Jackson Square, New Orleans

February 21, 2012 by staff 

Jackson Square, New Orleans, Jackson Square, also known as Place d’Armes, is a historic park in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
Jackson Square was designed after the famous 17th-century Place des Vosges in Paris, France, by the architect and landscape architect Louis H. Pilié. Jackson Square is roughly the size of a city block (GPS +29.95748 -090.06310).

Chartres Street side of Jackson Square in 1842, showing the Cathedral before remodeling and some of the structures later replaced by the Pontalba Buildings. Lithograph from daguerreotype by Jules Lion.

Jackson Square in 1885
Early French colonial New Orleans was originally centered around what was then called the Place d’ Armes (Spanish: Plaza de Armas). After the Battle of New Orleans, in 1815, the Place d’ Armes was renamed Jackson Square after the victorious United States general Andrew Jackson. In the center of the park stands an equestrian statue of Jackson erected in 1856, one of four identical statues in the United States by the sculptor Clark Mills.

The square originally overlooked the Mississippi River across Decatur Street, but the view was blocked in the 19th century by the building of taller levees. The riverfront was long devoted to shipping docks. The 20th-century administration of Mayor Moon Landrieu installed a scenic boardwalk on top of the levee to reconnect the city to the river; it is known as the “Moon Walk” in his honor.

On the north side of the square are three 18th‑century historic buildings, which were the city’s heart in the colonial era. The center of the three is St. Louis Cathedral. The cathedral was designated as a minor Basilica by Pope Paul VI. To its left is the Cabildo, the old city hall, now a museum, where the final version of the Louisiana Purchase was signed. To the Cathedral’s right is the Presbytère, built to match the Cabildo. The Presbytère originally housed the city’s Roman Catholic priests and authorities; at the start of the 19th century, it was adapted as the city hall, and in the 20th century became a museum.

The Place d’Armes was the prime site for the public execution of disobedient slaves during the 18th and early 19th centuries. After the 1811 German Coast Uprising, three slaves were hanged here. The heads from their dismembered bodies were put on the city’s gates.

In the Reconstruction era, the Place d’Armes served as an arsenal. During the insurrection following the disputed 1872 gubernatorial election, in March 1873, it was the site of the Battle of Jackson Square. A several-thousand man militia under John McEnery, the Democratic claimant to the office of the Governor, defeated the New Orleans militia, seizing control of the state’s buildings and armory for a few days. They retreated before the arrival of Federal forces, which re-established control temporarily in the state.

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