Many urban neighborhoods, such as the Garden District in New Orleans or Chelsea in Manhattan, have clearly defined boundaries upon which the vast majority of residents agree.
Other places, like the Irish Channel, have a generally agreed upon location, even if there is some ambiguity about the exact edges.
Then, there is my neighborhood.
Situated just lakeside of the Faubourg Marigny, this place is bounded by St. Claude, North Claiborne, Esplanade, and Elysian Fields. No one completely agrees on what to call it, or if it’s even a distinct place. This confusion is both fascinating and indicative of the change this neighborhood is experiencing.
The 7th Ward
By far, the most widely used (and the least glamorous) name for this area is the 7th Ward. For all intents and purposes, I live in the 7th Ward. The challenge with this designation isn’t just that it makes our neighborhood sound very institutional, but that this geographical area is so large and oddly shaped that it fails to accurately represent some residents’ experience of where they live.
Some residents believe that the lake side of Claiborne Avenue has a different “feel” to it than the river side, even though it is technically all the 7th Ward. Interstate 10, which bisects the area, further adds to the feeling of disconnectedness. Because architecture and demography seem to shift from one part of the 7th Ward to another, it is experienced by some residents not as one neighborhood, but instead as two or three.
The New Marigny
The least cool thing you can call my neighborhood is the New Marigny. Nothing says you are a white, privileged, soul-sucking, yuppie, entitled, hipster-from-Orange County-who-doesn’t-know-anything-about-anything-and-just-moved-here-to-complain-about-the-noise-and-rent-out-your-house-on-AirBnB-to-other-people-who-don’t-get-it-like-I-do-so-just-go-back-to-where-you-fucking-came-from like calling my neighborhood the New Marigny. The name “New Marigny” is most commonly uttered by recent white transplants who are then scolded by less-recent white transplants for being too white and transplanty.
The “New Marigny” moniker, however, is not as far fetched as militant NOLA defenders wish it was. It dates back to the 19th century.
Hip or not, the New Marigny Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
The South 7th Ward
Today, a name which appears to be gaining popularity is the South 7th Ward. This compromise says, “We are gritty and authentic New Orleanians who embrace the name “7th Ward,” but we also identify with the Marigny/Bywater folks, so don’t get us confused with the people across Claiborne Avenue.”
The South 7th Ward Neighborhood Association is an established group, and holds monthly neighborhood meetings with NOPD community officers. The name is also embraced on the popular (although controversial) networking site Nextdoor.com.
Google agrees, too.
Does it matter?
Regardless of the name one chooses to use, I am starting to really dig this neighborhood. My neighbors include young couples, elderly widows, eccentric artists, crack dealers, musicians, students, yuppies and gangsters. It is vibrant, unique, dangerous, and anything but boring.