The monumental Cabildo building located today on the historic Jackson Square was constructed between 1795 and 1799. The original Cabildo building was destroyed in the great fire of 1788, along with over 70% of the cities buildings. The Cabildo was the seat of the Spanish colonial government. The word "cabildo" means "city council" in Spanish. This building was the site of the official Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies in 1803. It functioned as the seat of the New Orleans city council until the mid-1850s. Later, the "Sala Capitular" room was used the Louisiana Supreme Court and became the site of several landmark cases. Today, the Cabildo hosts the Louisiana State Museum's extensive colonial Louisiana and New Orleans history exhibit.
The Cabildo's main hall, the Sala Capitular, or "Meeting Room," was originally utilized as a courtroom. The Spanish used the courtroom from 1799-1803. From 1803-1812 it was the location of the Louisiana territorial superior court. It was the home of the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1868-1910. Thus, the Sala Capitular was the site of several landmark legal cases, including Plessy v. Ferguson.
By 1895, the Cabildo was in a state of decay and proposed for demolition. Artist William Woodward led a successful campaign to have the historic building preserved and restored.
In 1911 the Cabildo became the home of the Louisiana State Museum. The museum features an extensive exhibit of the region's indigenous, colonial, and urban history. of Special artifacts include Napoleon Bonaparte's death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte and a self portrait of Julien Hudson, a free man of color and artist in the 1800s.
*Further history on The Cabildo:
The original Cabildo was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire (1788). The Cabildo was rebuilt between 1795–99 as the home of the Spanish municipal government in New Orleans, and the third floor with mansard roof was later added, in French style. The building took its name from the governing body who met there — the "Illustrious Cabildo," or city council. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies late in 1803, and continued to be used by the New Orleans city council until the mid-1850s.
The building's main hall, the Sala Capitular ("Meeting Room"), was originally utilized as a courtroom. The Spanish used the courtroom from 1799–1803, and from 1803–1812 it was used by the Louisiana territorial superior court. After the American Civil War, it was the home of the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1868–1910. The Sala Capitular was the site of several landmark court cases, including Plessy v. Ferguson.
In 1895 it was in a state of decay and proposed for demolition; artist William Woodward led a successful campaign to have the historic building preserved and restored. In 1911 the Cabildo became the home of the Louisiana State Museum. The museum displays exhibits about the history of Louisiana from its settlement up through the Reconstruction Era, and about the heritage of the ethnic groups who have lived in the state.
The Cabildo was extensively damaged by a fire on May 11, 1988, which destroyed the cupola and the entire third floor, but it was restored and reopened to the public in 1994. In 2005, the Cabildo survived Hurricane Katrina, the eye of which passed 30 miles east of downtown, with relatively minor damage.
Days after Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana State Police used the business offices of the Cabildo to set up what was called Troop N. The "N" was a designate for New Orleans. From the Cabildo, Louisiana State Troopers patrolled the streets of the city along with other state police agencies from New Mexico and New York.
"The Cabildo." The Louisiana State Museum. Retrieved 8 January 2017. http://louisianastatemuseum.org/museums/the-cabildo/
"The Cabildo." National Park Service. Retrieved 8 January 2017. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/american_latino_heritage/The_Cabildo.html
"The Cabildo and Presbytère." Tulane School of Architecture. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
Mary Ann Wegmann, The Law Library of Louisiana, and University of New Orleans History Department, “The Cabildo: Home of the Louisiana Supreme Court, 1853-1910,” New Orleans Historical, accessed February 3, 2017,http://www.neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/629.
"Louisiana State Museum" (history), Joseph F. Meany Jr., Karen W. Engelke, The Journal of American History, Vol. 83, No. 3 (Dec. 1996), pages 946–952, webpage: JSTOR-Cabild