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Canal Street Review

At 170 feet wide, Canal Street is the widest street (as opposed to avenue or boulevard) in the United States and one of the liveliest—particularly during Carnival parades. It was once scheduled to be made into a canal linking the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain; plans changed, but the name remains. In the early 1800s, after the Louisiana Purchase, the French Creoles residing in the French Quarter segregated themselves from the Americans who settled upriver from Canal Street. The communities had separate governments and police systems, and what is now Canal Street—and, most specifically, the central median running down Canal Street—was neutral ground between them. Today, animosities between these two groups are history, but the term "neutral ground" has survived as the name for all medians throughout the city.

Some of the grand buildings that once lined Canal Street remain, many of them former department stores and businesses now serving as hotels, restaurants, or souvenir shops. The Werlein Building (605 Canal St.), once a multilevel music store, is now the Palace Café restaurant. The former home of Maison Blanche (921 Canal St.), once the most elegant of the downtown department stores, is now a Ritz-Carlton hotel, with a ground floor devoted to an upscale mini-mall. One building still serving its original purpose is Adler's (722 Canal St.), the city's most elite jewelry and gift store. For the most part, these buildings are faithfully restored, so you can still appreciate the grandeur that once reigned on this fabled strip.

Updated: 05-07-2013

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