For more than 150 years, the Pontalba Buildings have occupied the heart of the French Quarter on Jackson Square, intriguing passers-by and residents alike with their unique blend of Creole, Parisian, and Greek Revival architecture. The combination speaks to the melting-pot feel of New Orleans' oldest neighborhood, which saw the merging of colonial French, Spanish, and British empires so long ago.
An early champion of the mixed-use concept, the Pontalba Buildings had street-level shops and restaurants from day one when their doors opened in 1851. With apartments on the upper two floors and retail below–still the arrangement today–they offered residents a high-end address with convenience and style. The heavy influence of their namesake, a baroness of Spanish descent, reveals itself in details large and small, including her family's initials in the ornamental iron work so common to this area.
William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Anne Rice are among the Pontalba Buildings' neighbors over the years. With other landmarks such as Preservation Hall and the St. Louis Cathedral nearby, the apartments–designated a national historic landmark in 1974–are just around the corner from the site of the Louisiana Purchase Transfer in 1803.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this landmark is one of many whose ultimate fates will be unknown for weeks, if not months. Though the French Quarter was spared the catastrophic flooding that destroyed much of New Orleans, many other areas, and the landmarks that anchor them, may now be part of history.