New Orleans is located in Southeastern Louisiana along the Mississippi River. The city is bordered by Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the east and is coextensive with Orleans Parish. It is named after Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, Regent of France, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. New Orleans is known for its multicultural heritage as well as its music and cuisine and is considered the birthplace of jazz.
Its status as a world-famous tourist destination is due in part to its architecture, music, cuisine, its annual Mardi Gras, and other celebrations and festivals. It has been called the "most unique city in America". The city's several nicknames are illustrative:
- Crescent City alludes to the course of the Mississippi River around and through the city.
- The Big Easy was possibly a reference by musicians in the early 1900s to the relative ease of finding work there. According to an August 1987 article in The Times-Picayune, it also alludes to the fewer restrictions on alcohol. The term was used by local columnist Betty Gillaud in the 1970s to contrast life in the city to that of New York City. The name also refers to New Orleans' status as a major city, at one time "one of the cheapest places in America to live" and came into popular usage throughout the United States in the wake of the 1987 film The Big Easy, which was set in New Orleans.
- The City that Care Forgot refers to the outwardly easy-going, carefree nature of many of the residents.
- America's Most Interesting City appears on welcome signs at the city limits.
- Hollywood South is a reference to the large number of films, big and small, shot in the city since 2002.
The Greater New Orleans population was approximately 1.4 million people prior to Hurricane Katrina (the metro area had rebounded to 1.2 million since, according to the Census Bureau). The population of the city itself was 484,674 according to the 2000 US Census. The Bureau released a population estimate of 223,000 in July 2006; the population as of March 2007 remains unknown. For more information, see the section on Demographics below.
Beginnings through the 19th centuryEdit
La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. In 1763, the French colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire and remained under Spanish control for 40 years. Most of the surviving architecture of the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) dates from this Spanish period. Louisiana reverted to French control in 1801, but Napoleon sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase two years later. The city grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French, and Creole French.
As a principal port, New Orleans had a leading role in the slave trade, while at the same time having the most prosperous community of free persons of color in the South. The population of the city doubled in the 1830s, and, by 1840, New Orleans had become the wealthiest and third most populous city in the nation.
The Union captured New Orleans early in the American Civil War. This action spared the city the destruction suffered by many other cities of the American South.
In the early 20th century, New Orleans was a progressive major city whose most portentous development was a drainage plan devised by engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood. Urban development until then was largely limited to higher ground along natural river levees and bayous. Wood's pump system allowed the city to expand into low-lying areas. Over the 20th century, rapid subsidence, both natural and human-induced, left these newly-populated areas several feet below sea level. New Orleans was vulnerable to flooding even before the age of negative elevation. In the late 20th century, however, scientists and New Orleans residents gradually became aware of the city's increased vulnerability. Hurricane Betsy in 1965 had killed dozens of residents even though the majority of the city remained dry. The rain-induced 1995 flood demonstrated the weakness of the pumping system.
Hurricanes Katrina and RitaEdit
New Orleans, like many coastal and river delta cities, has long been vulnerable to flooding. By the time Hurricane Katrina approached the city at the end of August 2005, most residents had evacuated. Storm surge pushed ashore by the hurricane caused the city to suffer the worst civil engineering disaster in American history. Floodwalls, called "levees," constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed, and 80% of the city flooded. Tens of thousands of remaining residents were rescued by helicopter or otherwise made their way to shelters of last resort at the Louisiana Superdome or the Morial Convention Center. Over 1,500 people died.
The city was declared off-limits to residents while clean-up efforts began. The approach of Hurricane Rita caused repopulation efforts to be postponed.
Post Disaster RevivalEdit
In July 2006 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated 223,000 people living in New Orleans (half the city's pre-Katrina size); the actual population as of March 2007 remains unknown. Population demographers, the mayor's office, and others believe, after discussions with still-displaced residents, that residents will gradually return to the region throughout the next couple of years. Efforts continue to rebuild infrastructure, pick up hurricane-related debris, and restore a level of normality to the residents of New Orleans. Most of the residents that are still displaced continue to wait for federal assistance in the form of Kathleen Blanco's "Road Home" program, Small Business Administration loans and other forms of financial assistance to return to their home regions.
