Jackson Square, a 2.5-acre park located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, is perhaps best known for the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson that has resided there since 1856. Designed by French architect Louis Pilie and known originally as the Place d’Armes, the square is as old as the city itself. Bounded by Decatur, St. Ann, St. Peter, and Chartres streets, the square is now the location of live concerts, street artists, and visited by two million visitors per year. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and added to the Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Square served originally as a military parade ground, open-air marketplace and
public square soon after the French established a colony at New Orleans in the
early 18th century. On the
more macabre side, it was also the site for public executions of criminals and
rebellious slaves. The Spanish used it
for the same purposes and simply changed the name to the Plaza de Armes. It is the site where the Louisiana Territory
was transferred from France to the United States in 1803. In 1815, soon after the conclusion of the War
of 1812, it was renamed yet again to Jackson Square to commemorate Jackson’s
victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
In 1851, the
Baroness de Portalba, who was responsible for the building of the Portalba
Buildings that line one side of the square, redesigned Jackson Square, adding
the now famous iron fence and gates, walkways, benches, and Parisian-style
landscaped gardens. In 1873, it was the
location of the appropriately named Reconstruction Battle of Jackson Square.
to Jackson’s iconic statue, there are also four neoclassical statues located at
each of the square’s corners that represent the four seasons. The square now offers stunning views of the
St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo and the Presbytère which line the north side. In 1974, the streets around the square were
closed to vehicular traffic and became a pedestrian zone which is now home to
numerous street artists and performers.
It also hosts the annual and very popular French Quarter Festival and
Caroling in Jackson Square.