A walk through historic New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS, La (Where Y'at Magazine) -- Located just three blocks from the historic French Quarter, just as historic Tremé tends to sit in the shadow of its neighbor. A sub district of the Mid-City District Area, its boundaries are drawn and strictly enforced to Esplanade Avenue to the north, St. Louis Street to the south, North Rampart Street to the east, and North Broad Street to the west.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, it has long been a fixture in the African American community and was the main neighborhood for creoles and free people of color since the early 19th century. The vibrant culture of the free blacks in this neighborhood made New Orleans famous, giving birth to Jazz, Mardi Gras Indians, Modern Brass Bands, and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. This was the magic that David Simon and Eric Overmyer hoped to capture and harness into success for their series. It’s also this culture that people like Sandy Hester hopes will keep a steady stream of tourists following her into the Tremé.
Hester, a New Orleans resident for the last fifteen years, leads a walking tour in the Tremé for French Quarter Phantoms. A college graduate with a major in History, she admits to opening the tour because of the show, although she’s never seen an episode.
“Well the truth of the matter is we started the Tremé tour after the Tremé show, so I wouldn’t know what we would have been getting before,” she explains. “But I still get people who have never heard of the show who just want to get out of the French Quarter and into an actual neighborhood. So I’d say it’s about half and half.”
Hester’s walking tour lasts for about an hour and a half, hitting most of Tremé’s historical hot spots. Her knowledge is worth its weight in gold, and it’s obvious she loves what she does. “When I started researching for the tour, I was amazed. I had no idea, when I got the books—and I got a stack of books; I knew some stuff about the Tremé, but I was amazed about the vast amount of stuff I had no clue about.” Hester explains vividly.
Her tour focuses heavily on the development of community of free people of color in Tremé, and the civil rights movement, which she says has roots in neighborhood. “I did not know that the civil rights movement started here,” she says. “When I grew up we were taught about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and you weren’t taught the people that laid the groundwork for it; like it just sprang up out of nowhere.”
Hester recommends tourists take a guided tour of the neighborhood to fully understand the hidden history of the neighborhood. “You can walk the Tremé by yourself but I don’t think you’ll know what you’re looking at necessarily. I definitely would encourage them to go with somebody, because if you’re going to see a neighborhood like that you want to know about it.”