A Hundred Thousand People, New Orleans
The following data is extracted from The Creoles of Louisiana.
Without these drawbacks what would New Orleans have been? For, with them all, and with others which we pass by, leer population between 1530 and 1540 once more doubled its numbers. She was the fourth city of the United States in the number of her people. Cincinnati, which in the previous decade had outgrown her, was surpassed and distanced. Only New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore were larger. Boston was nearly as large; but besides these there was no other city in the Union of half her numbers. Faubourg Ste. Marie had swallowed up the suburbs above her until it comprised the whole expanse of the old Jesuits' plantations to the line of Felicity Road. The old Marquis Marigny de Mandeville, whose plantation lay on the lower edge of the town just across the Esplanade, had turned it into lots and streets, and the town had run over upon it and covered it with small residences, and here and there a villa. The city boundaries had been extended to take in both these faubourgs; and the three "municipalities," as they were called, together numbered one hundred and two thousand inhabitants.
The ends of the harbor front were losing sight of each other. In the seasons of high water the tall, broad, frail-looking steamers that crowded in together, "bow on," at the busy levee, hidden to their hurricane roofs in cargoes of cotton bales, looked down upon not merely a quiet little Spanish-American town of narrow streets, low, heavy, rugged roofs, and Latin richness and variety of color peeping out of a mass of overshadowing greenery. Fort St. Charles, the last fraction of the old fortifications, was gone, and the lofty chimney of a United States mint smoked in its place. The new Bourse, later known as St. Louis Hotel, and yet later as the famed State-house of Reconstruction days, just raised its low, black dome into view above the intervening piles of brick. A huge prison lifted its frowning walls and quaint Spanish twin belfries gloomily over Congo Square. At the white-stuccoed Merchants' Exchange, just inside the old boundary on the Canal Street side, a stream of men poured in and out, for there was the Post-office. Down in the lower arm of the river's bend shone the Third Municipality,-which had been Faubourg Marigny. On its front, behind a net-work of shipping, stood the Levee Cotton Press; it had cost half a million dollars. Here on the south, sweeping far around and beyond the view almost to the "Bull's Head Coffeehouse," was the Second Municipality, once Faubourg Ste. Marie, with its lines and lines of warehouses, its Orleans Press, that must needs cost a quarter million more than the other, and many a lesser one. The town was full of banks: the Commercial, the Atchafalaya, the Orleans, the Canal, the City, etc. Banks's Arcade was there, a glassroofed mercantile court in the midst of a large hotel in Magazine Street, now long known as the St. James. Hotels were numerous. In Camp and St. Charles Streets stood two theatres, where the world's stars deigned to present themselves, and the practical jokers of the upper galleries concocted sham fights and threw straw men over into the pit below, with cries of murder. Here and there a church-the First Presbyterian, the Carondelet Methodist-raised an admonitory finger. The site of old Jean Gravier's house was hidden behind Poydras Market; the uncanny iron frames of the Gas Works rose beyond. The reservoir of the water-works lay in here to the left near the river, whose muddy water it used. Back yonder in the street named for Julia, the f. w. c.,* a. little bunch of schooner masts and pennons showed where the Canal Dank had dug a "New Basin" and brought the waters of Lake Pontchartrain up into this part of the city also.
It was the period when the American idea of architecture had passed from its untrained innocence to a sophomoric affectation of Greek forms. Banks, hotels, churches, theatres, mansions, cottages, all were Ionic or Corinthian, and the whole American quarter was a gleaming white. But the commercial shadow of this quarter fell darkly upon the First Municipality, the old town. A quiet crept into the Rue Toulouse. The fashionable shops on the Rue Royale slipped away and spread out in Canal Street. The vault of the St. Louis dome still echoed the voice of the double-tongued, French-English auctioneer of town lots and slaves; but in the cabbage-garden of “old Mr. Percy,” in the heart of Faubourg Ste. Marie, a resplendent rival, the palatial St. Charles, lifted its dazzling cupola high above all surroundings and overpeered old town and new, river, plain, and receding forest. Its rotunda was the unofficial guildhall of all the city's most active elements. Here met the capitalist, the real estate operator, the merchant, the soldier, the tourist, the politician, the filibuster, the convivialist, the steamboat captain, the horse-fancier; and ever conspicuous among the throng -which had a trick of separating suddenly and dodging behind the pillars of the rotunda at the sound of high words-was a man, a type, an index of great wealth to New Orleans, who in this spot was never a stranger and was never quite at home.
* "Free woman of color "-initials used in the Louisiana courts and notarial documents.
Source: The Creoles of Louisiana