Jackson Square: A Lingering Way of Life in New Orleans

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Home on the Square

Today, the legacy of the baroness still stands. People still live here, and the Masons and the Legorettas share not only a balcony, but also one of the most historic front yards in the country.

But the intimate halls of the 150-year-old estate are threatened. "I would say no more than 30 percent of the residents are full-time, permanent tenants," said Lee Tucker. The rooms are usually full only during Mardi Gras and other major events.

Tucker, an artist working in the square, says corporate ownership of the dwellings has replaced the communal sense of neighborhood he found when he moved to Jackson Square 20 years ago. At that time, performers and artists from the square filled the building, and there was a feeling of family. "There was just a more neighborhood feeling [with] long-time residents," he says.

Yet each night, when the last tourists stroll back to their hotels, some of the natives remain, cherishing a way of life that began a century and a half ago.

"It would be fascinating," said Lee Mason, "if you could bring her [Baroness Pontalba] back, and let her know that this building has survived for 150 and probably will for 150 more."

This story originally aired on National Geographic Today as part of the "Great Neighborhoods" series.

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