Several major tourist events as well as other forms of revenue for the city of New Orleans have returned. The National Association of Realtors held its annual convention in New Orleans, as planned before Hurricane Katrina. With over 25,000 attendees, this was the largest convention in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, however that record will be broken when the College of Cardiology holds their convention in New Orleans which will bring 30,000 the week of March 23, 2007 to become the largest convention. The Bayou Classic, the traditional football game between Southern University and Gambling State University, returned in November 2006 after being displaced to Houston for its November 2005 game. The Essence Music Festival has made a commitment to return to the Crescent City for its July 2007 date after being displaced to Houston in July 2006. Other major events such as Mardi Gras and the Jazz and Heritage Festival were never displaced and have continued as planned. The NFL made a commitment to the city with the return of the New Orleans Saints, following speculation of a move to San Antonio, or Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina, and there is the possibility of a 2012 or 2013 Super Bowl. The NBA has made a commitment with the return of the New Orleans Hornets, which played part time in the 2006-2007 season (one game per month) and will play full time for the 2007-2008 season. New Orleans has been granted the 2008 NBA All Star Game, which usually generates millions of dollars in revenue for its host city. Tulane University hosted the first and second rounds of the 2007 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. In mid-March 2007, news spread about private investors trying to bring a Major League Soccer team to New Orleans, but whether or not New Orleans can support another professional team is under speculation. Several national travel guides have once again listed New Orleans as one of the top five places to visit in the country. Many New Orleans phone book companies have stated the need to issue new phone books just seven months after the release of their previous ones due to a high rate of returning residents and businesses.
New Orleans is located on the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. According to the US Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 907 km² (350.2 mi²). 467.6 km² (180.6 mi²) of it is land and 439.4 km² (169.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 48.45% water.
The city is located in the Mississippi Plain north of the Mississippi River and south of Lake Pontchartrain. The area along the river is characterized by ridges and hollows. Fields atop the ridges along the river are referred to as "the frontlands." The land contour slopes away from the frontlands to "the backlands", which are comprised of clay and silt.
The city of New Orleans has the lowest elevation in the state of Louisiana, and the third lowest point in the US, after Death Valley and the Salton Sea. Much of the city is one to ten feet (0.3 to 3 m) below sea level. Areas above sea level are primarily adjacent to the Mississippi River. These were the areas developed before 1900. Rainwater is pumped into Lake Pontchartrain via a series of canals lined by levees, dikes, and floodwalls. Because of the city's high water table, most houses do not have basements. In the cemeteries, most crypts are above ground. The city has considered passing a building code that would require all new residences being constructed on negatively elevated ground to have a garage and storage level on the first floor to protect people's living spaces from floodwaters.
The Central Business District of New Orleans is located immediately north and west of the Mississippi River, and was historically called the "American Quarter." Most streets in this area fan out from a central point in the city. Major streets of the area include Canal and Poydras Streets. In the local parlance "downtown" means "downriver from Canal Street," while "uptown" means "upriver from Canal Street." Downtown neighborhoods include the French Quarter, Treme, the 7th Ward, Faubourg-Marigny, Bywater (the Upper Ninth Ward), and the Lower Ninth Ward. Uptown neighborhoods include the Garden District, the Irish Channel, the University District, Carrollton, Gert Town, Fontainebleau, and Broadmoor.
Other major districts within the city include Bayou St. John, Mid-City, Gentilly, Lakeview, Lakefront, New Orleans East, and Algiers.
Parishes located adjacent to the city include St. Tammany Parish to the north, St. Bernard Parish to the south and east, Plaquemines Parish to the south and southeast, and Jefferson Parish to the south and west.
The climate of New Orleans is humid subtropical, with short, generally mild winters and hot, humid summers. In January, morning lows average around 43°F (5°C), and daily highs around 62°F (17°C). In July, lows average 74°F (23°C), and highs average 91°F (33°C). The lowest recorded temperature was 11°F (-11.7°C) on December 23, 1989. The highest recorded temperature was 102°F (38.9°C) on August 22, 1980. The average precipitation is 64.2 inches (1630 mm) annually; the summer months are the wettest, while October is the driest month. Precipitation in winter usually accompanies the passing of a cold front. Hurricanes also pose a severe threat to the area, and the city is particularly vulnerable because of its low elevation. According to a recent report by The Weather Channel, the city is the most vulnerable in the country when it comes to hurricanes. New Orleans experiences snowfall only on rare occasions. Most recently, a small amount of snow fell during the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm. On December 25, a combination of rain, sleet, and snow fell on the city, leaving some bridges icy. Before that, the last White Christmas was in 1954 and brought 4.5 inches (110 mm). The last significant snowfall in New Orleans fell on December 22, 1989, when most of the city received 1 or 2 inches of snow.
