Plan a cultural excursion to the historic Treme neighborhood in New Orleans. The neighborhood entered the public consciousness courtesy of the HBO series based on life in the lower fourth ward after hurricane Katrina. Although the area received an influx of tourists after the show became a hit, the area has been a cultural focal point for both jazz fans and African-American historians for decades.
The first inhabitants of the area were Creole and freed slaves. This New Orleans neighborhood dates back to the late 1800’s and is one of the oldest continuous settlements in the United States. Africanmusic and spicy Creole were a part of weekly social gatherings among early residents. Two of the firest homes owned by African-Americans were purchased by two women living in “the Treme.”
A tight knit sense of community and mutual respect among the different races and cultures who call “the Treme” home is a part of what makes this area of the French Quarter so distinct. Although the home prices are below average, laying claim to a Treme address is a badge of honor among residents. According to local folklore, “the Treme” is the birthplace of the go-cup. Open container laws are a bit relaxed in New Orleans in general, and when you just need a sip or two more, tavern owners pour adult beverages into a plastic cup and send you on your way.
The typical sounds of a city are muffled in “the Treme” by the more pleasant tone of jazz music. Street corners and storefronts are alive with the sights and never off-key tunes of street performers. There is no need to pay a high cover price to get into a concert or stage show in the neighborhood. Simply find a spot to stand and toss a dollar into the hat and enjoy the music. You can stop any child on the street and ask about the musical history of “the Treme” and he will be able to recite chapter and verse on all of the jazz greats which once walked the same streets and played at the same parks.
Louis Armstrong Park – A green space inside the neighborhood which is also the location of historic Congo Square. During the late 1700’s slaves converged on the square each Sunday afternoon. What was then an open field was located adjacent to the Treme Plantation. During a rare break in their chores, the slaves celebrated their heritage by was of drum circles, dancing, singing and marketing goods which they had made.
New Orleans African-American Museum – The facility is open Wednesday through Saturday and features historical documents and artifacts from the areas early inhabitants.
Saint Louis Cemetery – Tour the tombs of notable residents, including the infamous nineteenth “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau. Guides share New Orleans history and tell visitors where they can catch the watch the a second line. The often impromptu musical street parades celebrate special events and occur after a funeral service.
Vaughn’s Bar – Although it may not look like much on the outside, go ahead and step inside the door and let the smooth sounds of jazz encompass your soul. Both new musicians and headliners from around the country take to the small stage to entertain the crowd. Local jazz legend Kermit Ruffins is a frequent performer. He often spend some time at the outdoor BBQ grill preparing spicy entrees before a show.
Basin Street Station – Work a couple of hours into your schedule to tour the historic railroad station. A visitors center located on the ground floor contains exhibits, a gift shop and documentary about the neighborhood.