The Central City neighborhood has a storied history, much of which is honored on the streets. Part of the Central City National Register Historic District (designated in 1982) was originally included in the fashionable 1806 development by Barthelemy Lafon, now known as the Lower Garden District.  

The swampy lands further from the river were occupied by laborers who came to build the nearby New Basin Canal in the 1830s. Irish and German immigrants were joined by Italians, African Americans and Eastern European Jews as the 19th century progressed. By the time jazz great Buddy Bolden lived here at the turn of the 20th century, the neighborhood was a mix of shopkeepers, porters and laborers, almost all of whom lived in shotgun cottages built expressly as rental housing, with palatial homes and townhomes nearby.  

Dryades Street, renamed Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in the 1980s after the civil rights leader, was a thriving shopping area with more than 200 businesses at its peak, catering to the area’s ethnic populations and anchored by the Dryades Market, one of more than 50 city-operated, public fresh food markets.  

Central City harbors landmarks for nearly every ethnic group that made up 19th century New Orleans. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, designed for an Irish congregation by German architect Albert Diettel in 1869, is down the street from a shopping district that was the site of a key civil rights protest in the 1960s.  

Carondelet Street boasts several historic orthodox synagogues, some of which now serve as Christian churches. First African Baptist Church (1903) at 2216 Third St. became legendary after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there in 1957.  

In Central City, grand mansions sit next to empty lots; restored shotguns line streets that also hold mid-20th-century apartment complexes. New restaurants bring 21st-century style to one of New Orleans’ most historic neighborhoods. Some areas of Central City are undergoing a renaissance while others await further investment, but its history is powerful — as is its future.