Even though the Census Bureau is aware of the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the 2000 US Census count for New Orleans of 484,674 is the last official number on record for New Orleans. The Census Bureau estimated that 223,000 people were living in New Orleans in mid-summer 2006. The Census Bureau's numbers are in line with other population demographer numbers and mayor Ray Nagin stands firmly behind the Census Bureau's numbers. Janet Murguia, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil-rights and advocacy organization in the United States stated that there could be up to 120,000 Hispanic workers in New Orleans and according to the Census Bureau's population count would push the city's current population to more than 320,000. A more precise population number won't be known until the Census Bureau's official population count in 2010.
By 2010, New Orleans officials expect the city's population to be anywhere in the mid to upper 300,000 range or even low to mid 400,000 range (from both new and returning residents), as more housing will be brought onto the market. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has stated that public housing developments, which were originally going to be torn down, are going to be re-opened temporarily; the public housing developments will be redeveloped but will be done in phases. Congress has demanded H.U.D show solid plans for the housing developments or the new Democratic controlled Congress will order the immediate restoration and reopening of all units that were occupied before the flood on August 1, 2007. On March 21, 2007, the House of Representatives passed a bill blocking any demolition of housing developments until H.U.D. shows solid plans, informing H.U.D that they must contact all former developments on August 1, 2007 and that the buildings must be livable by October 2007. The House's measure must be approved by the Senate. Developers who take advantage of federal tax credits to build other low income and affordable housing should help residents to return to the region. Also, as residents receive federal grant money, even more people should return to the region.
The Latino population is increasing in post-Katrina New Orleans, due in part to many moving there to help rebuild the city.
As of the Census of 2000, there were 484,674 people, 188,251 households, and 112,950 families residing in the city. The most recent (2005, taken two months before Katrina) population estimate for the city is 454,865. The Pop. density was 1,036.4/km² (2,684.3/mi²). There were 215,091 housing units at an average density of 459.9/km² (1,191.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 67.25% African American, 28.05% White, 0.20% Native American, 2.26% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.93% from other races, and 1.28% from two or more races. 3.06% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
The population of Greater New Orleans stood at 1,337,726 in 2000, making it the 35th largest metropolitan area in the United States. These population statistics are based on legal residents of the city. Due to the enormous annual tourist flow, the number of people inside the city at a given time, such as Mardi Gras season, tends to exceed these numbers sometimes by the hundreds of thousands.
There were 188,251 households, out of which 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.8% were married couples living together, 24.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 40% were non-families, 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.23.
The age distribution of the city's population is 26.7% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 88.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,133, and the median income for a family was $32,338. Males had a median income of $30,862 versus $23,768 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,258. 27.9% of the population and 23.7% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 40.3% of those under the age of 18 and 19.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
New Orleans is notably absent from the Protestant Bibe Belt that dominates religion in the Southern US. In New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast area, the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Within the Archdiocese of New Orleans itself, 35.9% percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Catholicism has been present in New Orleans since its initial founding and continues to have an extremely strong presence in the surrounding area. This is reflected in the city's many parochial schools, architecture, and festivals, including Mardi Gras.
Compared to other areas in the immediate region, the greater New Orleans area has a significant Jewish population, estimated at around 10,000 pre-Katrina. Some famous people from the New Orleans Jewish community include David Oreck and Harry Connick, Jr..
New Orleans also famously has a presence of its distinctive variety of Voodoo, due in part to syncretism with Roman Catholic beliefs, the fame of voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, and New Orleans' distinctly Caribbean cultural influences. However, the practice of Voodoo within the city has been highly exploited by the tourism industry.
New Orleans has a high violent crime rate. Its homicide rate has consistently ranked in the top five of large cities in the country since the 1980s along with Detroit, Miami, Washington, DC, and Atlanta. Homicides peaked at 425 in 1994, a homicide rate of 86 per 100,000, which has not been matched by any major US city to date. The homicide rate rose and fell year to year throughout the late 1990s, but the overall trend from 1994 to 1999 was a steady reduction in homicides.
From 1999 to 2004, the homicide rate again increased. New Orleans had the highest homicide rate of any major American city in 2002 (53.3 per 100,000 people), and again retained the highest homicide rate in 2003, with 275 homicide according to this. It should be stated that the actual number of homicides in New Orleans has decreased since the bloody year of 1994 when 425 people were slain and New Orleans had the distinction of being the "per capita murder capital of the U.S." The number of homicides in 2004 were about 275, cutting the 1994 number in half.
