Our Yesteryear councilwoman Jackie Clarkson calls the French Quarter “our front porch” and as much as I hate to agree with her, I do sometimes find it impossible to counter everything she says. That statement I agreed with (it is a miracle, but it is still possible we mean it in very different ways. That is how I comfort myself.)
So to continue the marketing, the front porch of the front porch is Jackson Square. What remains amazing about the Square is even with all of the rules and regs that go along with good preservation, “new” still shows up there every once in a while. New art appears on the fence (I didn’t say it was all good art), young musicians show up to replace those now recording and appearing elsewhere and trust me- a new hustle is coming sooner or later from those unwashed over there.
In many ways, Jackson Square is the most modern of places. So, when you walk in a door and head upstairs to see the 1850 House, you might enjoy the juxtaposition.
It’s one of 3 museums on the square and certainly the most invisible one. Found in the middle of the Lower Pontalba block, you pay your small fee and are quite courteously shown the stairs to go up and reminded to take pictures and left alone to do that (well except for the cameras keeping track on every floor).
The stairwell pictured is theirs. I took the picture, because it is certainly a typical stair for the French Quarter, but probably not for any other citizen of the city. Unevenly worn treads and the smooth bannister tells you this has seen some folks.
What is amusing is the central air vents strewn carelessly around the room and the mechanics to manage the system groaning between the “gentleman’s bedroom” and the large back bedroom; Also amusing are the odd little placards explaining what you are looking at:; for the most part, certainly dated with very basic information. What is very nice are the stories of the first tenants of the building: I learned a great deal about the type of resident these apartments attracted and their businesses in New Orleans (first) heyday. I wish someone would find out what happened after mid 1860s in these rooms, but maybe if we start to climb those stairs more regularly and ask, they’ll tell us more.
I liked the back stairs the best with the view of the courtyard. I stood back there for a few minutes, enjoying the sounds from the square but really feeling the lack of activity in this house (really not a house at all anymore). For now the lights go off at 5:30 pm and the door is shut. No families, no mourning, no dinner at the table. Just history.
I wonder who was the last person to live in this building and when. One of those immigrants when it became a “slum” (as alluded to in the language) could tell us a thing or two about life in the 20th century. Any museums for that? I might enjoy a walk through that time too.