A. The New Orleans Writers’ Residence
We’re located just outside the Marigny at Frenchmen and Claiborne, a ten minute walk from the Quarter.
B. Hotel Monteleone
The Hotel Monteleone was the favorite watering hole and home-away-from-home of a number of famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and more recently, Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose, and John Grisham. Truman Capote even claimed to have been born here, as his mother was living in the hotel at the time of his birth.
C. The Napoleon House
In 1821, this building was offered as a refuge to the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte. He didn’t make it, but the building was later turned into a bar that was the favorite of many visiting artists and writers, including Andy Warhol. Many locals claim that it serves the best muffuletta in New Orleans.
D. Dooky Chase
This historic Creole restaurant was once a hotbed of civil rights activism. Martin Luther King and other leaders of the civil rights movement would meet in secret in the upstairs dining room to discuss nonviolent resistance and strategies for actions. Today, the restaurant is visited by presidents and luminaries from everywhere, and is still run by the same woman, Leah Chase, now in her 90s.
E. The Olde Absinthe House
Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain used to frequent this Bourbon Street mainstay. During the prohibition the antique bar that is the Olde Absinthe House’s centerpiece was to be destroyed to make a statement, but was smuggled to safety in the dead of night. Andrew Jackson and the pirate Jean Lafitte are rumored to have prepared for the Battle of New Orleans in the rooms upstairs.
Antoine’s is the longest operating restaurant in the United States, and also served as the settings for Frances Parkinson Keyes‘ mystery novel Dinner at Antoine’s. Try the Baked Alaska for dessert.
G. Faulkner House Books
The former home of William Faulkner is now a cozy bookstore nestled in Pirate’s Alley, next to the Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter. In addition to the natural romance of having once housed Faulkner, the bookstore is now a literary destination in it’s own right, being home to a rich collection of first editions and hard-to-find contemporary literature. Gypsy Lou Webb, the woman who first published Charles Bukowski at the Loujon Press, used to sell paintings in the street outside.
H. Congo Square
Slaves would congregate here every week during the 1700s to dance and play music. West African traditions collided with European ones, and the result, a couple of centuries later, was jazz. Fittingly, Congo Square is now located inside Louis Armstrong Park. Armstrong, a grandson of slaves, was born in Storyville, the then red-light district and general neighborhood of ill repute, just down Claiborne Avenue from where the New Orleans Writers’ Residence now stands.
I. The Pontalba Buildings
The beautiful old apartments overlooking Jackson Square once housed a 1920s salon where Sherwood Anderson, Somerset Maugham, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, and William Faulkner used to meet to sit on the balcony and talk.
J. The Skyscraper Building
Said to be the oldest four-story building in the Quarter, the Skyscraper Building was once home to George Washington Cable, famous for his stories of the old Creole ways of life. In the sixties it was also next door to the Loujon Press, home of the Outsider Journal, that published many of the beat greats including William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Bukowski.
K. The New Orleans Public Library
Aside from having a large selection of books, the NOLA public library also houses a large collection of local historical documents and microfilm on its third floor. Aside from records of some of the larger papers like the Picayune, you can also fine the full archive of the Louisiana Weekly, one of the oldest African-American newspapers still in circulation. Founded in 1925, the LA Weekly contains local events, ads, essays on the civil rights movement, and travel advice for African-Americans looking to navigate through a dangerous white-dominated nation.
Both Tennessee Williams and Walker Percy used to frequent this historic restaurant on Bourbon St., which still serves fine French-Creole cuisine to this day. Williams preferred a seat by the window, and even gave the restaurant a mention in his seminal play A Streetcar Named Desire.
M. Algiers Point
Across the river from the Quarter is Algiers Point, a much quieter but still storied historic neighborhood. Walker Percy liked to draw comparisons between the flash of the quarter and the steady authenticity of Algiers. Zora Neale Hurston and William S. Burroughs both lived in Algiers for a time.
Other Arts History
Samuel Clemens got his pen name here — or rather stole it, from an old riverboat captain named Isaiah Sellers. Sellers would write “brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the river” for the New Orleans Picayune, and sign them Mark Twain. Clemens wrote a parody of the captain’s staid articles in the New Orleans True Delta, and thus got his first newspaper byline, also under the name of Mark Twain. According to Clemens, “Captain Sellers did me the honor to profoundly detest me from that day forth,” but the deed had been done, and Samuel Clemens has been the real Mark Twain ever since.
John Kennedy Toole wrote A Confederacy of Dunces during the last few months of a visit to Puerto Rico. Toole was from New Orleans, and the novel is set there. Tool was a gifted writer, but his novels were rejected by publisher after publisher. He suffered from extreme bouts of paranoia and depression, and this, combined with the repeated rejection, finally led him to commit suicide at the age of 31, in 1969. His mother worked tirelessly to get her son the recognition she felt he deserved, and after eleven years, the novel finally landed on the desk of Walker Percy, the New Orleans author and philosopher. Percy championed the novel and it was published in 1980. Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction a year later.
Tennessee Williams, one of the foremost American playwrights of the 20th century, lived in New Orleans for many years, starting out at 722 Toulouse St. in the French Quarter. A quote of his you’ll hear often in the bookstores around town is, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”
Edgar Degas stayed in New Orleans for a year beginning in 1872. His mother was a native of the city, of Creole and French descent, and he had family here. He made many paintings during his stay in New Orleans, and one of them, A Cotton Office in New Orleans was the only work of his that was purchased by a museum during his lifetime. The house where he stayed, at 2306 Esplanade Avenue, is now known as The Degas House and is open to the public.