NPS Logo

Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

Suggested Reading


Explorers and Settlers
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark CABILDO

Location: Orleans Parish, Chartres and St. Peter Streets, on Jackson Square, New Orleans.

Ownership and Administration. State of Louisiana; Louisiana State Museum.

Significance. This building, also known as the Casa Capitular, was erected in 1795 to house the Cabildo of Spanish Louisiana, the legislative and administrative council for the province. Though fire destroyed two predecessor buildings, this structure survived during the last 8 years of Spanish rule in Louisiana and the brief period of French rule in 1803 prior to the transfer of Louisiana Territory to the United States.

Two ceremonies within a period of 3 weeks—November 30 and December 20, 1803—were particularly notable in the Cabildo's history. In the first, Louisiana Territory was placed under French rule after having been under Spanish control for 40 years. During the brief period of French rule, the building was called the Maison de Ville (Town Hall). In the second ceremony, the transfer of sovereignty of Louisiana from France to the United States took place. For many years, the Cabildo continued to provide public offices, but in 1911 it became the Louisiana State Museum.

Representative of Spanish architecture in Louisiana is the Cabildo, or Casa Capitular. From 1795 to 1803, it housed the Cabildo, the legislative and administrative council for the province of Spanish Louisiana.

Present Appearance. The architectural historian Hugh Morrison has commented that the Cabildo, composed of "a full panoply of Renaissance architectural forms," shows the "most markedly Spanish influence in Louisiana." A massive structure of stuccoed brick, it was altered in the 1850's by the addition of a third floor, and a steep-sided mansard roof. [22]

NHL Designation: 10/09/60

Previous Next
Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005