Faubourg Marigny—called The Marigny by locals—is one of the small, primarily residential neighborhoods on the Mississippi River just to the east of the French Quarter. This district is a fascinating part of the city's history. It was laid out in 1806 by eccentric Creole millionaire Bernard Xavier Pillippe de Marigny de Mandeville from what was one of his two local plantations. The other plantation, Fountainbeleau, was a sugar plantation located directly across Lake Pontchartrain and is now a lovely state park near the town of Mandeville. The aristocrat Marigny was a wild and indulgent young man who was shipped off to England after his father's death. This did not tame him, and he brought back the game of craps to New Orleans, a game still enjoyed in the city's casinos today.
When he divided up Faubourg Marigny into a residential area, it was the favorite place for white Creole gentlemen to establish households for their colored mistresses and mixed race children. While not recognized as legal spouses, these women were recognized as "left-handed" or common law wives. Many amassed respectable fortunes in their own right and were often considered quite respectable. This practice was called "placage," and was practiced in other southern cities with heritages from Spain and France, also including Natchez and Biloxi in Mississippi, Mobile in Alabama, and St. Augustine and Pensacola in Florida.
One of the things to do in Faubourg Marigny during Mardi Gras is to enjoy the nightlife along Frenchmen Street, which is far less touristy than Bourbon Street during this festive time. Marigny attractions include a number of excellent Frenchmen Street music bars and jazz clubs that cater primarily to locals who prefer these night spots to those in the French Quarter that are packed with rowdy tourists. Part of the music heritage of this neighborhood is that left by native son, the legendary ragtime and early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton. Although his early childhood in the 1880s is rather sketchy, it is likely he was the offspring of a white Creole gentleman and his mistress.
Things to do in Faubourg Marigny include sightseeing tours that showcase the varied and distinctive architecture of the neighborhood. Here you will find the Creole Cottage, a type of house prevalent throughout the Gulf Coast that may be the only true architectural style developed solely in the United States. You will also see a large number of shotgun houses that are typical of New Orleans. They are rarely more than twelve feet wide, and consist of three to five rooms with no hallways. Many of the Marigny corners have nineteenth-century corner store houses in which the ground floor was typically a retail shop with upper floors containing the residences of the shopkeepers. There are several old churches as well as nineteenth-century brick warehouses and laborers' boarding houses down by the river. This is one of the most intact nineteenth-century neighborhoods anywhere in the United States, and the local Improvement Association offers an annual home tour in May and a guided walking tour in October.
There are many special events here, including popular Christmas caroling through the streets. Numerous artists and musicians have been drawn to the bohemian Faubourg Marigny atmosphere, and there is a thriving art market in Washington Square. In addition to enjoying live music in the many bars and clubs, another of the things to do in Faubourg Marigny is eating. There are fabulous dining spots in the neighborhood, primarily along Frenchmen Street.