It takes maybe oh, um a minute or two at most upon leaving your hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter to realize that ironwork is everywhere. Not just iron. But works in iron. You know, handcrafted, aged, forged ironwork so hard to duplicate today, but so desirable, especially if you live in the Deep South.
In fact, you may have first seen the ironwork as you drove into the Quarter. Balconies framed in ornamental iron. Fencing around commons areas like Jackson Square. And horse head poles where steeds bearing tourists in buggies are tethered.
You may have even pointed out railings bearing moss-lined planter baskets and the like, because that one vignette reminds you of all the pictures of the Deep South you can think of.
When you walk through the quarter, though, you take a closer look. There’s ironwork in most places. Like around Jackson Square where sturdy ornamental poles hold street lamps in sentinel fashion. And fencing becomes appreciated for its artiness as much as a boundary for this holding place for Jackson astride his trusty horse.
Move in even closer, and you’ll notice hand-forged hinges on many of the antique doors where aging looks good. (We’d double-dog dare anyone to touch these doors — preservation means keeping it old, if you ask us.) Old ironwork, sometimes bearing multiple coats of paint, symbolize another time way back when. (See “Old is what you come for: French Quarter, New Orleans.”)
Perhaps the ultimate iron work stands guard around the Cornstalk Fence Hotel where (what else?) the Cornstalk Fence offers photo bugs a chance to gawk and shoot at will. This French Quarter Victorian built in 1840 has been home — at least for a night or two — to Bill and Hillary Clinton and even Elvis himself! But it’s the fence that drew us in with its embellishments of painted well-formed stalks of corn and curlicue vines along the way.
But as you walk narrow streets, you can’t help but notice fences . . .
and rods adorned with fleur de lis.
Right beyond the Quarter, but perhaps officially in it (I don’t really know), lies St. Louis Cemetery 1, the city’s most famous cemetery and home to thousands of bodies of residents both wealthy and poor. (A future blog will cover more of the tombs and aging structures in this place now open only to guided tour groups.) Ironwork still stands — mostly erect and stable — around the crumbling tombs, a testament to the resourcefulness of those who wanted to be remembered in perpetuity and to the art of the iron workers in the late 1700s.
No matter where you stroll in the French Quarter, you’re sure to be amazed at the craftsmanship and Old World beauty of its ironwork.
All the best,
Rusha and Bert