aubourg is an old French term for suburb, and Marigny is the namesake of to Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville (better known as Bernard de Marigny), the aristocrat, gambler and playboy who subdivided his plantation into the lots that form modern Faubourg Marigny back in 1806. Bernard was something of a lovable goof, as reflected in the odd-sounding names he picked for neighborhood streets, including Peace, History, Poets, Music and Love.
The neighborhood was one of the first mixed sections of the city, although said mix was of local Creoles and free people of color; American settlers were initially banned from the Marigny. Bernard apparently bore plenty of resentment for the new Americans, who he considered a threat to the culture of the city. Certainly, very few people speak French in the Marigny today, but in some ways Bernard’s fears of American blandness have been adopted by the residents of his namesake neighborhood; there are no fast food chains in the Marigny, and the area has famously resisted efforts to open big box stores like CVS.
During the Battle of New Orleans (1815), American general and later president Andrew Jackson set up his headquarters at Bernard de Marigny’s former plantation. Folklore holds that Marigny tried to convince Jackson to seek the help of pirate king Jean Lafitte at the time. During the 19th century, wealthy white men would keep houses for their colored or Creole mistresses in the area now known as the New Marigny.
The fortunes of the Marigny swung back and forth during the 20th century. Essentially, the Marigny was a place on the orbit of the French Quarter and a constant recipient of the refugees of that neighborhood. When the Quarter was a den of iniquity, many criminals prowled the Marigny, but after the Quarter’s profile rose, artists seeking cheaper rents settled in the local Creole cottages and helped fuel a long bout of revitalization.
Located on the city’s high ground, the Marigny escaped the worst of Katrina’s floodwaters.
Today it is one of the most coveted addresses in New Orleans; besides hosting one of the largest concentrations of historical buildings in town, it is also famous for its easy walkability and climbing rents.
A few years ago we might have told you the Marigny was the Brooklyn of New Orleans. Then we would have gotten annoyed at always being in New York’s shadow and said “No, Brooklyn is the Marigny of New York, man!”Â Then we would have calmed down a bit and said, “OK, everyone knows about Brooklyn, so we’ll stick with the original analogy.”Â
And the thing is? The Marigny still kind of is the Brooklyn of New Orleans. Specificall, the part of Brooklyn that is so close to Manhattan it’s inappropriate to say it’s arriving, because in reality (and in terms of real estate) it has flat-out arrived. Located adjacent to the French Quarter, the Marigny, stuffed with adorable Creole cottages, members of the creative class, restaurants, bars and music venues, is by any locals’ measure the hip alternative to the Quarter, and has been for years.
If you’re a visitor to town who doesn’t want to stay in a large hotel, it’s worth noting the Marigny probably has the highest concentration of small-volume B&Bs in New Orleans.
If you’re a member of the LGBT community, you should note that this is one of the oldest ‘gayborhoods’ in the American South (and indeed, the country).
Frenchmen St, which has a stupendous concentration of live music venues (in a city kinda known for its live music) runs through the heart of the Marigny and popularly known as the “locals’ Bourbon”Â, a definition that may be becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. St Claude Ave is also an excellent live music strip.
The Marigny, for our purposes, is bounded by Esplanade Ave, St Claude Ave and Press St. Above the lakeside of St Claude Ave is the New Marigny, which is real estate talk for one of the faster gentrifying areas of New Orleans. The neighborhood is essentially anchored by Washington Square, a pleasant green space that is adjacent to Frenchmen St. Elysian Fields Ave, named for the Champs-Elysees in Paris, runs from the heart of the Marigny to Lake Pontchartrain.