Architect Louis H Pilié built New Orleans’ most famous landmark, Place d’Armes, in 1721. Pilié based his design on the seventeenth century Place des Vosges in Paris, France. Clark Mills‘ statue of Battle of New Orleans hero and future US President Andrew Jackson, for whom the square was renamed in 1815, was erected in 1856. Baroness Micaela Almonester-Pontalba designed its benches, iron fences, walkways, and Parisian-style landscaping in 1851.
Prior to 1856, Jackson Square was used as a military parade ground and public execution site of criminals and runaway slaves before it was converted to a park. The pedestrian mall surrounding Jackson Square was created in 1971 when three streets, Chartres, St Peter and St Ann, were closed to vehicles. Life in the French Quarter centers on Jackson Square with its collection of artists, musicians, and tarot card readers. Formal concerts and the French Quarter Festival are held annually in Jackson Square. Across the street, the Café du Monde serves its famous beignets and café au lait 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
The St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytère, the Cabildo and the Pontalba Apartments overlook Jackson square. The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Its formal name is the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France. Directly across from Jackson Square is the Jax Brewery building. After Jax Brewery ceased to operate independently, the building was converted for use by several businesses, including restaurants and specialty shops. In recent years, retail space has been converted into riverfront condominiums. Behind the Jax Brewery lies the Toulouse Street Wharf, the regular pier of the steamboat, Natchez.
Originally, Jackson Square overlooked the Mississippi River across Decatur Street, but its view was blocked when large levees were built along the river in the nineteenth century. The scenic boardwalk along the river across from Jackson Square is known as the Moon Walk in honor of Mayor Moon Landrieu. In the late 1980s, wharves and warehouses were demolished to create Woldenberg Park, thereby extending the riverfront promenade up to Canal Street.