Violent crime is a serious problem for New Orleans residents, especially African Americans, yet far less of a problem for tourists. As in other U.S. cities of comparable size, the incidence of homicide and other violent crimes is highly concentrated in certain low-income city neighborhoods, such as housing projects, that are sites of open air drug trade, which includes its suburbs, was 24.4 per 100,000 in 2002.
After Hurricane Katrina, media attention focused on the reduced violent crime rate following the exodus of many New Orleanians. That trend is beginning to reverse itself as more residents return to the city, although calculating the homicide rate remains difficult given that no authoritative source can cite a total population figure. Regardless, statistics showing that violent crime is beginning to return to the city.
There were 22 homicides in July 2006, the same as the monthly average for the city from 2002 until Hurricane Katrina, when the population was much higher. There were 161 homicides in 2006. Tulane University Demographer Mark VanLandingham puts New Orleans' per capita homicide rate at 96 per 100,000 people in 2006, the highest in the nation. Unlike previous studies, VanLandingham's study takes into account the change in population during the year. The study also made a comparison to the 2004 homicide rate and found it to be 68 percent higher. However, as stated above VanLandingham can't cite an authoritative population figure to determine a murder rate. On Thursday, January 11, 2007, several thousand New Orleans residents marched through city streets and gathered at City Hall for a rally demanding police and city leaders tackle the crime problem. Mayor Ray Nagin said he was "totally and solely focused" on attacking the problem. The city of New Orleans implemented checkpoints starting in early January 2007 from the hours of 2 a.m and 6 a.m. in high crime areas, and, as of January 20, 2007, they had made over 60 arrests and issued more than 100 citations. It is believed that the checkpoints are baby steps to the overall redesign of the criminal justice system to get a better handle on crime.
New Orleans has a mayor-council government. The city council consists of 5 councilmembers who are elected by district and 2 at-large councilmembers. Mayor Ray Nagin was elected in May 2002 and was reelected in the mayoral election of May 20, 2006.
The New Orleans Police Department provides professional police services to the public in order to maintain order and protect life and property. The Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff's Office serves papers involving lawsuits and provides security for the Civil District Court and Juvenile Courts. The Criminal Sheriff's Office maintains the parish prison system, provides security for the Criminal District Court, and provides backup for various New Orleans Police Department patrols.
The city of New Orleans and the [[Wikipedia:Parish (Louisiana)|parish of Orleans operate as a merged city-parish government. Before the city of New Orleans became co-extensive with Orleans Parish, Orleans Parish was home to numerous smaller communities. Some of these communities have historically had separate identities from the city of New Orleans, such as Irish Bayou and Carrollton . The original City of New Orleans was comprised of what are now the 1st through 9th wards. The City of Lafayette (including the Garden District) was added in 1852 as the 10th and 11th wards. In 1870, Jefferson City, including Faubourg Bouligny and much of the Audubon and University areas, was annexed as the 12th, 13th, and 14th wards. Algiers, on the West Bank of the Mississippi, was also annexed in 1870, becoming the 15th ward. Four years later, Orleans Parish became coextensive with the city of New Orleans when the city of Carrollton was annexed as the 16th and 17th wards. However, to this day, the USPS still recognizes and accepts mailings addressed to Carrollton, LA, as legal and will deliver them to the ZIP code 70118.
New Orleans' government is now largely centralized in the City Council and Mayor's office, but it maintains a number of relics from earlier systems when various sections of the city ran much of their affairs separately. For example, New Orleans has seven elected tax assessors, each with their own staff, representing various districts of the city, rather than one centralized office. On November 7, 2006, a constitutional amendment passed both statewide and in Orleans Parish, consolidating the seven assessors into one by the year 2010.
New Orleans is one of the most visited cities in the United States, and tourism is a major staple in the area's economy. 10.1 million visitors came to New Orleans in 2004, and the city was on pace to break that level of visitation in 2005. Annually, tourism in New Orleans is a $5.5 billion industry and accounts for 40 percent of New Orleans' tax revenues. Tourism employed 85,000 people, making it New Orleans' top industry. The city's colorful Carnival celebrations leading up to Mardi Gras during the pre-Lenten season draw particularly large crowds. Other major tourist events and attractions in the city include the Sugar Bowl, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (popularly known by locals as "Jazz Fest"), the Voodoo Music Experience, Southern Decadence, and the Essence Festival, as well as sporting events like Super Bowls and NCAA final fours.
