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Garden District Walking Tour (Self Guided), New Orleans

New Orleans' Garden District is known for its architecture more than for its gardens. The city's elite residential neighborhood since the 19th century, when wealthy newcomers built opulent structures, it is considered one of the best-preserved collections of historic mansions in the South, and certainly one of the most picturesque. You can see why this is the setting for so many novels.

Along with the numerous heritage sites on this-self guided walk, you will also discover the Commander's Palace, one of the city's most famous restaurants, as well as the famous time-worn tombs of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which was established in 1833. After you've checked all of these off the list, you can walk down to Magazine Street for a great mix of shopping and great eateries.
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Garden District Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Garden District Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » New Orleans (See other walking tours in New Orleans)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
  • Colonel Short's Villa
  • Briggs­-Staub House
  • Women's Opera Guild House
  • Adams-Jones House
  • Louise S. McGehee School
  • Anne Rice House
  • Walter Robinson House
  • Commander's Palace
  • George Washington Cable House
1
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

1) Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (must see)

New Orleans' cemeteries are really particular, and you have to at least see one with your own eyes before leaving. Easy to find in the Garden District, a neighborhood that's generally great for strolling around in, the very picturesque Lafayette No. 1 is freely open to the public and exactly what most picture in their heads when they think of NOLA's hauntingly beautiful side. Anne Rice used it for the backdrop of several scenes from "Interview with the Vampire".

Bring your camera and take time wandering row after row of elevated crypts. Since the city lies below sea level, the tombs are uniquely placed above ground. This creates an eerie yet breathtaking memorial ground – one of the oldest in town, hosting many participants in the American Civil War as permanent guests. Several tombs also reflect the toll taken by the yellow fever epidemic, which took a toll on mostly children and newcomers; 2,000 yellow fever victims were buried here in 1852.

Either with a guided tour or simply by guiding yourself during open hours, this is overall a great piece of history to visit!

Tip:
Be very careful of where you're stepping as the cemetery pathways are not in good condition. It will be easy to sprain an ankle if you're not aware.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am–3pm
2
Colonel Short's Villa

2) Colonel Short's Villa

Built in 1859 for Colonel Robert Short of Kentucky and designed by Henry Howard, the Italian-Renaissance villa at 1448 Fourth Street is best known for its ironwork fence, incorporating a morning glory and cornstalk motifs. The story goes that Short's wife complained of missing the cornfields in her native Iowa, so he bought her the cornstalk fence. A revisionist explanation supplied by a recent owner is that the wife saw that it was the most expensive fence in the building catalog and requested it. Unlike a similar cornstalk fence on Royal Street, this one has not been painted and shows its original colors.

The house was confiscated by federal forces in 1863, and briefly became the executive mansion of the federal governor of Louisiana before being returned to Short, who lived there for the rest of his life. Following an extensive decade-long restoration, it was listed for $5mln in 2015 – the most expensive listing in New Orleans at the time.
3
Briggs­-Staub House

3) Briggs­-Staub House

The Briggs-Staub House, at 2605 Pryrtania Street, broke from Garden District tradition with its Gothic arched windows when it was built for planter Cuthbert Bullitt in 1849. Garden District Protestant Americans typically shunned Gothic Revival architecture because it reminded them of the Roman Catholicism of their Creole antagonists.

After architect James Gallier, Jr. completed the house, Bulitt refused to pay for it – popular belief has it because of a large gambling loss, and the house was subsequently sold to Charles Briggs, an English insurance executive. Briggs lived in the house at the time of the area's Irish immigration and, rather than hold African slaves, hired Irish servants, for whom he built the relatively large adjacent matching servant quarters. The interior departs from a strict Gothic breakup of rooms, making it better suited for entertaining, but Gothic detailing is prevalent both inside and out.
4
Women's Opera Guild House

4) Women's Opera Guild House

Some of the Garden District's most distinguished homes incorporate more than one style. Designed by architect William A. Freret in 1858, this one combines Greek Revival design with Queen Anne-style additions. Its wealthy merchant owner apparently lost his fortune after the Civil War and couldn't make the payments. Freret bought the house back at auction in 1867 for $30,700; later, in 1944, it was purchased for only $12,500 by Dr. Herman Seebold and his wife Nettie, a globe-trotting couple whose lives were steeped in art and music as well as in material wealth, which they lavished on its decor. By 1965 the couple were deceased with no heir apparent. Mrs. Seebold's hand-written will gave the glorious place and all its contents to the Opera Women's Guild; a stipulation noted that the 18th- and 19th-century treasures inside were not to be sold or removed. Today the home is rented out for various functions, including weddings, dinners, film shoots, and luncheons, with proceeds going to support the New Orleans Opera Association.

