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New Orleans, Louisiana

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New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana, United States of America, an industrial and distribution center, and a major seaport. The city is on the banks of the Mississippi River about 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico at 30.07N, 89.93W. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 484,674. This figure does not include the suburbs in neighboring Jefferson Parish, Saint Bernard and other nearby communities; the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area is estimated to have a population of about 1 million. By law and government, the city of New Orleans and the parish of Orleans are one and the same.

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History Colonial Era New Orleans was founded by the French under the direction of Jean Baptiste Lemoyne[?], Sieur de Bienville, in 1718 and became the capital of French Louisiana[?] in 1722. In 1763 the colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire as a secret provision of the Treaty of San Ildefonso[?], but no Spanish governor came to take control until 1766. Some of the early French settlers were never quite happy with Spanish rule, and repeatedly petitioned to be returned to French control. A fire destroyed 856 buildings in the city on March 21, 1788, and another destroyed 212 buildings in December of 1794; after this brick replaced wood as the main building material. The population of New Orleans also suffered from epidemics of Yellow Fever, Malaria, and Smallpox, which would periodically return throughout the 19th century until the successful supression of the city's final outbreak of Yellow Fever in 1905. In 1795 Spain granted the United States "Right of Deposit" in New Orleans, allowing Americans to use the city's port facilities. Louisiana reverted to French control in 1801 after Napoleon's conquest of Spain, but in 1803 Napoleon sold Louisiana (which at the time also included the territory which are now several other states) to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase (See). At this time the city of New Orleans had a population of about 10,000 people.

New Orleans in the 19th Century. From early days it was noted for its cosmopolitan polyglot population and mixture of cultures. The city grew rapidly, with influxes of both Americans and French and Creole French (many of the latter fleeing from the revolution in Haiti). During the War of 1812 the British sent a force to try to conquer the city, but they were defeated by the forces led by Andrew Jackson some miles down river from the city at Chalmette, Louisiana on January 8, 1815 (commonly known as the Battle of New Orleans).

New Orleans was the capital of the state of Louisiana until 1849, then again from 1865 to 1880. In the early 19th century it became the United States' largest city away from the Atlantic seaboard, as well as the largest in the South. As a principle port it had a leading role in the slave trade, while at the same time having North America's largest community of free persons of color. Early in the American Civil War it was captured by the Union without a battle, and hence was spared the destruction suffered by many other cities of the American South. It retains a historical flavor with a wealth of 19th century structures far beyond the early colonial city boundaries of the French Quarter. The city hosted the 1884 World's Fair, called the World Cotton Centennial. An important attraction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the famous red light district called Storyville.

New Orleans in the 20th Century. Much of the city is located below sea level and is bordered by the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, so the city is surrounded by levees. Until the early 20th century construction was largely limited to the slightly higher ground along old natural river levees and bayous, since much of the rest of the land was swampy and subject frequent flooding. This gave the 19th century city the shape of a crescent along a bend of the Mississippi, the origin of New Orleans nickname The Crescent City. In the 1910s engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood enacted his ambitious plan to drain the city, including large pumps of his own design which are still used when heavy rains hit the city. Wood's pumps and drainage allowed the city to expand greatly in area.

In the 1920s an effort to "modernize" the look of the city removed the old cast-iron balconies from Canal Street, the city's commercial hub. In the 1960s another "modernization" effort replaced the Canal Streetcar Line with busses. Both of these moves came to be regarded as mistakes long after the fact, and the streetcars returned to a portion of Canal Street at the end of the 1990s, and construction to restore the entire line is underway.

The suburb of Metairie, Louisiana saw great growth in the 2nd half of the 20th century.

While long one of the USA's most visited cities, tourisim boomed in the last quarter of the 20th century, becoming a major force in the local economy. Areas of the French Quarter and Central Business District long oriented towards local residence and businesses became focused on the tourist industry.

A century after the Cotton Centennial Exhibition, New Orleans hosted another World's Fair, the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition[?].

New Orleans Today

New Orleans is well known for its creole culture and the persistence of Voodoo by a few of its residents, as well as for its music, food, architecture and good times.

New Orleans is usually pronounced by locals "Noo Or-lins" or "Noo OR-lee-anns". The distinctive local accent is unlike either Cajun or the stereotypical Southern accent so often misportrayed by film and television actors. The City has the nicknames the Crescent City the Big Easy, and the City that Care Forgot. Many visitors consider New Orleans' motto to be "Laissez le bon temps rouler", or, "Let the good times roll".

