New Orleans celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2018

The third St. Louis Basilica (photo Pierre 5018)

On Thursday, August 25, 1718 Louisiana governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne of Bienville founded New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi, between the delta and Lake Pontchartrain. He named this new colony in honor of Duke Philip II of Orléans who then reigned over France as Regent.

In 1722, New Orleans became the capital of Colonial Louisiana. It then slightly exceeded 200 inhabitants. The city grew rapidly. Engineer architect Adrien de Pauger drew the quadrangles and named the streets. Today in the famous French Quarter, city streets such as Royale, Bourbon, Saint-Louis, Toulouse, Chartres, Orleans, Saint-Philippe, and many more have kept their original names. The first St. Louis Church (now a basilica) was erected at the time of colonization. Unfortunately, it burnt down in the Great Fire of New Orleans which destroyed 856 of the 1100 buildings of the city on Friday March 21, 1788.

The city’s oldest buildings


Ursulines Convent (photo Hey Blake)

It is said that the first celebration of Mardi Gras in Colonial French Louisiana took place on March 3, 1699 when Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, Jean-Baptiste’s brother, camped with his men at Buras-Triumph Point (formerly Pointe du Mardi Gras) in the Mississippi Delta about 90 kilometers downstream from New Orleans where they feasted, eaten “fat” and drank before the start of Lent. In New Orleans purple, green and gold are the colors of Mardi Gras.

The first Ursuline nuns arrived in New Orleans nine years after its founding. Sixteen came from France to care for the sick and educate the children of the colony. Built in 1745 during the reign of Louis XV, the Old Ursulines Convent is located at the corner of rue de Chartres and avenue des Ursulines in the French Quarter. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city with the workshop of blacksmith Jean Lafitte built between 1722 and 1732 by Nicolas Touze at 941 rue Bourbon.

The forge of Jean Lafitte (photo homepage)

New Orleans is twinned with three cities in France, namely, Combourg, Juan-les-Pins and Orléans. Its flag takes the colors of the French tricolor with three fleur-de-lis in triangle symbolizing the French heritage of today’s metropolis of Louisiana State.