A historic park in the center of New Orleans French Quarter, Jackson Square was known as Place d’Armes until it was renamed for general Andrew Jackson after the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. Higher levees, built in the 19th century, now block the view of the Mississippi River from Jackson Square.
Jackson Square’s central location, its proximity to the Mississippi River and its church and government buildings have made it the center of New Orleans shipping, commerce and community life. The square is usually full of musicians, fortune tellers, artists, jugglers and other tourist amusements as it has been for over half a century. Cars have not been allowed on the square since 1971 when parking on all sides was removed.
St. Louis Cathedral — the oldest continuously active cathedral in the United States — formed the center of the original settlement and dominates Jackson Square. Originally built in 1724 it had to be rebuilt twice — after a fire and then following a hurricane.
Pope Paul VI designated St. Louis Cathedral a minor Basilica. Designed by French architect J.N.B. de Pouilly, it is also known as the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France.
The Cabildo — just to the left of St. Louis Cathedral at 701 Chartres Street — now a Louisiana State museum, is the site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The Cabildo was destroyed by fire in 1788 and rebuilt by 1799 as the Spanish municipal government in New Orleans. The Presbytére — just to the right of St. Louis Cathedral at 751 St. Chartres Street — is now a Mardi Gras Museum. The Presbytére was originally known as the Casa Curial (Ecclesiastical House) as it was built on the site of the residence (presbytere) of the Capuchin monks.
A statue of General Andrew Jackson in the center of Jackson square recognizes his defeat of the British at New Orleans in 1814. The statue is one of three—the others are in Washington D.C. and Nashville, Tennessee—by American sculptor Clark Mills. Andrew Jackson’s military success helped him became the seventh President of the United States in 1832.
The iron fence surrounding Jackson Square, its formal gardens, walkways and benches can be largely credited to the Baroness Micaela Almonaster de Pontalba, who lobbied for and financed these improvements after the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. The Baroness built the Upper and Lower Pontalba apartment buildings on the square in 1848. The Pontalba family sold the Lower Pontalba building in 1921 and it was given to the state museum in 1927.