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9 Vintage Photographs of Historic New Orleans

By Miranda Smith

Feb 1, 2018

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Mardi Gras in New Orleans, circa 1920

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, circa 1920

A trip back through the archives proves that The Big Easy has always been hauntingly beautiful.

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Many believe that New Orleans is the most haunted city in the United States. With the city’s wild celebrations, unique blend of cultures, and grand architecture, we can’t say we blame any departed souls who might want to linger there. These nine vintage photos not only illustrate NOLA’s timeless beauty but also give a dreamy peek at what the city looked like when some of those ghosts were still alive.

New Orleans docks, 1900
La Nouvelle-Orléans was founded as a port city by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1718. Its strategic position on the Mississippi River helped the city grow to its current glory.
Mardi Gras on Canal Street in the 1920s
Today, about 1.4 million people celebrate Mardi Gras in the Big Easy every year. In this shot of Canal Street from the 1920s, it looks like all 387,219 New Orleans residents (from the 1920 census) came to the party—more than enough for a good time. 
Mardi Gras revelers, 1905
The party spirit may be as rollicking as ever, but we can’t help but be grateful that Mardi Gras masks have changed quite a bit since 1905. 
New Orleans street car in 1907
Streetcars have been an important (and charming) part of New Orleans’s public transit system since 1835 when they were powered by steam locomotives and horses. By the time this photo was taken in 1907, the city’s streetcars had been electric for 14 years. 
Luling Mansion, 1880
The grand Luling Mansion was built for a wealthy German cotton merchant in 1865. When this photo was taken in 1880, he had left his house and returned to Europe, transferring ownership of the building to the Louisiana Jockey Club. The club left in 1905, and since then, the grand old building has been largely neglected, and the 30 acres of land that once surrounded it have been transformed into new streets. Today it’s almost hidden in a modern residential neighborhood. 
Christ Church Cathedral, 1890
Founded in 1803, Christ Church Cathedral was the first non–Roman Catholic church in the Lousiana Purchase territory. It’s still as beautiful today as it was in 1890. 
Gallier Hall
Built in 1853, New Orleans’ Gallier Hall served as City Hall for just over a century before the seat of government was moved to a more modern building in 1953. We’re not the only ones nostalgic about the old City Hall: They still hold mayoral inaugurations and other special events in this historic building.
New Orleans City Park in 1890
This shot of New Orleans’s City Park from 1890 is the pinnacle of southern charm. While so much in the city has changed over the past 100 or so years, you can still take a stroll through this gorgeous green space. It’s a dedication to preserving classic beauty like this that keeps us falling in love with NOLA time and time again. 

>>Next: 15 Gorgeous Vintage Photos of San Francisco

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