Jackson Square is teeming with major New Orleans landmarks, including The Presbytere. The two-story building is defined by its elliptical arches, multi-pane windows, many pillars, and a louvered cupola. The building’s cupola, in fact, comes and goes. It was first added in 1847, several years after the main construction, blown off by the New Orleans Hurricane of 1915, and replaced in 2005.
Its resemblance to the Spanish Colonial Cabildo on the other side of St. Louis Cathedral might lead you to suppose the two buildings were constructed at the same time. Actually, The Presbytere was built nearly 20 years later to match the Town Hall. In its 200 years, it has served as a commercial building, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and part of the Louisiana State Museum. Contrary to its name, however, it never fulfilled its original purpose as a house for monks.
The Presbytere remains part of the Louisiana State Museum to this day with two exhibits highlighting different facets of local history. “Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana” showcases the city’s most famous festival, while “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond” documents the 2005 natural disaster and the city’s ongoing recovery.