In the early 1800s, the wooden-rail balcony extending over Orleans Street was linked to a ballroom where free women of color met their French suitors, as Madame John of Madame John's Legacy is said to have done. The quadroons (technically, people whose racial makeup was one-quarter African) who met here were young, unmarried women of legendary beauty. A gentleman would select a favorite beauty and, with her mother's approval, buy her a house and support her as his mistress.
The sons of these unions, which were generally maintained in addition to legal marriages with French women, were often sent to France to be educated. This practice, known as plaçage, was unique to New Orleans at the time. The Quadroon Ballroom later became part of a convent and school for the Sisters of the Holy Family, a religious order founded in New Orleans in 1842 by the daughter of a quadroon to educate and care for African-American women. The ballroom itself is not open to visitors, but a view of the balcony from across the street is enough to set the historical stage.
Bourbon Orleans Hotel, 717 Orleans St., 2nd fl., New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116, United States