Do you want artistic and fringe? Then, you’ll find that in a fascinating area of New Orleans called the Bywater, just downriver from the French Quarter. This is the Bywater District, recognized by the National Historic District since 1986 (www.bywater.org). Let’s keep in mind that the mighty Mississippi River shapes the City of New Orleans, and neighborhoods follow the curves of the River, not some rational, disciplined distribution. This gives the City a particular character, and the Bywater has plenty of that. Back in the days of city growth and development during the 19th century, a loosely configured area between Elysian Fields Avenue (west) to the Industrial Canal (east), and the Mississippi River (north) to St. Claude Avenue (south) was where the freed people of color, mostly from Haiti, and Creoles (people of European blood born in the U.S.) built their homes. Then other European immigrants followed, such as the Germans, Irish and Italians. Since the World’s Fair in New Orleans of 1984, and even more so since Hurricane Katrina of 2005, the Bywater has become a trendy living and working space for artists and musicians, entrepreneurs, and eclectic-minded, offbeat people from all walks of life.
One of the first sights to impact the visitor might be the typical New Orleans architecture of double shotgun homes with steep roofs, the majority of which are close to the curb of the street and close together. Shotguns, camelbacks, Creole cottages, and Victorian doubles populate the 120 square block area (www.gnocdc.org/Orleans/7/19/index.html ). Many were built between 1807 and 1935. Homes brightly painted in multiple colors are the norm in this neighborhood, with a sprinkling of arts studios, restaurants, coffee shops, and Catholic churches throughout. NOCCA (New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, www.nocca.com), the St. Claude Arts District (www.scadnola.com), arts markets both inside and out in the open, and a busy wharf on the River with its businesses clustered nearby complete the picture of a thriving community. Some of the best events take place in this area (www.bywater.org): Mirliton Festival in November, Fringe Festival in November, Bywater Home Tour in April, and their own version of Carnival and Mardi Gras (see recent 2011 article, hornface.com/hidden-gems-in-new-orleans/mardi-gras-the-backa-town). There are more impromptu gatherings and celebrations. Bywater doesn’t seem to ever go to sleep.
For listings of restaurants, cafés, bed & breakfast inns and more, see the links section or contact Gina, Neighborhood Hidden Gems Examiner: firstname.lastname@example.org