The Marigny – An Eclectic Neighborhood

“Marigny” - You’ve heard the name, but do you know what it is? Balcony Guest House and Silk Road NOLA are located in a neighborhood of New Orleans called the Marigny, or Faubourg Marigny, “Faubourg” being an ancient French term for “suburb”. The area is also known as Bohemian New Orleans, a place known for its unconventional way of life, commonplace in an area occupied by artists, writers and musicians. What an appropriate description of the eclectic vicinity of Marigny, one of the first suburbs of the Vieux Carre! 

In the first half of the 1880’s, eccentric Creole millionaire developer Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville laid out the Marigny on land that was his family’s plantation. The portion along the Mississippi River was built up first. The area located away from the river, on the side of St. Claude Avenue, was where the white Creole gentlemen set up households for their mistresses of color (and their offspring) in the tradition of "plaçage". Inbetween the 1830s and 1880s, the area was settled by German immigrants, French Creoles, and free people of color.

Elysian Fields Avenue was designed to be the main street of Faubourg Marigny. It extended all the way from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain. In 1831, the Pontchartrain Railroad (Smoky Mary) was built with its tracks running down the center of Elysian Fields Avenue. Marigny’s town square, Washington Square, was at the other end of the rail line. Though the railway is gone, the park is still there today; it flanks Elysian Fields.

Several noted musicians grew up or performed in Marigny. One of them, Ferdinand LaMothe, better known as Jelly Roll Morton, snuck away from his grandmother’s house to play in Storyville, the red light district of New Orleans, established around 1897. 

The Marigny declined in the 1900’s, but in the late 1900’s, it made a comeback which continues even more so today. Driving through Marigny, there is no mistaking its funky vibe of 19th century historic icons and 20th century funky establishments. The St. Roch Market, established in 1875, is one of the oldest public market buildings in New Orleans. The Circle Food Store opened in 1938 as the first African-American owned full service grocery store in New Orleans and is still in operation today.

The Marigny is a vibrant collage of shotgun houses, Creole cottages, townhomes, old historic and newly renovated homes and businesses. Renewal and growth are seen everywhere. The residents are a blend of cultures who are proud of their neighborhood, the Marigny, and New Orleans in general. What a great place to visit and meet local neighborhood characters! There’s no better place to do this than in Silk Road Restaurant. Not only is it a great place to dine, but a friendly place to meet and greet locals and visitors.

Nowhere is growth more evident than in the compact lively area known as “Frenchman Street”, the locals’ version of Bourbon Street. It is a popular destination for locals and visitors in-the-know. Clubs featuring music from jazz, reggae, latin, rock and blues line the few blocks which makeup Frenchman Street. In addition to the music in the clubs by well-known musicians, you will hear brass bands, gypsy bands, and lone musicians tucked away into every corner of the street. Art is evident everywhere, with sketch artists setting up wherever they can find a few spare feet on the sidewalk. The Frenchman Street Art Market sets up on weekend nights featuring artwork and unique items not seen anywhere else. There are antique stores, art galleries, bookstores, and restaurants featuring Creole, Cajun, vegetarian as well as traditional New Orleans cuisine.  The area is so alive with activity, Frenchman Street is a part of New Orleans not to be missed. It is highly recommended by tour guides, taxi drivers, and anyone who really knows New Orleans. Best of all, it is only a 3 block walk from Balcony Guest House. 

Come and visit Balcony Guest House and Silk Road NOLA and experience the Marigny!