New Orleans is also an industrial and distribution center and the busiest port system in the world by gross tonnage. The Port of New Orleans is the 5th largest port in the United States based on volume of cargo handled, second-largest in the state after the Port of South Louisiana, and 12th largest in the U.S. based on value of cargo. The Port of South Louisiana, also based in the New Orleans area, is the world's busiest in terms of bulk tonnage, and, when combined with the Port of N.O., it forms the 4th largest port system in volume handled.
Like Houston, Texas, New Orleans is located in proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, and the many oil rigs lie just offshore. Louisiana ranks 5th in oil production and 8th in reserves in the U.S. It is also home to two of the four Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) storage facilities: West Hackberry in Cameron Parish and Bayou Choctaw in Iberville Parish. Other infrastructure includes 17 petroleum refineries with a combined crude oil distillation capacity of nearly 2.8 million barrels per day, the second highest in the nation after Texas. Louisiana has numerous ports including the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), which is capable of receiving ultra large oil tankers. Natural gas and electricity dominate the home heating market with similar market shares totaling about 47 percent each. With all of the product to distribute, Louisiana is home to many major pipelines supplying the nation: Crude Oil - Chevron, BP, Texaco, Shell, Exxon, Scurloch-Permian, Mid-Valley, Calumet, Conoco, Koch, Unocal, Dept. of Energy, Locap. Product - TEPPCO, Colonial, Chevron, Shell, Plantation, Explorer, Texaco, Collins, BP. Liquefied Petroleum Gas - Dixie, TEPPCO, Black Lake, Koch, Chevron, Dynegy, Kinder, Dow, Bridgeline, FMP, Tejas, Texaco, UTP. There are a substantial number of energy companies that have their regional headquarters in the city, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. The city is the home and worldwide headquarters of a single Fortune 500 company: Entergy, an energy and infrastructure providing company. Free Port McRoan, the city's other Fortune 500 company recently merged its copper and gold exploration unit with an Arizona company and relocated that division to Phoenix, Arizona.
The federal government has a significant presence in the area. The NASA Michoud Assembly Facility is located in the eastern portion of Orleans Parish (New Orleans East) and is operated by Lockheed-Martin. It is a large manufacturing facility where external fuel tanks for space shuttles are produced, and it also houses the operated by the USDA.
In recent years, in an effort to diversify its economy, New Orleans has become known as "Hollywood South". Many big-budget and critically acclaimed feature films have been made in and around New Orleans over the last few years, such as Ray, Runaway Jury, The Pelican Brief, The Skeleton Key, Glory Road, All the King's Men, Déjà Vu, Last Holiday, Waiting..., Failure to Launch, Stay Alive, and countless other full-length films and documentaries. Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have made New Orleans their home with the purchase of a home in the French Quarter, and a new movie studio complex is to be built in the Treme neighborhood.
Other companies with a significant presence or base in New Orleans include the worldwide headquarters of the Entergy and its subsidiaries, AT&T, IBM, Navtech, Harrah's (downtown casino), Popeye's, Zatarain's, Whitney Bank (corp. HQ), Capital One (banking HQ), Southern Comfort, Tidewater (Corp. HQ), McMoran Exploration, and Energy Partners (corp.HQ).
Most major corporations that had offices or headquarters in New Orleans have returned post-Katrina. Also, over 95% of businesses whose annual income is over $20,000,000 have come back.
New Orleans Public Schools, the city's school district, was one of the area's largest school districts before Hurricane Katrina. It was widely recognized as the lowest performing school district in Louisiana. According to researchers Carl L. Bankston and Stephen J. Caldas, only 12 of the 103 school districts in New Orleans showed reasonably good performance at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
The Greater New Orleans area has approximately 200 parochial schools. The prevalence of parochial schools has been both a cause and a consequence of the troubles in the public schools. Because so many middle class students have been enrolled in non-public schools, middle class support for public education has been relatively weak. At the same time, the apparent low quality of public schools in New Orleans has encouraged middle class families to educate their children in private or parochial schools. This has contributed to major underfunding of the public school system.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana took over most of the schools within the system (all schools that fell into a nominal "worst-performing" metric); about 20 new charter schools have also been started since the storm, educating about 15,000 students. The total number of student enrollment in New Orleans is estimated to be between 28,000 to 30,000. The Recovery School District came under fire in January 2007 for not having enough schools ready for returning students when 300 students were put on waiting lists. Most Recovery District officials claim that the rate of evacuees returning is much higher than originally thought, so the supply could not keep up with the demand. Recovery District officials announced that, by the fall semester of 2007 and the spring semester of 2008, enough schools should be open to handle 48,000 students, a gradual increase of the returning displaced population.
