repainted facades, renovated surrounding buildings, and improved landscaping around the square

Historic surroundings

  • Named for French King Louis IX, St. Louis Cathedral on Chartres Street is oldest continually operating cathedral in U.S. (1794)
  • Spanish Colonial Cabildo (1799) and Presbytere (1813), also on Chartres Street and in National Register of Historic Places, frame the square and pedestrian mall
  • Baroness Pontalba hires architects James Gallier and Henry Howard to design Parisian-style apartments along St. Ann and St. Peter streets (1850); said to be oldest apartment complexes in U.S.

Jackson Square reflects the design of Paris's oldest planned square, the Place des Vosges, including such features as grand walkways, garden landscaping, and fountains. Photo courtesy Jeniece Black, New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways.