Historic Lodgings in New Orleans

In New Orleans, history seeps from every brick and building.  Merchants, sailors, pirates, privateers, and royalty have tread the well-worn stones of the French Quarter for some 300 years.  So besides stellar gumbo and shrimp etouffee, when Michon and I are in this amazing city we don’t waste an opportunity to explore the past.

It starts of course, with our choice of where to stay.  There are a variety of historic small hotels in and around the French Quarter, each boasting a long, and sometimes very colorful history as this city was controlled at different times by the French, the Spanish, and finally the Americans.  In our last visit we stayed at Le Richelieu, an historic lodging dating to the early to mid 1800’s on the eastern fringe of the French Quarter.

The hotel sits on land that was part of a 1745 Royal Land Grant from Louis XV of France to the local Ursuline nuns to establish a school for young women, and a hospital for French soldiers.  In fact, the current hotel was named for the French Prime Minister under Louis VIII, whose portrait hangs in the lobby.  There have been various structures built over the years since, but all are heavily imbued with the French, Spanish and Creole influences that make the city so special.  As are most of the historic hotels on small streets in the French Quarter, the Richelieu’s location on Chartres makes it a pleasant and rather short walk from great restaurants, Jackson Square, and the Cafe du Monde.

The city of New Orleans is one of those places where it definitely pays to peer around corners, and to read up on local history and architecture.  In fact, many of the charming courtyards found behind the front doors of French Quarter buildings date to to

the Spanish period, when houses built were centered around a private interior courtyard so familiar in Spanish homes, where family meals and other activities took place.

Of particular interest are remnants of the long and sad slavery history of the city.  At one time in the 1800s, New Orleans was rivaled only by Charleston as the center of the slave trade in the South.  And evidence of this past is still on display.  In a building adjacent to the Richelieu the slave quarters are clearly visible, slightly lower and set off at a right angle from the main building.

New Orleans is a city where the past hides in plain sight.  Be sure your choice of lodging is part of that immersive historical adventure!




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