Built after the Great Fires of 1788 and 1794 and up until the mid-19th century, the iconic Creole Townhouse is what most often comes to mind when people think about charming French Quarter architecture.
As opposed to the wooden structures that succumbed to the fires, Creole Townhouses were designed with thick, brick or stucco walls. They were built right on the property line, showcase arc openings, and include intricate cast-iron balconies that stretch the full width of the façade (and sometimes wrap around corners). They feature interior courtyards that can be beautiful hidden retreats from street noise, as well as steep roofs with side gables and dormers that reflect their French and Spanish influence. In addition, Creole Townhouses typically have carriageways that lead from the street to the courtyard, instead of a prominent front door.
The townhouse’s vertical structure and long, narrow footprint uses urban space efficiently, and it was quite common for the 1st floor of a Creole Townhouse to hold a shop or business, with a residence on the 2nd and 3rd floors above. This is often how a Creole Townhouse is used today, and many of the beautiful homes and apartments found in the French Quarter are hidden 2nd and 3rd floor gems that offer walkable city living and lovely rooftop views of downtown and the Mississippi River.
Some of the most well-known Creole Townhouses in the French Quarter are the Pontalba Apartments built in the late 1840s. Facing two sides of Jackson Square, they house shops and restaurants on the 1st floor and much sought-after apartments on the upper floors.