Favorite tourist scenes in New Orleans include the French Quarter (known locally as "the Quarter"), which dates from the French and Spanish eras and is bounded by the Mississippi River and Rampart Street, Canal Street and Esplanade Ave. A popular visiting spot in the quarter is the French Market (including the Cafe du Monde, famous for cafe au lait and beignets[?]). Other popular neighborhoods include the Marigny, Treme, The Central Business District (formerly known as The American Quarter), Bywater, Mid-City, Carrolton, and the Garden District. The Natchez, an authentic steamboat with calliope (pronounced callyope) tours the Mississippi twice daily.

There are two active streetcar lines, the Riverfront line (also known as the Ladies in Red since the cars are painted red) which runs parallel to the river from Canal Street through the French Quarter, and the St. Charles line (green cars, along a line in continuous operation since the 1830s, formerly connecting New Orleans with the then independent suburb of Carrolton). The city is also the scene of the Tennessee Williams play "A Streetcar Named Desire". The streetcar line to Desire Street became a bus line in 1948, but will be restored as a light rail line.

St Charles avenue is home to Tulane and Loyola Universities, and many stately 19th century mansions; as well as Audubon Park.

Because of the high water table, New Orleans cemeteries mostly use above ground crypts rather than under-ground burial. New Orleans created its own spin on the old tradition of military brass band[?] funerals; traditional New Orleans funerals with music feature sad music (mostly dirges and hymns) on the way to the cemetery and happy music (hot jazz) on the way back. Such traditional musical funerals still takes place when a local musician, a member of a club, Krewe, or benevolent society, or a noted dignitary has passed. Until the 1990s most locals preferred to call these "funerals with music", but out of town visitors have long dubbed them "jazz funerals". Younger bands, especially those based in the Treme[?] neighborhood, have embraced the term and now have funerals featuring only jazz music.

New Orleans has always been a center for music with its intertwined European, Latin American, and African-American cultures. The city engendered jazz with its brass bands. Decades later it was home to a distinctive brand of rhythm and blues that contributed greatly to the growth of rock and roll. In addition, the nearby countryside is the home of Cajun music, Zydeco music and Delta blues.

The city is also famous for its food. Specialties include Po'boy and Muffaletta sandwiches; Gulf oysters and other seafoods; etoufee[?], jambalaya[?], gumbo[?] and other Creole dishes; and the Monday evening favorite of red beans and rice. (Louis Armstrong often signed his letters, "red beans and ricely yours".)

New Orleans' most famous celebration is its Mardi Gras (literally, "Fat Tuesday"; known in other cities as Carnival), which is held just before the beginning of the Christian liturgical season of Lent. Mardi Gras celebrations include parades and floats; participants toss strings of cheap colorful beads and doubloons to the crowds. The Mardi Gras season is kicked off with the only parade allowed through the French Quarter, a walking parade aptly named "Krewe du Vieux". (Vieux Carre being another name for the Quarter)

New Orleans is the home of the New Orleans Saints National Football League team and the New Orleans Zephyrs[?] minor league baseball team. Until 1957, their team was The New Orleans Pelicans. The Charlotte Hornets[?] of the National Basketball Association are scheduled to move to the city for the 2002-2003 season.

Famous residents include musicians Fats Domino, Dr. John[?], Pete Fountain, actor John Goodman[?], chefs Paul Prudhomme[?] and Emeril Lagasse[?], and author Anne Rice.

New Orleanians who attained note or fame have included:

If a street huckster tells you, "I can tell you where you got dem' shoes!" you can tell them "I know, I got deze shoes right here on Bourbon Street in New Orleans (or whatever street you happen to be standing on at that moment)."

Geography According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 907.0 km² (350.2 mi²). 467.6 km² (180.6 mi²) of it is land and 439.4 km² (169.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 48.45% water.

Demographics As of the census of 2000, there are 484,674 people, 188,251 households, and 112,950 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,036.4/km² (2,684.3/mi²). There are 215,091 housing units at an average density of 459.9/km² (1,191.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 28.05% White, 67.25% African American, 0.20% Native American, 2.26% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.93% from other races, and 1.28% from two or more races. 3.06% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 188,251 households out of which 29.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.8% are married couples living together, 24.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 40.0% are non-families. 33.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.48 and the average family size is 3.23.

In the city the population is spread out with 26.7% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 33 years. For every 100 females there are 88.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $27,133, and the median income for a family is $32,338. Males have a median income of $30,862 versus $23,768 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,258. 27.9% of the population and 23.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 40.3% are under the age of 18 and 19.3% are 65 or older.


See also: French Quarter, Louisiana, Mississippi River



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