Colleges and universitiesEdit
Several institutions of higher education also exist within the city, including the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans, Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans, Xavier University of Louisiana, Louisiana State University Medical School, Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Notre Dame Seminary, and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Other schools include Delgado Community College, University of Phoenix, Culinary Institute of New Orleans, Herzing College, and Commonwealth University.
There are numerous academic and public libraries and archives in New Orleans, including Monroe Library at Loyola University, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University, the Law Library of Louisiana, and Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans. The New Orleans Public Library includes 13 locations, most of which were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. However, only four libraries remained closed as of 2007. The main library includes a Louisiana Division housing city archives and special collections. Other research archives are located at the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Old U.S. Mint.
Like many United States cities, New Orleans has developed a distinctive local dialect over the years. This dialect is neither Cajun nor the stereotypical Southern accent so often misportrayed by film and television actors. It does, like earlier Southern Englishes, feature frequent deletion of post-vocalic "r". It is similar to the New York "Brooklynese" dialect to people unfamiliar with it. There are many theories to how this dialect came to be, but it likely resulted from New Orleans' geographic isolation by water and the fact that New Orleans was a major port of entry into the United States throughout the 19th century. Many of the immigrant groups who reside in Brooklyn also reside in New Orleans, with Irish, Italians, especially Sicilians, and Germans being the largest groups.
One of the strongest varieties of the New Orleans accent is sometimes identified as Yat, from the greeting "Where y'at?" The prestige associated with being from New Orleans by many residents is likely a factor in the linguistic assimilation of the ethnically divergent population. This distinctive accent is dying out generation by generation in the city itself but remains very strong in the surrounding Parishes.
Throughout the Greater New Orleans area, various ethnic groups have retained their distinctive language traditions to this day. Although rare, Kreyol Lwiziyen is still spoken by Louisiana Creole people. Also rare, an archaic Louisiana-Canarian Spanish dialect is spoken by the Isleños people, but it can usually only be heard by older members of the Isleños population.
Greater New Orleans is home to numerous celebrations, including Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. New Orleans' most popular celebration is Carnival, officially beginning on the Feast of the Epiphany, which locals sometimes refer to as "Twelfth Night." The Carnival season is often known (especially by out-of-towners) by the name of its last day, Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday"), which is held the Tuesday before before the beginning of the Catholic liturgical season of Lent, which, by its commencement on Ash Wednesday, ends the Carnival season.
The largest of the city's many musical festivals is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Commonly referred to simply as "Jazz Fest," it is one of the largest music festivals in the nation and features crowds coming from all over the world to experience music, food, arts, and crafts. Despite the name, it features not only jazz but a large variety of music, including both native Louisiana music and internationally-known popular music artists.
New Orleans has always been a significant center for music, with its intertwined European, Latin American, and African-American cultures. New Orleans' unique musical heritage was born in its pre-American and early American days with a unique blending of European instruments with African rhythms. As the only North American city to allow slaves to gather in public and play their native music (largely in Congo Square, now located within Louis Armstrong Park), likely due to the more relaxed attitudes of French and Creole slave owners as compared to their Anglo-American neighbors, New Orleans was blessed to give birth to an indigenous music: jazz. With New Orleans' large, educated, and influential Creole, Haitian, and free black population, these African beats intertwined with trained musicians and the city's now famous brass bands gained wide popularity (and they remain just as popular today).
Decades later, New Orleans was home to a distinctive brand of rhythm and blues that contributed greatly to the growth of rock and roll. A great example of the New Orleans sound in the 60s is the #1 US hit "Chapel of Love" by The Dixie Cups, a song which had the distinction of knocking the Beatles out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. New Orleans became a hotbed for funk music in the 60s and 70s. By the late 1980s it had developed its own localized variant of hip hop called bounce music which, while never commercially successful outside of the Deep South, remained immensely popular in the poor African-American neighborhoods of the city through the 1990s. A cousin of Bounce, New Orleans Rap has seen commercial success locally and internationally. Also, a form of southern rock or cowpunk has become popular across college campuses throughout the Southeastern United States. New Orleans bands which helped originate this wave include Better Than Ezra, Cowboy Mouth, and Dash Rip Rock. Notable members of the New Orleans music scene are Master P, Cash Money Records, Djuan Edgerton, and Rickey Spearman. Throughout the 1990s many sludge metal bands started in the New Orleans area. In addition, the nearby countryside is the home of Cajun music, Zydeco music, and Delta blues.
