French Quarter Iron Work

French Quarter Iron Work: Emblematic New Orleans

Welcome to part one of our post on French Quarter Iron Work. The iron work adorning the galleries and balconies in the French Quarter are linked with New Orleans in many minds. Few realize, however, how much this decoration is – like our food and music – a gumbo of cultural influencers. The earliest designs are wrought iron, made by working with tools on heated iron. The work was often done by enslaved men newly arrived from Western Africa. Turns out that ironworking was known in that region since the 1200s.

Hidden Figures

And messages are instilled in the designs. Look carefully at the case iron at 713 Camp St., and you will see a Nyame dua (or “tree of God”).

The French Quarter Iron Work
Tree of God – Photo by Jack Kramer

Also at 521 Dauphine Street, the design includes a Dwannimmen, translated as “ram’s horns”.

The French Quarter Iron Work
Dwannimmen or Ram’s Horns – Photo by Jack Kramer

French and Spanish Influences

Sometimes the French and Spanish commissioned artwork not of the iron smith’s design. Look at 617-619 Chartres, which was once the home of Bartholeme Bosque. His initial is visible in the center of the otherwise plain cast iron (below).

French Quarter Iron Work
Bosque custom Iron Work – Photo by Suzanne Stone

The best example is that adorning the second floor of the Cabildo. Look closely at the design on the three windows on either side (below), and you will see a flower.

French Quarter Iron Work
Cabildo Iron Works – Photo By Jack Kramer

The three windows in the middle (below) include a crown.

Crown Iron Works
Crown Iron Works – Photo by Jack Kramer

And now look again at the markers on most street corners. They remind us of the years Spain admirably ruled the colony. You see again the symbolism of round flowers and a crown. 

French Quarter Iron Work
Street Corner Marker – Photo by Jack Kramer

A big thank you to our guide Suzanne Stone for this blog post. Stay tuned for part 2 of our Iron Work blog and don’t wait to book your FASCINATIN’ RHYTHM AND FASCINATIN’ WOMEN tour with Suzanne and The Savvy Native, the best way to see historical New Orleans!

The Savvy Native is a group of experienced local tour guides who were either born in New Orleans or wish they had been.

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