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42 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About New Orleans

The Big Easy is just full of surprises, like pirates, the Mafia and dental floss.

Amanda Orcutt

5 articles, 0 comments

1. Despite what people may think, New Orleans’ popular Bourbon Street was not named after the whiskey. It was actually named after the Bourbon dynasty of France.

2. Mardi Gras masks aren’t just for fun. It’s illegal to ride on a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans without one.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Jdn

3. The spikes on many poles in the city used to be used to protect the daughters of French aristocrats from unwanted suitors. Today, they’re still helpful, but only to prevent Mardi Gras goers from climbing up the poles.

4. Each seat in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is a different color than the one next to it. This coloring makes it seem like the stadium has a full house, even if doesn’t.

5. Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter is the oldest continuously run restaurant in Louisiana, established in 1840.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Facebook user Antoine’s Restaurant

6. New Orleans has frequently been listed as one of the most haunted cities in America, and for good reason. The city is full of haunted mansions and graveyards and has enough ghost stories to last you a lifetime.

7. Remember to thank New Orleans when sipping on your favorite happy-hour cocktail. America’s first mixed, the sazerac, was created by Antoine Peychard in a French Quarter bar. It’s now the official cocktail of New Orleans.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Didriks

8. New Orleans has more total mileage of canals, both above and below ground, than Venice in Italy.

9. New Orleans dentist Levi Spear Parmly invented the very first form of dental floss.

10. The iconic Andrew Jackson monument in Jackson Square is the world’s first equestrian statue in which the horse has more than one foot off the base.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Frank Kovalchek

11. New Orleans was home to the world’s first permanent for-profit movie theatre, Vitascope Hall.

12. New Orleans is one of the few US cities that has been run under three different flags. It was founded by the French, had a period under Spanish rule, was ruled under the French again and then was eventually sold to the United States.

13. New Orleans was the only place in the world where slaves were allowed to own drums, which eventually lead to the city’s creation of jazz music.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Beadmobile

14. However, while most agree that New Orleans is the “Birthplace of Jazz,” the specific creator of jazz is debated. Some say the music style was born in 1895 when Buddy Bolden started his first band, but others say jazz originated when Nick LaRocca and his band recorded their first jazz record.

15. The death mask of the French military and political leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, is housed in the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans.

16. Baton Rouge may be Louisiana’s capital today, but New Orleans was named state capital twice, once as the capital of the French colony of Louisiana and again in 1864.

17. The first game of Poker was played in New Orleans in the 19th century using a 20-card pack.

18. The St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square is the oldest continuously used cathedral in the US.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Parayitno

19. New Orleans is often called the “Crescent City” because of the distinctive curve of the Mississippi River that runs right through it.

20. City Park, one of the largest urban parks in the nation, used to be a favorite spot for Creole men to meet and duel with pistols and swords.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Infrogmation

21. Today, City Park is much mellower, and is the most popular place in the city for weddings.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user josephaskins

22. The New Orleans based music group, the Dixie Cups, beat out the Beatles for the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1964 with their song, “Chapel of Love.”

23. New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s tomb receives more visitors each year than Elvis Presley’s grave.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Cliff1066

24. Canal Street was once planned to be an actual canal. However, the waterway was never constructed, and it now acts as one of New Orleans’ busiest streets instead.

25. The last major outbreak of yellow fever in the US was in New Orleans in 1905.

26. Although New Orleans’ famed neighborhood may be called the French Quarter, most of the buildings were influenced by Spanish architecture.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Kimberlykv

27. The first opera in America, Ernest Gretry’s “Sylvain,” was performed in New Orleans in 1796.

28. What the rest of the country calls a “median,” New Orleans calls “neutral ground.” The strip of ground in the middle of the road was named after the French and Spanish of the city who could only do business on specific “neutral ground” locations.

29. The LaLaurie Mansion is known as the most haunted place in the French Quarter. The elegant LeLaurie family that originally lived there harbored a secret that was exposed during a fire when firemen discovered dozens of slaves chained to the walls and body parts littered on the floor in a secret attic.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Wikimedia commons user Dropd

30. Despite New Orleans’ reputation as the country’s prime Mardi Gras destination, it wasn’t the first US city to host a Fat Tuesday celebration. Instead, Mobile, Alabama held America’s first Mardi Gras festivity.

31. New Orleans was the first home to the American Mafia and the site of the first Mafia incident in the US.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Nfoka

32. Despite its reputation for Cajun cuisine, the predominant type of New Orleans cooking is Creole.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Jeffreyw

33. The Battle of New Orleans may have been the final major battle of the War of 1812, but it didn’t have much impact on the outcome of the war. The battle took place two weeks after the war had officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. But at least the victory did boost everyone’s national pride.

