New Orleans’ birthdate? It’s complicated.
Our story actually begins on March 3, 1699, when the French explorer Pierre Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, set up camp about 60 miles downriver from the site that would become New Orleans.
A statue of Bienville, erected in 1955, is located in the 400 block of Decatur Street in the French Quarter. It lists the year of New Orleans’ founding as 1717.
- Since March 3, 1699, just happened to be Mardi Gras, a major event on the French calendar, Iberville dubbed his landing spot, in the spelling of the time, La Pointe du Mardy Gras. The Rex organization put a plaque on the site in 1999.
- The area that became New Orleans had long been used by Indians as a portage point between the Mississippi and coastal waters to the east.
- Believe it or not, one point in favor of the site was that the land was relatively high (probably in comparison with surrounding land).
- The city was named for the regent of France, Philippe, Duc d’Orléans.
This is where it all began. New Orleans’ founding followed decades of exploration by such diverse groups as Jesuit priests, traders and voyageurs from the Great Lakes, all of whom were hoping to be able to establish a settlement that vessels could reach on the lower Mississippi.