NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — There is a long trail of history to follow when learning about the infrastructure of the city’s foundation and the major events that happened along the way. Some facts may pique your interest and lead you on a path to research, while others are just some “good to know” conversation starters.
For example, did you know New Orleans was the first city in the United States to host an opera? While the city is the birthplace of Jazz, in 1796, citizens were treated to a performance of “Sylvain” composed by André Ernest Grétry. From there came the construction of Théâtre Saint-Philippe in 1808 and Théâtre d’Orléans, also known as The French Opera House, in 1815 after the Battle of New Orleans.
According to the Hermann Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, the construction of both forever proclaimed the City of New Orleans as the Opera Capital of North America.
Continuing on the “New Orleans had it first” trail, did you know that the first-ever poker game was played in the city? While historians claim the game of poker is an extension of a card game played by a 10th-century Chinese Emperor, others say the game originated from a 16th-century Persian card game.
Originally pronounced “Poque,” the game of bluffing, holding and folding entered the city during the French Colonist settlement in North America. Specifically in New Orleans and followed soldiers up the Mississippi River during the Louisiana Purchase.
Settlers adopted the game, altering its features. For example, instead of playing with only three cards, each player now plays with five cards and a full deck of 52.
Digging deeper into the history of the Crescent City, named for its curve at the river bend, you won’t have to dig too far to bury loved ones as New Orleans is the originator of above-ground graves.
According to guides with NOLA Tour Guy, who walk the historic streets, educating visitors about both the living and dead, above-ground graves came into being in the 18th century and the reason for them is due to the city’s location.
New Orleans sits between three waterways the Mississippi River, Lake Borgne, and Lake Pontchartrain. Being a city that floods often, there have been instances where those resting in peace have been displaced due to flooded graves and the city’s high water table.
While the graves are practical, they are also works of art. Buildings around NOLA are known for their touch of French and Spanish architecture. The same can be said for mausoleums throughout the famous cemeteries. Don’t believe us, just take a cemetery tour and visit the souls resting there.
On the spirited topics of souls, did you know that New Orleans is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the United States?
It does not have to be Halloween to hear a spooky story around here.
All you have to do is ask, and you shall receive. We have pirates, voodoo queens, vampires, ghosts, and spirits but no zombies. NOLA is known as the city where the dead walk amongst the living.
Historians say you can have spirits with the spirits of General Andrew Jackson, Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, or Pirate Jean Lafitte at the Old Absinthe House. If you see the bottles and chairs moving or a door closing on its own, it’s not the absinthe.
To learn more about the notable spirits floating in the streets, grab a friend and take a ghost tour through the most haunted homes and alleyways and even stay in one of many haunted hotels like the Hotel Monteleone, Hotel of New Orleans and The Bourbon Orleans Hotel.
So, the next time you find yourself at a party and want to sound like New Orleans Connoisseur, maybe throw out the fact that in 1956, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge was one of the longest bridges in the world. How about the fact that New Orleans was twice named the capital of Louisiana in 1825 and 1864?
There is always something new to discover about New Orleans. All you have to do is ask or go out and explore.