615 Pere Antoine Alley
New Orleans, LA 70116
The historic Jackson Square, originally known in the 18th Century as ‘Place d’Armes’ and later renamed in honor of the Battle of New Orleans hero, Andrew Jackson, is a featured attraction in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
This famous landmark facing the Mississippi River is surrounded by historic buildings including the St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere and Cabildo (Louisiana State Museums), the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments (the oldest apartment buildings in the U.S.) with retail shops, museums, galleries and restaurants on the ground level and still used even today as prestigious apartments on the second floor.
For well over a half century, there has been an open-air artist colony at Jackson Square, with artists painting and displaying their work on the outside of the iron fence.
Jackson Square is a favorite site for visitors from all over the world and for locals as well. The artists, restaurants, museums, merchants and the square itself are one of the French Quarter’s most popular destinations.
Jackson Square has always been an open area and the heart of the French Quarter. Originally, known as the Plaza d’Armas, it was a large open common, used at times as military parade grounds, and later as a market place for fish, fowl, and produce.
Jackson Square faces the Mississippi River, and is bounded by the St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo and the Presbytere on Chartres Street (the northwest side), and is flanked by the Upper and Lower Pontalba Apartments along St. Peter and St. Ann Streets. Inside is its namesake, a statue of Andrew Jackson, and hero of the Battle of New Orleans.
Surrounding Jackson Square is a pedestrian mall, and an iron fence that has been used for decades by artists, at times numbering 300 or more, who work and display at Jackson Square. Tourists have, for years, come to Jackson Square to purchase paintings of New Orleans, the French Quarter, and other topics, or to sit in the shade of the oak trees while having their portrait made. Artist at Jackson Square
Tourists have also enjoyed the shops on the ground level of the Pontalba Apartments. They include toys stores, gift and clothing stores, retailers of seasonings and candy, ice cream parlors and restaurants. It is very convenient for those waiting for their turn to have their portrait made.
Jackson Square is not without its share of intrigue, though. If you look inside the fence near the St. Ann Street gates, you can see a musket ball dent in one of the iron bars. According to the story, an enraged woman waited inside the square, and tried to assassinate her husband as he emerged from the building. The bullet hit the fence bar, and he was not injured.
Jackson Square is a historical landmark, and definite tourist mainstay of the French Quarter. For many, Jackson Square is no doubt a quintessential part of the New Orleans Experience, with its filigreed iron gates, planters, and equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson himself. Bordered by the St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square reminds its visitors of the history of New Orleans, while simultaneously paying tribute to one of its most famous historical figures. Jackson Square appeared to be a popular site, featuring large amounts of foot traffic, as well as a variety of artists and performers. Its history, in combination with its clean, manicured landscape, made for a pleasant experience.
Claimed by tourists, artists, palm readers and street performers, in nice weather, Jackson Square is a hub of activity. People layout in the in the grass of the formal square among the statues and topiaries and listen to the fountains and sounds of New Orleans. On the pedestrian pathways that surround it, artists sell their creations (beware of the sometimes absurdly high prices), kids tap dance for loose change, palm readers tell fortunes, and the homeless sit on benches. When we visited a street performer/look-a-like, who I think was supposed to resemble Mohamed Ali, got upset with us because he thought we took his picture and didn’t give him a few bucks. If it is your first time visiting, take a carriage ride from Jackson Square though the French Quarter. Its a history lesson worth the $15 bucks a person.