The greatest flip in real estate history? You’re living in it.
Spain gave the Louisiana Territory back to France in 1800 under the treaty of San Idelfonso. In 1803, France sold all 828,000 square miles of land to the United States in what has become known as the Louisiana Purchase, inarguably the biggest flip – and greatest bargain – in real estate history.
The territory encompasses all or part of 14 states — Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico — and a small piece of Canada.
- The United States paid France about $15 million in cash and canceled debts (worth slightly more than $240 million today).
- Because things moved much more slowly then, the formal transfer from Spain to France didn’t occur until Nov. 3, 1803, in the Cabildo. A crowd waited outside, in the rain, in the Place d’Armes (now Jackson Square). Twenty days later, control passed to the United States with another ceremony in the Cabildo, with a celebration in the Place d’Armes.
- Even then, Louisianians knew how to party. To celebrate the transfer to the United States, a banquet for 450 was held that started at 3 p.m., followed by a dance that ended sometime the next morning.
The Territory of Orleans was created in 1804 and admitted to the union as Louisiana, the 18th state, on April 30, 1812. The most lasting remnant of this seminal piece of local history is the Cabildo, which has seved as City Hall, Supreme Court and prison. It now connects locals and tourists to our rich history as the site of the Louisiana State Museum, a vibrant space for research, cultural enrichment and, not infrequently, private parties with dancing that lasts deep into the night.