The Faubourg Marigny district
lies between Esplanade Avenue
and Elysian Fields Avenue
in New Orleans, Louisiana
, adjacent to the French Quarter
and the bordering the Mississippi River
. Originally the property of an absurdly wealthy French sugar cane plantation
owner, Antoine Jacques Phillippe de Marigny de Mandeville
, the land was partitioned in 1805 to create a new neighborhood in which European immigrant
s, free African-American
s, and wealthy New Orleans
families could live (a fairly progressive
mixture for the time).
De Marigny's son Bernard had somewhat ambitious plans for the area, and treated it as his fantasy-urban-planner's playground, designing oddly shaped blocks, impossibly complex thoroughfare patterns, and personally selected street names. He even hoped to mimic the beauty of the Champs Elysees by creating an artificial river down Elysian Fields, which would snake through the neutral ground (or median) past gardens and parks.
Though his dream for Elysian Fields never came to pass, the neighborhood was an immediate success, and today is popular for bohemian artists, old middle class families (of all races), and New Orleans' large homosexual population. The houses, small and tightly packed together, many of them over two-hundred years old, are extremely colorful, fully exploiting the temperate environment of the city to create a sort of Caribbean aesthetic; there are also small gardens and sitting porches, which contribute to the communitarian atmosphere.
The Faubourg Marigny is also rarely visited by standard tourists, despite its proximity to the French Quarter. Though the residents probably prefer the hidden, distant quality that this allows the neighborhood, it is a shame: the Faubourg Marigny is beautiful, dream-like in its indifference to modernity and speed; it is secluded and lazy, friendly and alive. The strong presence of history is overwhelmed only by the vibrancy of the present, the immediate. In short, it's a wonderfully preserved bit of old French New Orleans.
Oh, and "faubourg" is French for "suburb."