Kenny Klein with Stapler

Kenny Klein with Stapler

Monday, November 12, 2012


 In my last post, I mentioned that I've moved to a new home. I thought I'd give you a little tour of my new place, and of my new neighborhood.

For the last two years I'd lived in Pigeon Town (a mispronunciation of “pension town”), an area on the Riverbend, just a few blocks from the levee. It was as “uptown,” or as far west, as one could be and still be in the city of New Orleans and inside Orleans Parish.

The new place is much closer to Downtown, (i.e. the French Quarter, the Marigny and the Bywater). We're in the 11th Ward, in an area called the Lower Garden District. This is a much nicer neighborhood than Pigeon Town (really, MUCH nicer), and famous for many things. Let me take you on a little spin around the hood, stupid musical references and all.

Let's start with the new place:


And if you follow the reference, there are actually four feral cats in the yard, all of whom our black cat Bansidhe seems to have befriended (although Bansidhe is not very happy about the move, generally speaking). 

The building our apartment is in, and the building next door, are turn-of-the-century mansions that were converted to apartment buildings. The house next door is much creepier and goth-y than ours, and still has a servant's quarters and a stable gate; ours has a cherry-picker truck in the driveway. We're on Carondelet, one block in from Saint Charles, where the street car runs, and where the Mardi Gras parades pass. I assume many of our friends will all want to stay with us in February. We are also just a few blocks from Lafayette Cemeteries #1 (the prettiest cemetery in N. O.) and #2 (the creepiest cemetery in N. O.), and from laSalle Park, where the Mardi Gras Indians hold their annual St. Joseph parade. I am very excited about this. 

 Above: our sun room window: below, the awesome goth-y, creepy building next door.

 The awesome courtyard, with the old carriage entrance (above) and the stable hands quarters, now studio apartments (below).

 The entire property features amazing wrought iron details, all of it looking like the century-old relic that it is.

Below, a spot where a tree has grown into the fence and formed its trunk around the iron.

Yea, we have a koi pond. Who doesn't? Below, the pond; above, an M. C. Escher-esque little scene.


Really, you have to go through the front door to the rest of the Lower Garden District. The LGD is bounded by Saint Charles Avenue, though the area creeps past it to Carondelet and a little beyond; Magazine Street to the southwest, where most of the city's shi-shi and chic go to shop; Louisiana Street to the west and Jackson street to the east. Past Magazine one is in an area that merges into the Irish Channel, also pretty swanky. And past Louisiana to the west one enters the main area of the Garden District, just as nice. 

Above, Commander's Palace, world renown restaurant on Washington and Prytania; directly across the street is Lafayette Cemetery #1, below. Note the tourists; groups of tourists visit Lafayette #1 every day. 

Tourists seldom visit creepy Lafayette Cemetery #2, just a few blocks away.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about my new 'hood:

“This whole area was once a number of plantations, including the Livaudais Plantation. It was sold off in parcels to mainly wealthy Americans who did not want to live in the French Quarter with the Creoles. It became a part of the city of Lafayette in 1833, and was annexed by New Orleans in 1852. The district was laid out by New Orleans architect, planner and surveyor Barthelemy Lafon.
Originally the area was developed with only a couple of houses per block, each surrounded by a large garden, giving the district its name. In the late 19th century some of these large lots were subdivided as Uptown New Orleans became more urban. This has produced a pattern for much of the neighborhood of any given block having a couple of early 19th century mansions surrounded by "gingerbread" decorated late Victorian houses. Thus the "Garden District" is now known for its architecture more than gardens per se.”

Most of those large plantation-style houses are still here, the mansions of the Garden District. Let's look at a few...

Just down the street from our house is the Van Benthuysen-Elms mansion. Captain Watson Van Benthuysen II (1833-1901) was a yankee-born Confederate officer, who after the war became very wealthy, owning a share of the street car line and the telephone company. He had this house built in 1869. After his death, the home belonged to Adolf Karl Georg Edgar Baron Spiegel von und zu Peckelsheim, who used his position as German consulate to spy on U. S. shipping for the Nazis. For this reason, Lauren and I call it 'the spy house.' The Elms family bought the house in  1951, and it is currently used for filming and events. Scenes from the Winona Ryder film Little Women were filmed here.

 Also just down our street is the Judge Clark mansion, built by the judge in 1849. Later Colonel George Soule moved the house from it's original site on Saint Charles avenue to just down our street.

(Below) spires on a local mansion house, and below that, cool looking mansion on eighth street.

 Above: Mansion with an art garden. Below are details of art on the mansion's property.

Below: The Manse, 1859. At one time a noted designer of Mardi Gras floats lived here. 

Above and Below: The Morris-Downman house, 1888. In 1907 the house was occupied by Robert Henry Downman, who reigned as Rex, King of Carnivale. The house has been occupied by Downman's descendents ever since. It is the only remaining home of a Rex on the parade route, so each year the parade is briefly halted, and the Rex and his krewe stop here for a toast.

 I just really liked the way the shadow of the staircase fell on this mansion, above, seen through the southern live oak trees that line our streets.

 Hey, buddy...Wanna buy a mansion? I was surprised by the number of mansions I saw for sale. A sign of the times?

No matter how nice the houses are, like everywhere else in New Orleans, the sidewalks are a mess.


One truism of New Orleans is that the houses here are colorful. That's nowhere truer than in the LGD and the Irish Channel. Here are some colorful shotgun style houses around my neighborhood:

 Above: I took these photos in November. New Orleans is a city with a great deal of political fervor. Many peoples' political signs and messages were still up a week after the elections.

 Photographer Fernando Cundin in front of his beautiful home on Eighth. Below, his address on a sign in NOLA's Southern folk-art style.


Beside mansions, we have some amazing parks in the LGD. Camp street, just past magazine, has a great park that runs along the neutral ground (the median between one-way lanes).

The park features a fountain, above, and walking/jogging/biking lanes, below. 

 The lowest streets in the LGD (closest to the CBD) are named after the nine Greek Muses. At the edge of the park, on Terpsichore street, is this delightful statue of that Muse, the Muse of dance.


I feel like I'm going a little heavy on CSNY... but really, Woodstock is a Joni Mitchell song, so I feel OK about this. So about the flags...

I know people everywhere hang flags outside their homes: American (or Canadian) flags, state flags... but here in NOLA flags are a major form of communication, and a show of local pride. Here are some of the rather colorful flags I found around the hood:

 Flag shop on Magazine street, above. Harvest display with flag, below.

Above: The unofficial New Orleans flag: purple and gold replace red and white stripes, and fleur de lis replace stars.

The official New Orleans flag, the fleur de lis (above). 

 American and Norwegian flags on a mansion in the LGD.

Above: At the Van Benthuysen-Elms mansion, four flags are flown: the U. S. flag, the Louisiana flag, the flag of France, and the colonial Spanish flag. Louisiana has been part of France, Spain, and the U. S. during its history. While it is also part of our history, political correctness precludes flying the Stars and Bars. 


We have some very beautiful native trees in Louisiana. Many houses are surrounded by these clusters of trees, which I have been told are myrtle (see comment below).

The tree that dominates the city is the huge, powerful southern live oak. Many of these trees are three centuries old. On eighth street, I found this amazing oak that had apparently been bent by some storm, but did not fall. While it has obviously been pruned well to keep it from blocking traffic, the oak grows bent over the street, its branches allowed to tangle into power lines and phone poles.

So that's my new neighborhood. Hope you like it!

 Um, yea, that's for real...

From the lovely streets of the Lower Garden District, this is Kenny Klein explaining it all.