Before it was ever called Jackson Square, the most popular green spot in New Orleans was known as the Place d’Armes. This historic park, approximately the size of a city block, is bounded by Chartres Street, St. Ann Street, Decatur Street and St. Peter Street.
The placement of the park, in the heart of the French Quarter was designed to be the focal point of a beautiful city. On one side of the park, the rolling waters of the Mississippi River meander towards the Gulf of Mexico. On another side, facing the river, are the grandest buildings in New Orleans, St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, the Presbytere and the Pontalba Apartments.
The Place d’Armes (known as the Plaza de Armas by the Spanish settlers of the region) was the main gathering place of the city. Here is where the militia conducted drills and citizens attended public beheadings or hangings. It is also the site of the 1803 ceremony for the adoption of the Louisiana Purchase.
Modeled after the Place des Vosges in Paris, the landscaping of the Place d’Armes was designed to reflect a sun pattern, with radiating walkways. Around the perimeter of the park is a flagstone pedestrian mall. In the 1850s, the Place d’Armes was renamed Jackson Square. This name change honored the American hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson. A statue of Jackson atop his horse now stands at the center of this historic New Orleans green space.
Today, any effects of the damage of Hurricane Katrina have vanished and visitors still flock to the center of the French Quarter, Jackson Square. You can see artists hanging their work on the iron fence that surrounds the square and street performers gearing up to entertain. Just as in the days of old, people gather at the center of their city, what was once known as the Place d’Armes and celebrate the history of New Orleans.