Lafayette Square is located in the Central Business District between Gallier Hall and the John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals Building, and has been a gathering place for New Orleanians since it was laid out in the late 1700s. It was originally named Place Gravier, but was renamed Lafayette Square in 1825, three years after the city gained possession of it. It was named in honor of the French general Lafayette, who fought alongside the Americans during the Revolutionary War.
Originally, high iron fences enclosed the square, but during World War I, the fence was taken down and used for scrap iron to support the war effort. In the early 1900s, three bronze statues (of Benjamin Franklin, Henry Clay and John McDonough) were placed in Lafayette Square. More recently, three modern art pieces are on display in the square as part of the “Sculpture for New Orleans” project.
Free music in Lafayette Square has been a tradition for more than 150 years. In 1864, a 500-plus-member band and a choir of thousands of school children, under the leadership of famed bandleader Patrick S. Gilmore, performed a legendary concert. During the 1930s and early ’40s, local music groups and schools played in the square regularly, including bands put together by the WPA Art program.
The traditional trifecta of socializing, relaxing and enjoying free music in Lafayette Square continues today, with the Wednesday at the Square concert series in the spring and summer, and the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival in the fall. Both events provide free local music, great food and drinks and a beautiful setting in which to enjoy the great outdoors in New Orleans.