Corner of Ursuline and Royal, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. When New Orleans (La Nouvelle-Orléans in French) was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the city was originally centered on the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré ("Old Square" in French) as it was known then. While the area is still referred to as the Vieux Carré by some, it is more commonly known as the French Quarter today, or simply "The Quarter." Although called the "French" Quarter, most of the present day buildings were built under Spanish rule and show Spanish colonial tastes. The district as a whole is a National Historic Landmark, and contains numerous individual historic buildings.
The most common definition of the French Quarter includes all the land stretching along the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue (13 blocks) and inland to North Rampart Street (seven to nine blocks). It equals an area of 78 square blocks.
Many of the buildings date from before New Orleans became part of the United States, although there are some late 19th century and early 20th century buildings in the area as well. Since the 1920s the historic buildings have been protected by law and cannot be demolished, and any renovations or new construction in the neighborhood must be done according to regulations to match the period historic architectural style.
Most of the French Quarter's architecture was built during the time of Spanish rule over New Orleans and this is reflected in its architecture. The Great New Orleans Fire (1788) and another great fire in 1794 destroyed most of the Quarter's old French colonial architecture, leaving the colony's new Spanish overlords to rebuild it according to more modern tastes—and strict new fire codes, which mandated that all structures be physically adjacent and close to the curb to create a firewall. The old French peaked roofs were replaced with flat tiled ones, and now-banned wooden siding with fire-resistant stucco, painted in the pastel hues fashionable at the time. As a result, colorful walls and roofs and elaborately decorated ironwork balconies and galleries, from both the 18th century and the early 19th century, abound.