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New Orleans A F O U N DAT I O N T I M E L I N E , 1 6 8 2 -1 7 2 2 BY RICHARD CAMPANELLA, TULANE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE THE YEAR 2018 marks the 300th anniversary of the foundation of New Orleans. But like most complex, improvised projects, New Orleans actually came together over many years, and each stage involved various levels of indecision, contingency, discord and serendipity. While most critical events occurred between 1717 and 1722, they can only be understood if we go back to 1682 and earlier. The following timeline aims to contextualize what we mean when we say New Orleans was founded “in” 1718. PRIOR TO COLONIZATION: Indigenous tribes, including the Houma, Bayougoula, Biloxi, Choctaw, Quinapisa, Acolapissa, Pascagoula and others, inhabit the Mississippi River deltaic plain and adjacent coastal regions, adapting to its seasonal conditions and utilizing its abundant resources. Three Spanish expeditions explore the region, creating no settlements but increasing European knowledge of Gulf Coast and Mississippi River geography, while unwittingly introducing diseases, which would later cause massive indigenous population declines. Spain moves on to other imperial priorities, but considers this region to be theirs. 1519-1543: French, Dutch, English and Spanish imperialists establish colonies along the East Coast of North America, but mostly steer clear of the Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi. LATE 1500s-1600s: 1682: With the French now well-established in Canada and the Caribbean, French Canadian Robert La Salle, seeking to understand how these colonies are connected, sails westward through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi. Upon reaching the Gulf of Mexico, La Salle claims the entire watershed for France and names it for his king, Louis IV. 1684: Recognizing the strategic value of controlling the entrance of the Mississippi, La Salle returns to establish a French colony near the river’s mouth. But his ex- pedition gets lost, drifts westward and wrecks along the Texas coast. La Salle’s trusted lieutenant Henri Tonti later succeeds in re-finding the Mississippi, but fails to determine the fate of La Salle — who in fact had long since been murdered by his own men. Louisiana languishes as a French territory for another 15 years. 1680s-1690s: Catching wind that France had laid claim to what Spain considered to be its territory, Spanish authorities in Mexico dispatch a number of expeditions to re-claim the lower Mississippi. Had any succeeded, we would likely have an entirely different history here today. LATE 1697: Hearing rumors of Spanish incursions into Louisiana, France dispatches Montreal’s Le Moyne broth- ers, Iberville and Bienville, to make good on La Salle’s 1682 claim. 1699: Iberville, Bienville and their crew reconnoiter the lower Mississippi and pass the future New Orleans site in early March, aiming to establish an outpost. But flummoxed by the uncon- trolled river and the low, swampy soils, Iberville selects present-day Ocean Springs, Miss., for the colony’s first headquarters, and establishes Fort Maurepas. Detail of 1701 map depicting Robert LaSalle discoveries — and presumed demise. Courtesy Library of Congress 20  PRESERVATION IN PRINT • www.prcno.org JUNE 2018