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A Walking Tour of the Garden District

Start out at the Rink, a small shopping complex at the Washington Avenue and Prytania Street intersection, one block from the streetcar stop. Walk a block east on Prytania (the main artery of the district) to the corner of Fourth Street to see Colonel Short's Villa, known for its ornate cornstalk fence, which supposedly was built for his wife who was homesick for Kentucky. Towards Third Street, the Briggs-Staub House is one of the few Gothic Revival houses in the city. No expense was spared in the construction of the Lonsdale House across the street, which functioned as a Catholic chapel for more than 70 years. The Maddox House, next door, is an example of the five-bay Greek Revival expansion. Across Prytania at the corner of Second is the Women's Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association House, with its distinctive octagonal turret; it now functions as a catering hall for weddings and other social events. At First and Prytania streets is the regal Bradish-Johnson House, now a private girls' school, and the relatively modest raised Toby-Westfeldt House, an example of a Creole colonial home.

Turn right and walk down First Street. Built in 1869, Morris House on the corner of Coliseum and Carroll House next door, where the classic Toys In the Attic was filmed, are decorated with "iron lace," exemplifying the era's romantic, Italianate style. Across Chestnut Street, Brevard House, also known as Rosegate for the ornate cast-iron gate that extends the length of the block, was the home of author Anne Rice from 1989 to 2004. One block farther on the right is the Payne House, where Confederate president Jefferson Davis died.

Walk back up First Street, toward Coliseum. The street takes you past some of the most beautiful and historic homes in the South. The Italianate Mansion at First and Coliseum streets was the former home of rock singer Trent Reznor. Actor John Goodman now lives there. Across the street from each other at Coliseum and Third streets are the white-columned Robinson House, thought to be the first house in New Orleans with indoor plumbing, and the intricate iron-balconied Musson House, built by Edgar Degas's maternal uncle. The white-columned Nolan House, at 2707 Coliseum, is where Benjamin Button was raised in the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Next door, one of New Orleans's most famous restaurants, Commander's Palace, is a great place to stop off for lunch, and across Washington Avenue is the white-walled Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, arguably the most beautiful cemetery in the city.

As New Orleans expanded upriver from Canal Street in the 19th century, wealthy newcomers built their majestic homes in the Garden District, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the country. Today the area is home to politicians, fifth-generation New Orleanians, and celebrities, including local favorite John Goodman. A walk through the Garden District, just a 20-minute streetcar ride from the French Quarter, provides a unique look at life in New Orleans, past and present.

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