The city also created its own spin on the old tradition of military brass band funerals. Traditional New Orleans funerals feature sad music (mostly dirges and hymns) on the way to the cemetery and happy music (hot jazz) on the way back. Such traditional musical funerals still take place when a local musician, a member of a club, krewe, or benevolent society, or a noted dignitary has passed. Until the 1990s most locals preferred to call these "funerals with music," but out of town visitors have long dubbed them "jazz funerals." Younger bands, especially those based in the Treme neighborhood, have embraced the term and now have funerals featuring only jazz music.
The major daily newspaper is the The Times-Picayune, publishing since 1837. Weekly publications include The Louisiana Weekly and Gambit Weekly. Also in wide circulation is the Clarion Herald, the biweekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Greater New Orleans is well served by television and radio. The market is the 54th largest DMA in the U.S., serving 566,960 homes and 0.509% of the U.S. Major television network affiliates serving the area include:
WHNO 20 also operates as an independent station in the area, providing mainly religious programming.
Two radio stations that were influential in promoting New Orleans-based bands and singers were 50,000-watt WNOE-AM (1060) and 10,000-watt WTIX-AM (690). These two stations competed head-to-head from the late 50s to the late 70s.
Sites of interestEdit
New Orleans is one of the most visited cities in America and has many major attractions, from the world-renowned Bourbon Street and the French Quarter's notorious nightlife, St. Charles Avenue (home of Tulane and Loyola Universities), and many stately 19th century mansions.
Favorite tourist scenes in New Orleans include the French Quarter (known locally as "the Quarter"), which dates from the French and Spanish eras and is bounded by the Mississippi River & Rampart Street and Canal Street & Esplanade Ave. The French Quarter contains many popular hotels, bars, and nightclubs, most notably around Bourbon Street. Other notable tourist attractions in the Quarter include Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the French Market (including Café du Monde, famous for café au lait and beignets), and jazz at Preservation Hall.
Also located in the French Quarter is the old New Orleans Mint, formerly a branch of the United States Mint, which now operates as a museum. Near the Quarter in the neighboring Warehouse District sits the National World War II Museum, opened on June 6, 2000, as the National D-Day Museum, dedicated to providing information and materials related to the allied invasion of Normandy, France. To tour the port, one can ride the Natchez, an authentic steamboat with a calliope which cruises the Mississippi the length of the city twice daily.
Art museums in the city include the Contemporary Arts Center, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) in City Park, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Audubon Park, the Audubon Zoo, and the Aquarium of the Americas are also located in the city. New Orleans is also noted for its many beautiful cemeteries. Some notable cemeteries in the city include Saint Louis Cemetery and Metairie Cemetery.
Significant gardens include Longue Vue House and Gardens and the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Gardens are also found in places like City Park and Audubon Park. City Park still has one of the largest (if not the largest) stands of oak trees in the world.
Chalmette Battlefield, located just south of the city, is the site of the Battle of New Orleans in which General Andrew Jackson repelled between 11,000 and 14,500 seasoned British troops. General Jackson banded together local New Orleans citizens, Choctaw Indians, local Barataria pirates (with the infamous Jean Lafitte), and the first all-free black militia in order to rout the British. The final battle of the War of 1812 took place in January 1815 (officially after the war had ended). It is speculated that, had the British taken New Orleans, the Treaty of Ghent would have been discarded and hostilities would have continued. However, if they had, they wouldn't have gone on for long due to the impending Year Without a Summer. Andrew Jackson gained enough fame from the battle of New Orleans to be elected President in 1828. Tours of the battlefield are available and a reenactment is held every year.
New Orleans is world-famous for its food. New Orleans' indigenous local cuisine is distincitve and influential. Over centuries to the local Creole, haute Creole, and New Orleans French cuisines, New Orleans food has developed. Local ingredients, African, Cuban, French, Spanish, Italian, and Cajun traditions combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable New Orleans flavor.
Unique specialties include beignets, square-shaped fried pastries that could be called French doughnuts (served with coffee and chicory "au lait"); Po'boy and Italian Muffalettas; 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.
Professional sports teams include the New Orleans Saints (NFL), the New Orleans Hornets (NBA), the New Orleans VooDoo (AFL), and the New Orleans Zephyrs (PCL). The home stadium of the Saints is the Louisiana Superdome, which hosts the annual Sugar Bowl as well as numerous other prominent events. The home stadium of the Hornets is the New Orleans Arena. New Orleans is also home to the Fair Grounds Race Course, the nation's third-oldest thoroughbred track and the Zurich Classic, a golf tournament on the PGA Tour.
