The Gist: Fulton Street is named after Robert Fulton, inventor of the steam engine and steamboat. Originally mostly industrial, Fulton Street served as an entertainment strip at the 1984 World’s Fair. Part of it has been revitalized as a popular, modern-day pedestrian mall. (There is also a Fulton Street in New Orleans East; however, this post is about the Fulton Street in Downtown New Orleans.)
Yesterday: Fulton Street runs parallel to the Mississippi River within the “American Sector” of early New Orleans, which became known as the Faubourg Ste. Marie (now known as the Central Business District or “CBD”). A few posts ago, I wrote about the history of Poydras Street, and Fulton Street ends as Poydras Street runs perpendicular. Dating as far back as the early 1800s, it was mainly used as an industrial avenue due to its proximity to the river. In fact, it remained predominately industrial through the 1970s. In New Orleans Architecture: The American Sector, Mary Louis Christovich wrote in 1972 that the 600 block of Fulton Street was “filled with boxcars, railroad tracks, and trash” despite having attractive commercial warehouses (164).
Today: Christovich also wrote that the “Fulton Street facades, now used as warehouses and railroad depots (circa 1972), could make an attractive street scene” (164). She was right. When the World’s Fair came to New Orleans in 1984, Fulton Street was a strip where fairgoers could eat, shop, and just embrace the exposition. The area would later be not readily used after the fair, as did many areas along the riverfront. After decades, it would later be revitalized into commerce once again. Since Hurricane Katrina, Fulton Street has become a popular dining and entertainment destination due to its proximity to Harrah’s Casino and several hotels. Restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Grand Isle provide people with quality surf-n-turf dining, whereas places like Gordon Biersch and Manning’s provide a good venue for watching sports and drinking brewskies. A local staple, Ernst Cafe, is across the street from the pedestrian mall’s end and usually has a crowd most nights. Fulton Street, as a regular street, runs through the Warehouse District to South Diamond Street from there, where several shops and restaurants give residents plenty of options.
Fulton Street has grown into a prominent Christmas destination as well with a covered promenade of seasonal items like Christmas trees and eternal emblems like the Fleur-de-lis. The Miracle on Fulton Street also has recreations of snowfall. That’s about all the snow we’ll see for 4 or 6 years.
Tomorrow: Overall, I don’t see Fulton Street falling into dilapidation anytime soon. In fact, several developments are underway. Manning’s, a sports bar owned by the …. you guessed it, the mighty Manning dynasty, is a new development on Fulton that offers sports fans a Mecca of options. An up-scale bowling alley (oxymoron?) just opened across Fulton from Manning’s. Fulton Alley claims to have high-end cocktails and an overall classier environment than your run-of-the-mill bowling alleys. Fancy bowling establishments? We’ve come a long way from steam engines.
1984 New Orleans World’s Fair. Bill Cotter. 2009.
New Orleans Architecture: The American Sector. Mary Louise Christovich. 1972.
“Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival, Miracle on Fulton Street, and More this Weekend in New Orleans.” The Times Picayune. 3 December 2010. http://www.nola.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2010/12/plaquemines_parish_orange_fest.html