POSTED Mon. Nov 3, 2014

Events

Celebrate the Pontalba Birthday Bash
Adam Karlin
Written by ADAM KARLIN
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Jackson Square could easily be considered the central organ of the French Quarter, and by extension New Orleans itself. And if you say the words ‘Jackson Square,’ some obvious image associations are usually made: St Louis Cathedral, the statue of Jackson himself, and the flanking elegance of the Cabildo and Presbytere.

For all of this iconic architecture, there is a set of structures that often goes unnoticed by visitors and locals alike. We’re speaking of the Pontalba Buildings, the matching, four-story red-brick apartment complexes that together trace the up and down river sides of Jackson Square. Maybe it’s because the buildings blend so well into the Square (to the point they form the Square), but the Pontalba have traditionally played snapshot second fiddle to St Louis and Jackson on his horse.

It’s likely that if we were to describe the layout of each Pontalba building, you probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow: there are shops and retail on the ground floor, and residential apartments above – a classic example of mixed use real estate. What makes the Pontalba special is, due to its original 1849-51 facade, along with subsequent renovations, it may be the oldest contiguous example of rented apartments in the country (sidenote: there is, admittedly, a challenge to this claim: Tulane historian Christina Vella says the original Pontalba complex consisted of townhouses, as opposed to apartments, and that mixed use dates from the 1930s).

What we can agree on is the buildings were the project of Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba, one of the iconic figures of 19th century New Orleans real estate development, and said baroness, and her namesake buildings, will be celebrated this week at the Baroness Pontalba Birthday Bash on Nov 6.

From 5-7pm, The French Market District – the Pontalba landlords – will host a birthday party for the baroness, which will include music by the New Orleans Opera Association, performances by Louisiana History Alive and lots of costumes, period dress and otherwise. It’s a rare opportunity to celebrate some classic New Orleans architecture that happens to occupy the beating central heart of the city.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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