Did Canal Street ever have a canal?

 This story appeared in the May issue of the PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door each month? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!



Canal Street takes its name from a canal at that location.



There never was a canal on Canal Street. While colonial plans called for a canal, one was never built. During the Spanish colonial period, the area was designated as a Commons adjacent to the city’s fortifications. Following the Louisiana Purchase, the city petitioned the federal government for ownership of the Commons. A March 3, 1807, Act of Congress gave the city title to the Commons with the stipulation that Canal Street shall forever remain open as public highway reserving 60 feet for a canal. When Harrah’s Casino proposed extending into Canal Street, preservationists stopped it citing the 1807 Act of Congress.

In 1810, city surveyor Jacques Tanesse prepared the plan for the subdivision of the Commons. The plan included the canal and a double row of trees along a roadway on each side of the canal. The canal was never built, but the generous right of way allowed for a large median, the city’s first neutral ground between the city’s Creole and Anglo cultures. In later years, it would become a route for mass transit.


New Orleans Truths vs. Tales is presented by the Friends of the Cabildo. Robert J. Cangelosi Jr., AIA, NCARB, is president of Koch and Wilson Architects and a prominent architectural historian. He was the co-editor of the last two volumes of the Friends of the Cabildo’s “New Orleans Architecture” books and has served as past editor of Preservation in Print.