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Madame Vieux Carré

The French Quarter in the Twentieth Century

Publication Year: 2010

Celebrated in media and myth, New Orleans's French Quarter (Vieux Carré) was the original settlement of what became the city of New Orleans. In Madame Vieux Carré, Scott S. Ellis presents the social and political history of this famous district as it evolved from 1900 through the beginning of the twenty-first century. From the immigrants of the 1910s, to the preservationists of the 1930s, to the nightclub workers and owners of the 1950s and the urban revivalists of the 1990s, Madame Vieux Carré examines the many different people who have called the Quarter home, who have defined its character, and who have fought to keep it from being overwhelmed by tourism's neon and kitsch. The old French village took on different roles--bastion of the French Creoles, Italian immigrant slum, honky-tonk enclave, literary incubator, working-class community, and tourist playground. The Quarter has been a place of refuge for various groups before they became mainstream Americans. Although the Vieux Carré has been marketed as a free-wheeling, boozy tourist concept, it exists on many levels for many groups, some with competing agendas. Madame Vieux Carré looks, with unromanticized frankness, at these groups, their intentions, and the future of the South's most historic and famous neighborhood. The author, a former Quarter resident, combines five years of research, personal experience, and unique interviews to weave an eminently readable history of one of America's favorite neighborhoods.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. v-vi

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-ix

For New Orleans’s first century, 1718–1818, its history and that of the French Quarter were roughly congruent. The second century, 1818–1918, saw American ascendancy in the city diminishing the role of the original French settlement. The 1917 closing of Storyville, a nominal triumph of alien...

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To Set the Scene

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pp. xi-xiii

La Nouvelle-Orl

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CHAPTER 1. 1900–1920: The Quarter Faces a New Century

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pp. 3-21

Let us step back to a time gone, but still, it seems, just around the next corner in this one special place. Its inhabitants believed in passing fancies, followed street mobs, and listened to long speeches. They were quick to laugh, quick to cry, and sometimes quick to anger—a people whose...

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CHAPTER 2. 1920–1930: The Firebird of Preservation

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pp. 22-35

Preservation of the old, the worn-out, and the frowsy was not an American trait just after World War I. Progress led forward on the wheels of automobiles and the wings of biplanes. The new vernacular of architecture was the skyscraper, the sprawling factory, and the tract house of muddled...

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CHAPTER 3. 1930–1946: The Struggle for the Tout Ensemble

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pp. 36-57

The New York stock market crash of October 1929 sent out ripples—some faster, some slower—across the country. For many reasons, the South was slow to feel the effects. The South was still largely agrarian and had suffered from depressed crop prices throughout the 1920s. Poor southerners had not been able to buy stocks on margin and so were not...

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CHAPTER 4. 1946–1961: Official Vices and Dissenting Voices

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pp. 58-76

Chep Morrison was unlike any mayor New Orleans had seen. Some former mayors had been readily accessible; Martin Behrman (mayor 1904–1920 and 1925–1926) often drove his own horse and buggy around the city,1 and Maestri, at least in his first phase, popped up all...

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CHAPTER 5. 1961–1971: Culture and Counterculture

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pp. 77-92

Monitoring the status quo of the Quarter is a daunting task. Even in such a small enclave, the dense streetscape, the gates and porte cocheres conceal much. Before the 1960s, it depended largely on the Vieux Carr

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CHAPTER 6. INTERLUDE: “Goin’ Down by My Mama’s”: Transportation and the Quarter

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pp. 93-105

The Vieux Carré was originally laid out for pedestrians, horses, and horse-drawn wagons. A few hitching posts may still be seen, bent from many collisions with automobiles. The compact size—about a mile from one end to the other—makes the enclave eminently walkable. The Quarter is one of the last urban areas that may be walked through...

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CHAPTER 7. 1971–1978: Moon Rise

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pp. 106-122

The 1970s would be a time of tremendous change in the Vieux Carr

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pp. 123-132

Port cities around the world are known as havens. Havens for those at the end of the road. Havens for those whose road never started, and, taking root in a landscape of transient people and relative mores, they find refuge from the busybody world beyond. The Vieux Carr

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pp. 133-152

Mass tourism and the Quarter began a long dance in the twentieth century. Even before Saxon and Flo Fields arrived in the teens, the contrast between the archaic old village and the Edwardian spirit of progress was being sold as “charm.” In 1907, the Illinois Central Railroad, in...

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CHAPTER 10. 1978–1994: The Long Slide Down

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pp. 153-183

Sometime around 1974, New Orleans became a majority black city.1 Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization, edited by Arnold R. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon,2 is a concise study of the emergence of black political power in the city. It is interesting to contrast Chai’s 1971 study with the Hirsch and Logsdon volume, which cuts off at 1992. In the...

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CHAPTER 11. INTERLUDE: The Lakeside, Strike Three

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pp. 184-191

The area of North Rampart Street abutting the Quarter had fallen on hard times after the construction of the Iberville housing project in 1940. Removed from the oversight of the VCC in 1946, it had fallen into a political and social limbo. Across North Rampart lay the Faubourg Trem

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CHAPTER 12. INTERLUDE: Time and Life in the Quarter

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pp. 192-199

Time is different in New Orleans and especially so in the Quarter. Yes, there are calendars and clocks, but in the main, they are simply onlookers, not pacesetters of life as elsewhere. Time here ebbs, flows, loops back on itself, passes slower than molasses and faster than a schnapps shooter. The rising of the sun signals the end of a night in the bars. The...

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CHAPTER 13. 1994–2000: A Dance Before the Rain

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pp. 200-225

Mississippi, New Orleans’s morally dour, sometimes sour, and ever-conservative eastern neighbor, had authorized casino gambling, on a local-option basis, in 1990.1 Other communities, such as Deadwood, South Dakota, had authorized gambling, hoping to emulate the riches of Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Natives of the Mississippi Gulf...

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CHAPTER 14. 2000 AND ON: Into the New Century

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pp. 226-244

The Vieux Carré and its full-time residents live on an island shrinking in intangible but palpable ways. As condos displace apartments, the number of year-round residents has dropped to historic lows. At this writing, the number of permanent residents seems somewhere in the low thousands. The Vieux Carré’s status as the crown jewel of the city’s tourist trade keeps that aspect on the mind of the city government. It also...


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pp. 245-288


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pp. 289-309


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pp. 311-316

E-ISBN-13: 9781604733594
E-ISBN-10: 1604733594
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604733587
Print-ISBN-10: 1604733586

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010