625 St. Anne St.
New Orleans, LA 70116
Walking around the French Quarter, as with any tourist location, you usually cannot walk more than twenty feet without running into a gift shop. As you look around for your Mardi Gras beads, shot glasses and offensive t-shirts, you will probably see a plethora of paintings and postcards showing the iconic Jackson Square. This picturesque view of the Saint Louis Cathedral and the gated square is probably the most photographed area of the city.
Jackson Square was designed in 1721 and was mimicked after the famous Place des Vosges in Paris, France. When the small village of New Orleans was initially designed, it was built on a grid system. The center block was used for military parades and other public gatherings so this area was called the Place d’Armes or Place of the Arms. As the city expanded, the Place d’Armes continued to remain as the central hub, with all buildings radiating from it. By 1815, the land was renamed Jackson’s Square, after the city’s famed hero, Andrew Jackson. From here, decorative touches would be added to the area by the previously mentioned Baroness Micaela Almonester-Pontalba, such as the ornate shrubbery and wrought-iron fences. Today, Jackson Square is visited by thousands of people a day and is a prime place to catch interesting street performers, buy one-of-a-kind artwork and get your fortune read by many of the individuals claiming to be psychic. For more information regarding that subject, please refer back to the Bottom of the Cup Tearoom blog.
Only a stone’s throw from Jackson Square, right next door to Muriel’s Restaurant, is the Place d’Armes Hotel. Parts of the hotel are some of the oldest remains left in the city. The structure was originally built in 1725 and served as the first school in the city. In 1788, the first Great Fire struck New Orleans on Good Friday. The school was not spared, as it was completely engulfed in flames. Tragically the school’s headmaster and many of the young students perished in the blaze. The location was eventually rebuilt and the current hotel was erected, which is now owned by the Valentino family of New Orleans.
The Place d’Armes is reportedly one of the most haunted hotels in the city amongst the Hotel Monteleone and the Bourbon Orleans. Guests and staff alike strongly feel that the hotel is primarily haunted by the teacher and the several young children who all died here years before. Others have also seen the apparition of an elderly man with a beard and a young girl in a nightgown that wanders the hallways. Guests have reported hearing a knock on their door at odd hours of the night. Upon slowly opening their doors, they see the entity of a young girl who then asks if they have seen her grandmother. Before the guests can reply, she suddenly vanishes into thin air! Should you decide to stay at the Place d’Armes, stay alert, as you never know who or what you may encounter. In New Orleans, the high level of strangeness can be from the living or the dead!