Tip:
Tours are offered on Mondays – between 10am and 4 pm – for $15. Walk up and ring the door bell – someone will answer and give you their mission statement. No reservation necessary and you'll be provided great insight into the majestic home and current New Orleans society.
5
Adams-Jones House

5) Adams-Jones House

Sitting proudly beneath majestic live oaks, the house was erected for John I. Adams, a merchant who in 1860 purchased the section of the former Jacques Francois de Livaudais plantation which later became the Garden District. Adams purchased the property in 1860, built the residence, and lived in it until 1896. Shifting various owners over the next century, it was restored in the 1960s by Mrs. Hamilton Polk Jones and established as a historical landmark in 1995 by the New Orleans Landmarks Commission.
6
Louise S. McGehee School

6) Louise S. McGehee School

Be sure to check out the Second Empire-style mansion designed by New Orleans architect James Freret for sugar baron Bradish Johnson in 1872. Fronted by mighty Corinthian columns, it was the envy of every sugar planter in town, having incorporated all of the swanky conveniences and interior design elements of the day: a conservatory, a marble pantry, a majestic circular staircase, and a newfangled elevator – a sure sign of wealth and distinction. It is also one of the few houses in the city to have a basement. Since 1929, it has served as a private school for girls. The cafeteria was once a stable, and the gym is a refurbished carriage house. Note the steep mansard roof with its wrought-iron parapet and the unique bull's-eye window on the facade. The gardens contain some magnificent magnolias and ginger trees.

Tip:
For more buildings with preserved post-war – or Reconstruction-era – architecture, walk further uptown along St. Charles Avenue in neighborhoods like Audubon Place.
7
Anne Rice House

7) Anne Rice House

Here's a rare chance to take a peek into the stately – and slightly spooky – New Orleans home once owned by Anne Rice, undisputed grand dame of gothic fiction. Best known for her Vampire Chronicles saga – famous long before those Twilight vamps had even sprouted fangs – Rice's taste for the historic and the haunted is much influenced by her growing up in New Orleans, which the author calls a "strange, decadent city full of antebellum houses," according to a recent post on Realtor.com. Still enchanted with her native city, Rice moved back to New Orleans' Garden District in the late 1980s, buying up several homes, including this glamorous Victorian Gothic.

The six-bedroom, 7,609-square-foot home is said to have been haunted since long before Rice moved in, with spirits dating back to its completion in the 1800s. From the exterior, that doesn't seem too far fetched; inside, there are pastel walls, beautiful stained glass from the 1880s, elaborate moldings and mantels, and no shortage of crystal chandeliers. Rice moved out in 2010 and the place has been on and off the market ever since.
8
Walter Robinson House

8) Walter Robinson House

Built in 1859 and the work of New Orleans' most famous architect Henry Howard, this Italian-style mansion and its adjacent servant quarters + stable recently underwent a tremendous renovation. It's also for sale. If you can imagine yourself sipping champagne from the 2nd-story gallery, this home can be yours for a mere $9.5 million.

Galleries were an essential feature of Garden District homes and are here supported with Doric columns on the first floor and Corinthian columns on the second. One of the grandest and largest homes in the district, it features a distinctive curved portico. Its unusual roof acts as a large vat that once collected water and acted as a cistern. Gravity provided water pressure and the Garden District's first indoor plumbing.

Walter Robinson came south from Virginia to establish himself as a cotton factor, but instead, the Lynchburg native fell back on his roots as a tobacco merchant and went into perique tobacco – a curly variant used in pipe tobacco, grown only in St. James Parish.
9
Commander's Palace

9) Commander's Palace

Commander's Palace, the pride of New Orleans, is a restaurant known for good food, great customer service, and its many spacious dining rooms. Opened in the 1880s by the Brennan family, the eatery features authentic contemporary Cajun cuisine. Located in the famous Garden District, one cannot visit New Orleans without eating here. As soon as you enter the doors, you will be impressed with the festive atmosphere and the friendly staff. Multi-colored balloons decorate the tables and a live band serenades patrons with jazz on Saturdays and Sundays.

Some of the delicious cookery you will encounter at this jewel are turtle soup with sherry, pecan-crusted Gulf fish with champagne-poached jumbo lump crab, and praline parfait – the greatest dessert you'll ever have that isn't chocolate. One of the reasons for the excellent cuisine is the restaurant's "dirt-to-plate within 100 miles" policy, which ensures that patrons receive the freshest food possible. Another reason is, of course, the excellent culinary staff; you'll want the chef to move into your house!

Over the years, Commander's Palace has won awards for best restaurant (1996), best chef, lifetime achievement, best wine list (check it out – it's carefully considered and has good values) and "most popular restaurant in New Orleans" for 20 years. Quite simply, it's a city landmark, a culinary legend known for its convivial atmosphere and whimsical Louisiana charm.

Tip:
Make reservations as soon as you decide to go. Although an immense restaurant, it fills quickly.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10:30am–10pm
10
George Washington Cable House

10) George Washington Cable House

Located on the Garden District's west side, the building was built by author George Washington Cable in 1874 after the publication of his short story, "Sieur George". The single-story structure features a full-height basement and columns that include an arcade.

The son of a wealthy plantation owner, Cable was born in New Orleans in 1844. After his father died, however, he struggled financially and joined the Confederate Army in the Civil War. During a two-year bout with malaria, Cable took up writing as a hobby. In 1870, he joined the staff of the New Orleans Picayune. Having published his first story in 1873, the multiculturalism of New Orleans was a common theme in his writings. He generally supported racial equality, earning the ire of many of his peers. Cable left the South for Massachusetts in 1885 to escape this hostility and died forty years later. He was a close friend of Mark Twain, who was probably a frequent guest here.

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