34. Because the city was built on a swamp, most of the dead in New Orleans are buried in above ground tombs. Everyone would love to see grandma again, just not in that way.

35. New Orleans was the first site of Italian immigration in the Unites States. It also had the largest Italian population in the country, until New York and Baltimore became the preferred immigrant destinations.

36. The Saint Charles streetcar is one of the country’s only mobile national monuments.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire

37. New Orleans’ Louis Joseph Dufilho, Jr was the first pharmacist in America. His apothecary shop on Chartres Street is still there, only now it acts as a pharmacy museum.

38. French pirate Jean Lafitte, who operated in Louisiana, helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British in 1815.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Rosenberg Gallery, Galvenston, Texas via Wikimedia Commons

39. Jazz funerals are a unique part of New Orleans’ history and culture. The music and dancing of the funeral was originally intended to help the deceased find their way to heaven and celebrate their final leaving from Earth.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Derek Bridges

40. Celebrities Ellen DeGeneres, John Goodman, Tyler Perry and Reese Witherspoon are all from New Orleans.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Tulane Public Relations via Wikimedia Commons

41. The site of the now Metairie Cemetery was originally a horse racing track.

42. The Old Ursuline convent is the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley and the oldest surviving example of the French colonial period in the country.
New Orleans Facts

Source: Flickr user Jared422_80

What’s your favorite New Orleans fun fact? Tell us in the comments below!

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posted on: June 26, 2014
53,116 views, 12 comments

12 Comments

  1. Michael brown

    #12. What about the Confederacy?

  2. Matt Ryan

    #34 is wrong too. Even though they signed the treaty of Ghent, had they taken New Orleans they would have torn it up and split the country.

  3. Elaine

    john Goidman is from St. Louis Mosouri, not N. O. His wife so he live there now.

  4. Linda Keenan

    John goodman is not from new orleans

  5. Joey

    #23. WARNING: We catch you desecrating the Glapion tomb (aka Marie Levou tomb) YOU WILL BE ARRESTED!

  6. John-Christopher Ward

    The French Quarter (le Vieux Carré) was rebuilt under the Spanish after the fires of 1788 & 1794 that destroyed over 1000 buildings. However, the Spanish only wrote the building code, the architects who rebuilt the city were from Martinique.
    Antoine Peychaud (not Peychard), an apothecary from Haïti, created the sazerac as a hangover cure for those who had over-indulged in Absinthe. It was at his pharmacy on Royal street, not a bar. It is one of several drinks claimed to be the first cocktail; indeed, one story is that the name “cocktail” derives from Peychaud’s practice of serving the remedy in coquetiers (eggcups) which were used to wash eyes.
    You are right, New Orleans is a Créole city, not Cajun (Cadien). Cajuns make up less than 5% of the city population.

  7. Erika

    while Reese Witherspoon was born in NOLA, same hospital as I was, she is not “from” NEW Orleans. She’s from Tennessee, the name of her third child. Ellen Degeneres lived in nola her junior year of high school, but she’s from Texas. And while John Goodman married a girl from LA, & lives in Longview, he’s not from NOLA, either.

  8. Linda - native of New Orleans

    Food in New Orleans

    New Orleans is world-famous for its food. The indigenous cuisine is distinctive and influential. From centuries of amalgamation of local Creole, haute Creole, and New Orleans French cuisines, New Orleans food has developed. Local ingredients, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, and a hint of Cuban traditions combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable Louisiana flavor.

    Unique specialties include beignets, square-shaped fried pastries that could be called “French doughnuts” (served with coffee and chicory, known as café au lait); Po’boy and Italian Muffaletta sandwiches; Gulf oysters on the half-shell, boiled crawfish, and other seafood; étouffée, jambalaya, gumbo, and other Creole dishes; and the Monday favorite of red beans and rice (Louis Armstrong often signed his letters, “Red beans and ricely yours”). New Orleans residents enjoy some of the best restaurants in the United States that cater specifically to locals, and visitors are encouraged to try the local establishments recommended by their hosts.

  9. will

    The neutral ground was the middle of canal street. And is was to seperate the French/Spanish/Creole who lived in the Quarter and the Americans who lived in the now Garden District.

    This writer learned their history from a Cab Driver or something.

  10. Paul

    I think it’s fairly obvious that Amanda must have gone to journalism school at LSU A&M.

  11. Denise

    Ellen IS from New Orleans – she grew up in Metairie, which is a New Orleans suburb. You’re correct about Reese. John Goodman is also not from New Orleans, but lives in LAKEVIEW now – which is part of New Orleans.

  12. Judy

    The mafia boss Carlos Marcella lived on the Westbank of the Mississippi River in Marrero, La. And Poss lived in Gretna, La.

 

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