Exchange Place in New Orleans
Exchange Place is one of the most famous pedestrian walkways in the French Quarter, a little alley steeped in history. It was once home to many of the best fencing masters in the city, who would go out to the Dueling Oaks in City Park to settle disputes. It also held one of the busiest slave markets in the city, a terrible national trade that started up north and ending in the French Quarter.
Exchange Alley was also home to some of the best bars in the city, including the original Sazerac Coffee House, arguably where America’s first cocktail was invented. The recipe was adapted by Antoine Peychaud, who gained national fame for his coquetries, little French egg cups filled with cognac, sugar and a few heaping dashes of his bitters. The Sazerac Coffee House, named after the brand of cognac the bar carried, adapted Peychaud’s recipe and added a rinse of Absinthe to the glass. After a bad harvest in France, which destroyed most of the grapes needed to make cognac, rye whiskey was substituted, a favorite already to the increasing numbers of Yankees moving to the city. The Sazerac is now the official cocktail of New Orleans, and can be had all over the city. You can learn more about New Orleans' cocktail history on our New Orleans' Cocktail Tour.
The alley was built in 1831 to act as the rear entrance for the Merchant’s Exchange, where all business legitimate or not was carried out, including gambling. At one time it housed the U.S. district court, where a trial was held for the infamous William Walker, the Tennessee-born lawyer who successfully overthrew the Nicaraguan government and became president of the country. He was acquitted and returned to Central America, where he was shot dead on the Caribbean coast. New Orleans, knowing the right thing to do with a spare building, turned the building into an elaborate gambling house after the Civil War. Today the building no longer stands, as it was destroyed by a fire in the 1960s.
Exchange Place are located directly off of Canal Street between Royal and Chartres Streets. It is an ideal walkway for a short afternoon stroll, stopping for a coffee or a Sazerac along the way, but you can enjoy the outdoor seating and quiet atmosphere any time of day.
Where is Exchange Place located?
You can find Exchange Place between Canal Street and Iberville Street, on the block between Chartres Street and Royal Street.
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