An event drawing us to the Lower Garden District and Coliseum Square neighborhoods is Nightscape: Exploring Natural Spaces, a unique photo installation by Frank Relle. The event takes place on a narrow cobblestone street in the Lower Garden District, at the old Felicity Methodist Church on Felicity and Chestnut.
As you know, I always like to enjoy a little taste of a neighborhood when going out and about. The Lower Garden District (LGD) neighborhood is considered a Greek Revival ‘hood. The signature of a Greek Revival ‘hood is the layout of interrelated parks, basins, and canals in a (then) semi-urban area. It is rare to see such a neighborhood essentially still in tact.
The LGD was laid out in 1806 by Barthelemy Lafon and grandiose buildings from the 19th century abound. During the depression many of these homes were turned into boarding houses and apartments. After WWII, the area began to decline, like many other urban areas, as residents moved to the suburbs. Then in the late 50’s, the Mississippi River bridge was built with an on ramp by Coliseum Square. This cemented years of decline.
Thankfully some preservationists moved in and successfully established it on the National Register of Historic Places, successfully fought to have the on-ramp removed, and successfully repopulated the neighborhood.
As you go to the exhibit, park on Coliseum Square near Melpomene and stroll the few blocks to the exhibit, you will experience a treasure trove in the heart of the Crescent City. In fact, it will be your own nightscape of natural spaces. The magnificent architecture amidst the canopy of Live Oak trees complimented by lush southern foliage and the current smells of Sweet Olive blooms will have the same dreamlike effect as Frank Relle photos.
You will pass plenty of Greek Revival and Italianate homes with striking examples of 19th century craftsmanship, including iron work, masonry, woodworking, carvings and landscaping. What is also of note is the amount of public green space. Coliseum Square is a long narrow park, successfully restored to its 1806 design, and well used by the residents and passers by. It’s filled with park benches, working fountains, and walking paths. Terpsichore (yes, another muse) has a lovely usable green space in the neutral ground. This type of urban planning is abundant in the neighborhood and a signature of this historic planning style.
As I mentioned, the Lower Garden District is on the rise. Evident in just these few blocks where you will see craftspeople renovating homes, tree services taking care of the landscape, and a bevy of for sale signs. (NOTE: if you want to relocate to this neighborhood, call Key to NOLA to unlock a Crescent City Dream for you.) Plus, you’re a stone’s throw from the hubbub of lower Magazine Street.
At the end Race street end of Coliseum Square, note the stately home of John T. Moore, 1867. The home could be considered imposing, however, tucked away in all these trees and greenery it can go almost unnoticed. The property runs the entire city block to Felicity Street where Moore’s son-in-law and noted architect, James Freret, later built his own home (1888).
Head down the cobblestone street one block to Chestnut to reach your destination, Felicity Methodist Church and Nightscape: Exploring Natural Spaces. Although the exhibit is free and open to the public, presenters suggest you get a ticket at www.frankrelle.com.
Mr. Relle, a native New Orleanian, is an acclaimed photographer whose work is included such noted collections as the Smithsonian, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, fine Art Museum of Houston. As well as seen in many publications such as the New Yorker, Southern Review, Oxford Magazine, Louisiana Home and Garden.
Relle specializes in night photography in which he uses theatrical lighting to create an entirely unique image. He claims his inspiration came from riding around New Orleans in his Grandmother’s 1986 Lincoln Town Car, “Low to the ground, that wide old windshield provided the best viewfinder I’ve ever had” The scenes are lit to evoke that same feeling that he had in the Towncar.
Like most things in New Orleans, the party will have food (Dim Sum and Some), live music, and cocktails (Cure and Apolline). Afterwards, you may want a little jolt from the new High Volt Coffee shop on Camp street and St. Andrew and get yourself ready to hit the street for the night.
See you out and about in the lower garden district.
Every thing lovely,
Out and About is a weekly blog by Leslie Compton of Every Thing Lovely, a special event and creative consulting team, and is sponsored by Key to NOLA Properties, a full service real estate brokerage firm specializing in furnished rental properties in New Orleans, Key to NOLA Properties and Every Thing Lovely have joined forces to provide a full array of services for travelers’ ( and locals’) personal and professional needs while in the Crescent City.