Louisiana has a rich history ever since its entry into the union of the United States in 1812. However, some of the state's most notable spots have existed even longer than that. Under both French and Spanish influence, Louisiana has a number of architectural wonders dating back to the early eighteenth century. On this list are ten of the oldest spots in the state, many of which are still in use today.
1. Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
This bar doubles as not only one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Orleans but also the oldest continuously-operating bar in the United States. The building was first built in 1722, but the name actually comes from noted privateer Jean Lafitte who allegedly used the building for a smuggling operation from 1772 to 1791. Working with his brother Pierre, a blacksmith, Lafitte likely took part in a number of sales of illegal contraband, though no documentation can prove its existence. Now, it continues its original status as a bar, keeping up its lengthy legacy. However, on any given visit, a bar-goer could end up seeing the legendary Jean Lafitte himself. The Blacksmith Shop Bar is also one of the most haunted spots in the French Quarter and is located at 941 Bourbon Street.
2. Parlange Plantation House
Built in 1750, the Parlange Plantation House has plenty of history within its classic French colonial style. Originally, the property was constructed by Vincent de Ternant, Marquis of Dansville-sur-Meuse who turned the land into an indigo plantation. Following his death, his son Claude took over the plantation and refashioned the land for sugarcane and cotton. After Claude's death, his second wife Virginie married Colonel Charles Parlange, giving the plantation its official title. While the cottage still stands, a previous garden was destroyed by a Civil War conflict, despite the fact that the house served as a meeting ground for both Union and Confederate headquarters. Now, it is privately owned and still maintained as a cattle and sugarcane plantation. Parlange Plantation House is located at 8211 False River Road in New Roads, Louisiana.
3. Old Ursuline Convent
The Old Ursuline Convent was designed in 1745 and has remained mostly the same ever since. In the time since its completion in 1752, the building served as residence for Ursuline nuns, a school, the home of the archbishop, and even the Louisiana Legislature. Its history, surviving the fires of 1788 and 1794, have earned the building the record as one of the oldest structures in the city and the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley. Today, the convent forms part of the Catholic Cultural Heritage Center of the Archdiocese of New Orleans along with the St. Louis Cathedral and St. Mary's Church. The Old Ursuline Convent is located at 1112 Chartres St. in New Orleans, and gives museum tours Monday through Friday since its establishment as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
4. Destrehan Plantation
Although Destrehan Plantation was constructed from 1787 to 1790 by Robert Antoine Robin de Logny, the location is more often associated with its second owner Jean-Noël Destréhan. Taking charge of the plantation, Jean-Noël expanded the building and planted sugarcane. However, following the Louisiana Purchase, the site eventually became the subject of a slave revolt in 1811. Despite the uprising, Destrehan Plantation was eventually restored to its former glory by the River Road Historical Society at 13034 River Road. On most days, there are tours to the public which provide background about both the owners and the enslaved as a way to elaborate the history. Most recently, Destrehan Plantation was also the filming site for the film 12 Years a Slave, exemplifying the building's historical accuracy to the time of its construction. In addition to being a tour site, Destrehan Plantation also offers venues for weddings.
5. Madame John's Legacy (Temporarily Closed)
Madame John's Legacy often holds the title as one of the oldest houses found in the French Quarter. Built in 1788, this historic museum even contains the older French style as opposed to the more common (and slightly more recent) Spanish style of the time, emphasizing its traditional history. Sitting just north of Jackson Square, Madame John's Legacy remains one of the few survivors of the notable 1794 fire, existing as an apartment house until about 1947. After that time, the building was donated to the Louisiana State Museum which still operates it as a museum today. Following hurricane damage in 1965, the building underwent additional restoration and was then designated as a historical landmark. The building was named after a short story written in 1874 by George Washington Cable, called Tite Poulette, where the story's main character, Monsieur John, willed a house to his beloved mistress Madame John. Madame John's Legacy is open to the public with free admission at 632 Dumaine Street.
6. St. Louis Cathedral
The St. Louis Cathedral is among the oldest structures in Louisiana as well as the oldest cathedral in the United States. While the first church for the site was built in 1718, the church seen today was officially built in 1789 and expanded into a cathedral in 1793. Although it was rebuilt in 1850, the site remains one of the most notable landmarks in the city. Even after Hurricane Katrina, this location maintained the beauty it has held since its initial construction. Standing on Jackson Square and directly facing the Mississippi, the St. Louis Cathedral often appears as the heart of New Orleans. In addition to being a national landmark, the cathedral also still functions as a church for daily mass at noon. Outside of mass times, anyone is welcome to tour the building.
7. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (Temporarily Closed)
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 acts as the oldest and most famous existing cemetery in the city. Built in 1789 after the destruction of St. Peter's Cemetery, the St. Louis Cemetery is the resting place for many famous natives including Etienne de Boré, Homer Plessy, and Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial. Thousands of other New Orleanian citizens also rest on the one-block grounds with many families owning family plots for future burials. With its location just outside the French Quarter, this cemetery has also developed into a popular tourist attraction for historical interest. However, because this interest eventually became too much, the cemetery is now no longer open to the general public and requires a reservation. St. Louis Cemetery also has additional sites, with St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 bordering Claiborne Avenue and St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 bordering Esplanade Avenue. Although they bear the same name, only the original exists as the oldest cemetery in the city.
8. The Cabildo
Right next to the St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo Museum holds some of the rarest artifacts in the city, including the building itself. The Cabildo has existed since around 1795 after its reconstruction following the 1788 fire. Although it now functions as a museum, the Cabildo was previously the main site of colonial government in Louisiana within the "Sala Capitular", or meeting room. Many major deals and cases, including the Louisiana Purchase and Plessy vs. Ferguson, had their historical occurrence within this building. Since 1911, the Louisiana State Museum took over the building, displaying the history of the state from ordinary settlers to historic events. The museum is open on most days with only a small admission fee.
9. Homeplace Plantation House
Though it exists well outside the city, the Homeplace Plantation House remains one of the oldest and most unaltered of the French colonial cottages. Located on the south side of the Mississippi River, Homeplace shares many similarities to Parlange Plantation in design, leading many to believe that the houses had the same builder. However, Homeplace is estimated to have been constructed between 1787 and 1791 and eventually acquired National Landmark status in 1970. Unlike Parlange, Homeplace Plantation is privately owned by the Keller family who purchased the property in 1889 and is not open to the public for touring. The Homeplace Plantation House is located outside Hahnville, Louisiana, at the southwest corner of LA 18 and Home Place.
10. Pitot House (Temporarily Closed)
Built in the traditional Creole colonial style, the Pitot House is quite possibly one of the most enduring locations within New Orleans, Louisiana. Constructed in 1799—though documents imply it could have even been earlier, the Pitot House survived uprisings, reconstruction, and even hurricanes due to its structural support brought by wooden posts and brick insulation. Thanks to the Louisiana Landmark Society, which also uses the house as their base of operations, the Pitot House continues to be open to the public, where tourists and natives alike can witness a little of Louisiana's history outside of the French Quarter. The Pitot House is opened most days by appointment for those who'd like to view the house's beautiful features, Louisiana antiques, or traditionally restored gardens. Pitot House is located at 1440 Moss St. on Bayou St. John.