NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —A new bilingual exhibition opens in October at the Historic New Orleans Collection, where you can go back and explore 18th Century history.

From the earliest days of the vast province of Louisiana, there was a very strong relationship with the country of Spain.  The house of bourbon was an influential ruling family of France, and by the 18th century, the house of Bourbon would also have ruling members in Spain. 

King Carlos III was a member of the Bourbon family, and he was the King of Spain. In 1762, King Carlos was offered Louisiana by his cousin, French King Louis the 15th, as part of a treaty, beginning Spanish Louisiana.

“While Carlos the III at first was a little bit cautious, in the end, he decided to accept Louisiana and both of those letters exist to this day.”

The historic New Orleans Collection’s new exhibition displays the story of Spanish New Orleans and will be up from October 20th through January. 

The exhibition will include priceless documents like a letter from the second Spanish Governor of the territory, Alejandro O’Reilly who made a law against enslaving Native Americans.

“We have a document, showing a Native American being purchased by a Frenchman and a document of a native American being freed by a Spaniard and then a native American selling property.”


Two disastrous fires occurred in Spanish New Orleans in the late 18th century. Wooden structures originally of french design went up in smoke. “They instituted new regulations that included firewalls that prevented the fires from spreading.  In some cases, they required flat roofs to help the fire from spreading.”

Spain would strengthen building codes and instituted something similar to the FEMA trailers of today for those who lost homes, by diving lots in the back of the cathedral to house displaced residents. 

Records exist today for a Spanish-period fire station.  Other artifacts include watercolors of buildings and a set of religious vestments made by Spanish nuns composed of gold thread and a life-sized statue of Christ.

“The Spanish period was filled with innovation; more innovation than people could ever imagine.”

Be sure to check out our Hispanic Heritage Special!

  • Friday, October 14 at 6:30 p.m. on WGNO
  • Saturday, October 15 at 9:30 p.m. on NOLA-38

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