No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a stop at Jackson Square, which is where you will find the Cabildo. This elegant Spanish colonial building neighbors St. Louis Cathedral and houses many rare artifacts of America’s history.
In commemoration of the city’s 300th anniversary, the Louisiana State Museum debuted a new exhibition, We Love You, New Orleans!, celebrating people, places, and things that are quintessentially New Orleans including Sidney Bechet’s saxophone, a Mardi Gras Indian suit, memorabilia from Pontchartrain Beach, and a K&B sign, among other things.
The Cabildo is one of Louisiana’s most significant historical buildings. From landmark court cases to visits from international ambassadors, many important events in Louisiana have taken place within the Cabildo. The three floors of Cabildo exhibitions cover the history of Louisiana by featuring artifacts such as documents, paintings and 3D objects from the museum’s vast collection.
Using a variety of artifacts, images and documents, the exhibition From “Dirty Shirts” to Buccaneers: The Battle of New Orleans in American Culture opens with an exploration of the battle’s history, emphasizing the diversity of its participants, and closes with an investigation of how the battle has been remembered, commemorated and represented.
The Cabildo was built under Spanish rule between 1795 and 1799, following the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 that completely destroyed the structure that stood on the property. Designed by Gilberto Guillemard, who also designed the neighboring St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytère, the Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803, which finalized the United States’ acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and doubled the size of the fledgling nation.
The Cabildo served as the center of New Orleans government until 1853, when it became the headquarters of the Louisiana State Supreme Court, where the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson decision originated in 1892.
The building was transferred to the Louisiana State Museum in 1908 and has since served to educate the public about Louisiana history.
In 1988 the Cabildo was severely damaged by a fire and, within five years, the landmark was authentically restored with 600-year-old French timber framing techniques. It was reopened to the public in 1994, featuring a comprehensive exhibit on Louisiana’s early history.
This remarkable building’s tumultuous past is reason enough to pay it a visit, but the historical treasures within make it an absolute must-see.