I believe I must have seen you there and heard that spirited discussion, as I have been known to frequent the places you mentioned. Citizens of the Big Easy, like residents of the Big Apple, often identify themselves with a particular part of the city. There are 17 wards in New Orleans, and the boundaries have remained the same since 1880. The city is divided into chunks, some narrow, some wide. Seven of them are shaped like triangles with the widest part at the river. Others are rectangular shaped. Wards 7, 8, 9 and 17 begin at the river and end at lake Pontchartrain. And one -- the 15th Ward -- is across the river in Algiers. All of the wards, however, are between the river and the lake and between Jefferson Parish in the west and St. Bernard Parish in the east. You can see a map of the ward boundaries at www.nutrias.org, the fabulous Web site of the New Orleans Public Library.
But I must tell you that these ward boundaries changed considerably between 1805 and 1880. We only had seven wards when the city was incorporated in 1805. Then the ward boundaries were set again when Louisiana became a state in 1812.
There were more changes yet in 1836. These occurred when New Orleans was divided into three separate municipalities. You can imagine the confusion that resulted because each municipality had its own wards. The First Municipality -- from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue, the river to Rampart Street -- had five wards. The Second Municipality was the American Section from Canal to Felicity Street, and it had three wards. The Third Municipality had four wards that covered land from Esplanade to the St. Bernard Parish line. Today's Ninth Ward was in the Third Municipality.
The year 1847 brought more ward changes. We still had three municipalities, but the first two added even more wards. Then in 1852 the city was reunified and again ward boundaries were reset.
At that time the city of Lafayette -- formerly a part of Jefferson Parish -- was annexed, so the 10th Ward (Felicity to First Street) and 11th Ward (First to Toledano Street) were added.
The city continued to grow through annexation, and we saw more and more boundary changes. In 1870, the annexation of Jefferson City gave us wards 12-14, and Algiers became part of the city as Ward 15. When Carrollton -- also formerly a part of Jefferson Parish -- was annexed to New Orleans in 1874, it resulted in our last two wards: 16 and 17. A few more changes came between the years 1878 and 1880 when ward boundaries were adjusted by transferring portions of several wards to others.
Maybe the next time you return, you can tear yourself away from Liuzza's and take a tour of the unique wards of New Orleans. You can see most of the wards during a ride on the St. Charles streetcar.
NOTE: On July 9, 2002, I wrote that the Port of New Orleans handles 11.4 million tons of cargo. This figure applies to general cargo such as manufactured goods. The port also handles 27 millions tons of bulk cargo such as grain, fertilizer, and crude oil -- products that can be poured into a ship.