New Orleans' tallest building is the 51-story One Shell Square. Construction of the 70-story Trump International Hotel & Tower will begin in Summer 2007; when complete, it will be the tallest building in the city and state at the proposed height of 716 feet (218 m). New Orleans is now entering what could become a large downtown residential building boom, with multiple high-rise towers already planned for the city.
There are three active streetcar lines moved by electric motors powered by DC wires overhead. The St. Charles line (green cars, connecting New Orleans with the once independent suburb of Carrollton) is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in New Orleans and a historic landmark. The Riverfront line (also known as the Ladies in Red since the cars are painted red) runs parallel to the river from Canal Street through the French Quarter to the Convention Center above Julia Street in the Arts District. The Canal Street line uses the Riverfront line tracks from Esplanade Street to Canal Street, then branches off down Canal Street and ends at the cemeteries at City Park Avenue with a spur running from the intersection of Canal and Carrollton Avenue to the entrance of City Park at Esplanade near the entrance to the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The city's streetcars were also featured in the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The streetcar line to Desire Street became a bus line in 1948. There are proposals to revive a Desire streetcar line, running along the neutral grounds of North Rampart and St. Claude, as far downriver as Poland Avenue, near the Industrial Canal.
Currently, the St. Charles streetcar line is only running between Canal Street and Lee Circle (the portion of the line in the Central Business District). Work is still underway to restore the St. Charles line out to Napoleon Avenue by Labor Day, with the whole line complete by the end of 2007. The Canal line is functioning, but its red cars were flooded by Katrina, so the historic St. Charles green cars are currently running not only on the St. Charles line, but also on the Riverfront and Canal lines. The first of the red cars to be restored is expected to return to the Canal line by Summer 2007.
Public transportation in the city is operated by New Orleans Regional Transit Authority ("RTA"). There are many bus routes connecting the city and suburban areas.
New Orleans has two main interstate highways, Interstate 10 and Interstate 610. I-10 runs east-west through the city, and traverses the northern edge of the Central Business District. I-610 provides a direct shortcut for traffic passing through New Orleans via I-10, allowing that traffic to bypass I-10's southward curve. In the future, New Orleans will have another interstate highway, Interstate 49, which will be extended from its current terminus in Lafayette to the city.
The two main U.S. highways passing through New Orleans are U.S. 90 and U.S. 61. U.S. 90 runs along South Claiborne Avenue, Broad Street, and Gentilly Boulevard/Chef Menteur Highway. U.S. 61 runs across Tulane Avenue/Airline Highway.
The tolled Crescent City Connection is New Orleans' major bridge across the Mississippi River, providing a connection between Interstate 10 on the north side of the river and the Westbank Expressway on the south side of the river.
Other bridges that cross the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area are the Huey P. Long Bridge, over which U.S. 90 crosses the river and the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, which carries Interstate 310.
The tolled Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, consisting of two parallel bridges, are at 24 miles in length, the longest bridges in the world. Built in the 1950s (southbound span) and 1960s (northbound span), the bridges connect New Orleans with its suburbs on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain via Metairie.
The metropolitan area is served by Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, located in the suburb of Kenner. New Orleans also has several regional airports located throughout the metropolitan area. These include the Lakefront Airport, the military base in the suburb of Belle Chase Louisiana, and "Southern Seaplane," also located in Belle Chase. Southern Seaplane has a 3,200 foot runway for wheeled planes and a 5,000 foot water runway for seaplanes.
The city is served by rail via Amtrak. The New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal is the central rail depot, and it is served by three trains: the Crescent, the City of New Orleans, and the Sunset Limited.
In addition, the city is served by six of the seven Class I freight railroads in North America: Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, Norfolk Southern Railway, CSX, the Canadian National Railway, and the Kansas City Southern Railway. The New Orleans Public Belt provides interchange services between the railroads.
New Orleans is home to the 1-141st Artillery Battalion, a unit formed in the early 19th Century as the Washington Artillery. This unit is part of the 256th Infantry Brigade and served in Iraq in 2004-5. Beginning 19 June 2006, New Orleans had over 300 national guard soldiers patrolling the streets of devastated neighborhoods that received the most flooding, allowing the somewhat reduced police force to concentrate on more populated areas, crime "hot spots" such as Central City, and tourism hubs such as the French Quarter and the Central Business District.