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An aerial view of the cityscape of New Orleans. There are various buildings in the view. There is a sunset in the sky and the sky is pink, orange, blue, and purple. Via Shutterstock

New Orleans’ 5 most underrated sites, according to two architecture professors

They literally wrote the book about it

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Shotgun homes, Creole cottages, and center halls are a few iconic house types that spring to mind when one thinks of New Orleans. However, there’s a lot more to the city’s architecture than these 19th-century buildings. And that diversity is exactly what Karen Kingsley and Lake Douglas highlight in their book, Buildings of New Orleans (University of Virginia Press).

“We didn’t want to focus just on the Garden District and the Vieux Carre, but the totality of the city, so that you understand its fullness,” said Kingsley, professor emerita of architecture at Tulane University.

Arranged by neighborhood, the 336-page paperback is compact and portable, considering the dense amount of information it contains. Though the book’s scholarship is heavily vetted and peer-reviewed, its content is entertaining to laymen — and offers them a deeper understanding of their lived environment.

“I think it’s important for people to know the history and context in the community in which they live,” said Douglas, associate dean and professor of landscape architecture at Louisiana State University.

Read on for a tour of New Orleans’ most significant — yet under-appreciated — buildings across five neighborhoods.

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1. Mid-City Library

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4140 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70119

This circa-1963 modernist marvel was designed by Curtis & Davis Architects, who were also responsible for the Superdome. Though designated as a city historic landmark, it remains a heavily used public library.

“The Mid-City Library on Canal Street is an exquisite little modernist building that people don’t go up to see — and an expression of civic pride, “ Kingsley said.

2. Lafitte Greenway

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Lafitte Greenway
New Orleans, LA 70119

This 2.6-mile linear park follows the path of defunct railroad tracks, connecting the historic downtown core of New Orleans to its newer Mid-City neighborhoods. It’s lined with gardens, playgrounds, gyms, and indigenous plants.

“We thought of architecture not as objects divorced from their surroundings, but items in their surroundings — and their surroundings are landscapes, so we wanted to include parks and open spaces,” Douglas said.

“Some of the landscaping areas that have been added to the city—the Lafitte Greenway and Crescent Park — give us both history and something that is very new,” Kingsley said.

3. 1137 St. Charles Avenue

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1137 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130

Built in 1918, the Jerusalem Temple opened to much fanfare, “The new mosque presents in all its aspects the tone of the Orient,” reported The Times-Picayune. “Its outward view is that of an Egyptian temple with mosaics, minarets and golden domes.” The structure is undergoing renovations by Church of the King and serves as one of its three campuses.

“The Masonic temple building on St. Charles Avenue is in the news because it’s being renovated, and it’s an Emile Weil building,” said Douglas.

The exterior of 1137 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. The facade is white and illuminated in purple light. There is a fence in front and an arched doorway. Photo courtesy of Dominique Becnel of Gambel Communications

4. 425 Opelousas Ave

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425 Opelousas Ave
New Orleans, LA 70114

Built on the site of an earlier 1897 fire station, this Tudor Revival station in Old Algiers was designed to reflect civic pride.

“(Fire houses) were designed to blend in with the neighborhood, but look a little bigger and more important (than the surrounding houses),” said Kingsley. “So if you lived in the neighborhood, you could say, ‘That’s my fire station.’

As technology evolved and fire trucks got bigger, many 18th- and 19th-century fire stations were decommissioned and converted into community centers, coffee shops, even Carnival krewe dens. And some, like this circa-1925 fire station, were renovated and turned into homes.

A Tudor brick fire station residence Photo by nola.agent on Flickr

5. New Orleans Lakefront Airport

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6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd #219
New Orleans, LA 70126
(504) 243-4010
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Designed by Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth and built in 1933, the Lakefront Airport once hosted Amelia Earhart and remains a functional public-use airport. It recently underwent a $17 million restoration and doubles as an events venue.

“The Lakefront Airport is a real treasure that has only recently been restored to its former glory. That has to be one of the most important buildings in Louisiana. Everything is Art Deco-ed to death. And then you think about the history of technology — it’s one of the few remaining airports in America that exist as it was when it was built,” Douglas said.

The exterior of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport. The facade is tan with decorative sculptures over each window. There is a sign on top of the awning over the entrance that reads: terminal.

1. Mid-City Library

4140 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119

This circa-1963 modernist marvel was designed by Curtis & Davis Architects, who were also responsible for the Superdome. Though designated as a city historic landmark, it remains a heavily used public library.

“The Mid-City Library on Canal Street is an exquisite little modernist building that people don’t go up to see — and an expression of civic pride, “ Kingsley said.

4140 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70119

2. Lafitte Greenway

Lafitte Greenway, New Orleans, LA 70119

This 2.6-mile linear park follows the path of defunct railroad tracks, connecting the historic downtown core of New Orleans to its newer Mid-City neighborhoods. It’s lined with gardens, playgrounds, gyms, and indigenous plants.

“We thought of architecture not as objects divorced from their surroundings, but items in their surroundings — and their surroundings are landscapes, so we wanted to include parks and open spaces,” Douglas said.

“Some of the landscaping areas that have been added to the city—the Lafitte Greenway and Crescent Park — give us both history and something that is very new,” Kingsley said.

Lafitte Greenway
New Orleans, LA 70119

3. 1137 St. Charles Avenue

1137 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
The exterior of 1137 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. The facade is white and illuminated in purple light. There is a fence in front and an arched doorway. Photo courtesy of Dominique Becnel of Gambel Communications

Built in 1918, the Jerusalem Temple opened to much fanfare, “The new mosque presents in all its aspects the tone of the Orient,” reported The Times-Picayune. “Its outward view is that of an Egyptian temple with mosaics, minarets and golden domes.” The structure is undergoing renovations by Church of the King and serves as one of its three campuses.

“The Masonic temple building on St. Charles Avenue is in the news because it’s being renovated, and it’s an Emile Weil building,” said Douglas.

1137 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130

4. 425 Opelousas Ave

425 Opelousas Ave, New Orleans, LA 70114
A Tudor brick fire station residence Photo by nola.agent on Flickr

Built on the site of an earlier 1897 fire station, this Tudor Revival station in Old Algiers was designed to reflect civic pride.

“(Fire houses) were designed to blend in with the neighborhood, but look a little bigger and more important (than the surrounding houses),” said Kingsley. “So if you lived in the neighborhood, you could say, ‘That’s my fire station.’

As technology evolved and fire trucks got bigger, many 18th- and 19th-century fire stations were decommissioned and converted into community centers, coffee shops, even Carnival krewe dens. And some, like this circa-1925 fire station, were renovated and turned into homes.

425 Opelousas Ave
New Orleans, LA 70114

5. New Orleans Lakefront Airport

6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd #219, New Orleans, LA 70126
The exterior of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport. The facade is tan with decorative sculptures over each window. There is a sign on top of the awning over the entrance that reads: terminal.

Designed by Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth and built in 1933, the Lakefront Airport once hosted Amelia Earhart and remains a functional public-use airport. It recently underwent a $17 million restoration and doubles as an events venue.

“The Lakefront Airport is a real treasure that has only recently been restored to its former glory. That has to be one of the most important buildings in Louisiana. Everything is Art Deco-ed to death. And then you think about the history of technology — it’s one of the few remaining airports in America that exist as it was when it was built,” Douglas said.

6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd #219
New Orleans, LA 70126