Dating from 1799, this Spanish colonial building is named for the Spanish council—or cabildo—that met there. The transfer of Louisiana to the United States was made in 1803 in the front room on the second floor overlooking the square. This historic transaction was reenacted in the same room for the 200th anniversary of the purchase in 2003. The Cabildo later served as the city hall and then the Supreme Court.
Three floors of multicultural exhibits recount Louisiana history—from the colonial period through Reconstruction—with countless artifacts, including the death mask of Napoléon Bonaparte. In 1988 the building suffered terrible damage from a four-alarm fire. Most of the historic pieces inside were saved, but the top floor (which had been added in the 1840s), the roof, and the cupola had to be replaced. The Cabildo is almost a twin to the Presbytère on the other side of the cathedral. Both sites—as well as the Old U.S. Mint and the 1850 House—are part of the Louisiana State Museum system. Buy tickets to two or more state museums and receive a 20% discount.