The Garden District is a very interesting example of “suburban flight”, where successful city goers felt uncomfortable by the influx of immigrants and poor people inhabiting the city, and moved to a different, calmer area with more land and space to show of their material wealth. In New Orleans, the wealthy moved into mansions in the Garden District, with the city in close distance for entertainment, dining and the such. Here are photos of some iconic Southern Mansions:
Here is an excerpt from the Introduction titled “City & Suburb” of the coffee table book, Southern Comfort, depicting the beautiful homes:
“In the history of modern cities, nineteenth-century America achieved distinction in two areas. First, its restless people established settlements with a rapidity that surpassed even that of the burgeoning empires of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In scarcely two generations, cities like Chicago, Cleveland, and St. Louis arose from the wilderness to become major centers of commerce and culture. Second, with a haste that is no less startling, those Americans who could afford to do so fled these same cities, establishing instead suburbs of an entirely new type.
Such suburbs, which eventually ringed the cities of the entire country, embodied the most diverse and contradictory impulses: extreme individualism coexisted with an ideal of village-like collectivity: rustic simplicity was enriched by all the comforts modern technology could afford; and the romantic call of a lost bucolic world was audible within some of the world’s most bustling commercial centers.
Every major American city founded in the nineteenth century is a monument to this process of simultaneous urbanization and disurbanization. The metropolis fostered trade and manufacturing. Commerce generated new opportunities for personal enrichment, which drew waves of poor immigrants to the city. The arrival of these new Americans in turn caused the exodus of the more prosperous classes to suburban enclaves. These distinctive suburban neighborhoods created by the upper classes came to symbolize achievement in the United States. Both as symbol and as physical reality, the new suburbs were potentially accessible to all. Anyone could aspire to the worldly success that the suburbs represented. By investing a penny in a horsecar ride, even the lowliest immigrant could see firsthand what the future might hold for him.
This is a book about one such suburb, the Garden District in New Orleans. It is situated two miles upriver (“uptown” in New Orleans parlance) from the historic Vieux Carré and half a mile north of the Mississippi River, which at this point in its course flows east before dipping south ad southeast towards the Gulf of Mexico. In modern times the Garden District has generally been taken to include the sixty-six blocks bounded by St. Charles Avenue, Magazine Street, Jackson Avenue and Louisiana Avenue. In its nineteenth-century heyday, however, the Garden District was assumed to compromise a larger if somewhat less defined area, beginning approximately at Felicity Street and extending uptown at least to Louisiana
Avenue, and reaching several blocks north from St. Charles Avenue and south from Magazine Street. Initially part of the City of Lafayette and, after 1852, incorporated into New Orleans, the Garden District was never a distinct political entity. It was rather, a metaphor that embraced motions of high economic status, political and social identity, a gracious style of life, and architectural opulence.
This historic district of New Orleans warrants national attention on several counts. First, in the nineteenth century it was a truly suburban neighborhood, not a zone of country’s villas like Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill or Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills, or an only slightly less dense bedroom extension of the city, like Brooklyn Heights. Initially incorporated as part of a separate municipality, the Garden District prefigured the process of urban expansion and absorption that has occurred throughout the United States in the twentieth century…..CONTINUED.”