The Esplanade Ridge National Register Historic District encompasses a diverse
group of neighborhoods that are all central to the very heart and soul of the city.
Tremé, one of the oldest and most important African-American neighborhoods in
the country, is replete with architectural and cultural gems.
Esplanade Avenue, which runs from the Mississippi River to City Park, was the
premiere address for upper-class Creoles and Free People of Color and is still
today lined with the grand homes they lived in.
Bayou Road has a small commercial corridor that has a distinctly Caribbean feel, complete with neon building colors and chickens roaming in the street. Across Broad Street, the blocks surrounding Esplanade Avenue take on different identities. In Bayou St. John, gracious homes shaded by old trees inspire awe, especially on nearby Ursulines Street and Grand Route St. John. Many of those streets lead to Bayou St. John, where villas dating to as early as 1791 face the water.
In the Fairgrounds neighborhood, colorful shotguns and Creole structures tightly pack the streets that front the Fairgrounds, which is home to thoroughbred horse racing from Thanksgiving Day through March and special events year-round, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April and May. Pocket parks, cafes, restaurants and shops dot neighborhoods on both sides of Esplanade. At the top of Esplanade Avenue is St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, with marble above-ground tombs and angelic statuary, Bayou St. John, and City Park, one of the most popular urban parks in the country.
Esplanade Ridge is one of the earliest-populated areas of New Orleans; the Bayou St. John waterway and the natural ridge of high ground that gives the area its name made the area — specifically, sites around Bayou Road — important trading grounds for Native American tribes. After European settlement, prominent New Orleanians took to building country manors on Bayou St. John. The earliest known land grant in the area dates to 1718 on Bayou Road. Claude Tremé began selling lots of his land in 1798, and the city annexed the neighborhood in 1812. Further north, land was still rural until the first streetcar along Esplanade appeared in the 1860s, spurring more concentrated residential development.
The construction in 1969 of an elevated expressway over Claiborne Avenue, which at the time was a thriving African-American commercial district, wreaked havoc the SOUTH LAKEVIEW area. Landmark buildings were demolished and business dried up as traffic went overhead. While some parts of this district still have noticeable blight resulting from the trauma, the majority of these neighborhoods have stayed strong thanks to passionate locals, responsible property owners and an in ux of new residents renovating and restoring historic homes. The neighborhoods within Esplanade Ridge today are extremely desirable areas to live and visit.
Many thanks to the Preservation Resource Center for providing this wonderful information! (www.prcno.org)