How New Orleans Got Its Name


New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Sieur de Bienville who was actually Canadian. The spot that he picked was recommended by the Natives of the area at the time. It had a natural levee that help to protect it from seasonal flooding when the Mississippi River overflowed its banks.


There were many times in the early days when that levee could not contain the river and the French Quarter was inundated by water. So in its early days the city was a real challenge to live in and the build a community.


The reason this spot was chosen was because of the river and the bend in the river makes it a perfect place for a port. Also, there was immediate access to Lake Pontchartrain by way of a bayou that is now called Bayou St. John. The lake flows into the Gulf of Mexico and thus ships could come into the lake and goods could be transported to and from the fledgling city by way of this bayou.


The Earl of Orleans was an early supporter of the founding of the city so Bienville named it La Nouvelle Orleans in honor of this aristocrat. Of course, in English we call it New Orleans.


And the French even to this day refer to it as La Nouvelle Orleans and feel a kinship with the city because of its original claim on this burg which was settled in the wilderness and essentially in the middle of nowhere.


In fact, New Orleans is still very French-centric with street names, French expressions and several French immersion schools where the young students become fluent in French because all their classes are taught in French by native French speakers.