Did You Know?

Rue is French for Street…Bourbon Street

Rue Bourbon is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Bourbon Street is in the French Quarter in NOLA. For at least a couple hundred years the French Quarter and Bourbon Street have been a welcoming point for tens of thousands world travelers. Today Bourbon Street is home to. Never ending celebration of life and all things wild.

1700 to 1880

The French claimed Louisiana in the 1690s, and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville was appointed Director General in charge of developing a colony in the territory. He founded New Orleans in 1718. In 1721, the royal engineer Adrien de Pauger designed the city’s street layout. He named the streets after French royal houses and Catholic saints. He paid homage to France’s ruling family, the House of Bourbon, with the naming of Bourbon Street.

New Orleans was given to the Spanish in 1763 following the Seven Years War. In 1788, fire destroyed 80 percent of the city’s buildings. The Spanish rebuilt many of the damaged structures, which are still standing today. For this reason, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter display Spanish and French influence

Following a brief restoration of French rule, the Americans gained control of the colony with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. They translated the French street names into English, with Rue Bourbon becoming Bourbon Street.

From Upper Class Residential Area to Red Light District

The French Quarter was central to this image of cultural legacy and became the best-known part of the city. Recent arrivals in New Orleans criticized the perceived loose morals of the Creoles, a perception that drew many travelers to New Orleans to drink, gamble and visit the city’s brothels, beginning in the 1880s.

Bourbon Street was a premier residential area prior to 1900. This changed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the Storyville red-light district was constructed on Basin Street adjacent to the French Quarter. The area became known for prostitution, gambling and vaudeville acts. 

Jazz is said to have developed here, with artists such as King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton musical entertainment at the brothels.

This was also the era when some of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants were founded, including Galatoire’s, located at 209 Bourbon Street. Established in 1905, it was known for years by its characteristic line snaking down Bourbon Street, patrons waited for hours just to get a table — especially on Fridays.

Before World War II, the French Quarter was emerging as a major asset to the city’s economy. However, during WWII, the wartime influx of people, property owners opened adult-centered nightclubs to capitalize on the city’s risqué image. Wartime Bourbon Street was memorably depicted in Erle Stanley Gardner’s detective novel Owls Don’t Blink.

After the war, Bourbon Street became the new Storyville in terms of reputation. By the 1940s and 1950s, nightclubs lined Bourbon Street. Over 50 different burlesque shows, striptease acts and exotic dancers could be found.

Walk this way… on life’s wild side on Bourbon Street.

Debora Ragland Buerk
The Write Stuff
Looking at life from a different POV.

Learn more about the history of the French Quarter on Wikipedia.