Creole - Architectual Achievements


creole culture in the South. A census today shows that Creoles hold ethnic majority in the city, but only architecture and its accompanying records uncover the important role men and women of African heritage played in developing this port city. Since 1726 talented architects and builders, ironworkers, and real estate developers have emerged from this community of personnes de couleur libres, free persons of color.

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The golden age in New Orleans for those Creoles fortunate enough to be free was the 1830's and 1840's when they produced notable architects and builders, artists and musicians, as well as manufacturers and entrepreneurs in wide variety of businesses. That golden age is captured in the buildings they built and lived in.  With the advent of the Civil War three-fourths of the buildings lots in Faubourg Marigny had been owned at least one time by gens de couleur libres.

The numbers in Faubourg Treme surpassed that. For example, Aristide Mary, a free man of color, inherited from his Caucasian father major buildings on Canal Street in the new American sector, and leased both residential and commercial property to prominent creoles and Americans prior to and following the Civil War. He used the profits in 1892 to instigate the far-reaching lawsuit Plessy v. Ferguson, led by Faubourg Treme French Speaking creoles of color Homere Plessy and the writer Rudolphe Desdunes. Their efforts to test the constitutionality of the Jim Crow law resulted in the establishment of the separate but equal doctrine in public areas. In these ways and others, New Orleans persons of color profoundly affected American history.

These men and women are gone, but their neighborhoods with buildings as solid as the social and legal effects of their endeavors remain. House Histories

disclose that most persons of color who owned real estate owned slaves, too. These slaves were tied to the properties of their owners, rural and urban. In fact, slaves, like some real estate, often were included with the land title-not by law-but by tradition. Examination of property titles shows how slaves were sold or manumitted, how they bought their freedom or how they were exchanged in tandem with house sales and property settlements.

   Only in New Orleans will building-watching, supplemented by archival findings, reveal the full spectrum of