Basin St. Station: A Historic Welcome To New Orleans!
Basin St. Station is part visitor welcome center and part historic and cultural center for New Orleans.
Basin St. Station, the Cultural Crossroads of New Orleans, exhibits the fascinating history, rich culture and unique attributes of New Orleans in the only remaining railroad building of the City. It's mission is to offer visitors and residents a broad range of authentic and diverse information about the history and culture of New Orleans in an inviting, elegant, vibrant, and historic location.
It is nestled in the very center of New Orleans' most historically important neighborhoods. Basin St. Station is offered to visitors for travel planning, to school groups for educational programs, as a performance or event venue and as a meeting place for non–profit, educational, neighborhood and community groups to share the uniqueness of the culture, traditions and customs of a great American city.
Basin St. Station Visitor Information & Cultural Center is located on a one acre site on the edge of the historic French Quarter between the historic neighborhoods of Tremé and Iberville. It is an immediate neighbor to the historic St. Louis Cemetery #1, the Municipal Auditorium, the Mahalia Jackson Theater, Congo Square and Armstrong Park. Basin St. Station is easily accessible from Interstate–10, East or West, Exit 235–A, Orleans Avenue / Vieux Carré.
VISITOR INFORMATION & CULTURAL CENTER
Basin St. Station is unlike any place you have ever visited. This magnificent restoration of the old Southern Railway Station renews the site as a way station for travelers excited about their visit to New Orleans. The 105 year old historic railroad building is alive with travel counselors, exhibits, murals, art, music, crafts, refreshments and entertainment — truly the Cultural Crossroads of New Orleans.
Once inside the Station you are transported back in time to the turn–of–the–century when lumbering steam trains transported passengers and commerce to and from New Orleans. Look straight ahead — once again travel counselors are ready to welcome, inform, and guide visitors through America's most romantic and fascinating City. Whether it's a memorable evening of music, delicious food, an old world hotel, interesting tours, or a listing of events and performances across the city, local counselors stand ready to help plan a wonderful travel experience.
Take a walk around the spectacular two–story atrium flanked with generous murals of historic Canal St. (circa 1937) and the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River (circa 1845). The expansive highly polished old–world floor even offers a unique lesson about local geography. Now, brace yourself for a steaming New Orleans coffee at the Sidetrack Coffee Bar — the beautiful coffee bar of white marble, brass, carved oak and mahogany — tucked under the a 19th century hammered tin ceiling.
Once you catch your breath — step through the TRAINS portal — for an authentic and expansive array of exhibits that offer an exciting introduction to one of the world's most historically important and culturally rich American cities.
View our introductory film, New Orleans — Heart & Soul, then see exhibits that tell the remarkable story of this city and Basin St. Station. During your visit, don't be surprised if you happen upon local artists, musicians, chefs and storytellers sharing their considerable talents and knowledge. At Basin St. Station we honor, appreciate, and celebrate the rich culture, unique traditions, wonderful people, and diverse neighborhoods of New Orleans.
BUT, before you depart to begin your exciting New Orleans adventure, be sure to visit Mahogany Hall and The Turning Basin Terrace on the 4th floor for a spectacular panoramic view of our truly magnificent City. Once you gaze upon the rooftops of our French Quarter, the tomb of Vodoo Queen Marie Laveau in historic St. Louis Cemetery #1, and Congo Square / Louis Armstrong Park, you will know and understand that you are truly standing at the Cultural Crossroads of New Orleans — Basin St. Station embodies the essence of the soul of an amazing city.
New Orleans has been called America's greatest outdoor museum, every building and every street has a story. Basin St Station is no exception. The building embodies the preservation of a rare vestige of the five railway stations and their associated buildings that served downtown New Orleans in the early 20th century. It was formerly the New Orleans Terminal Company/Southern Railway. The main structure, built in 1904, served as the freight office for the Southern Railway system. The original building was rescued and restored from years of neglect by the Valentino family in 2004. The grand entrance is a new addition; it is modeled after the Southern Railway Passenger Station that stood for fifty years on the corner of Canal and Basin St. This original building, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and the name Basin Street are among the historical touchstones that remain in what was once the transportation crossroads of New Orleans.
The property where Basin St. Station is located and where the original 1904 structure was built is strategically located at the important transportation crossroads of New Orleans.
If you look closely at the Creole Map of New Orleans you can locate St. Louis Cemetery #1 just outside the city ramparts. Look next to the cemetery and you will discover that you are standing on the site of the old turning basin for the Carondelet Canal. Built by the Spanish in 1786, the canal was a busy thoroughfare connecting the port of New Orleans with Lake Pontchartrain. The area around the turning basin bustled with lumberyards and mills, and vendors who brought goods for display at the Tremé Market or sold their wares from their boats. The music venues and dance halls that sprang up along the banks of this canal are credited with fostering the birth of jazz. The orchestras that performed at Spanish Fort, the amusement park on the lakefront, were incubators for musicians like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Sydney Bechet. Basin St. Station property is adjacent to Storyville, the infamous red light district from 1898–1917 and where many New Orleans musicians got their start. Spencer Williams, the prolific black actor and writer who penned "Basin Street Blues," practically grew up on the street; his Aunt Lulu White owned Mahogany Hall the largest cabaret in Storyville. Down the Line is one of the few remaining photographs that show the railroad tracks leading down Basin St. and the saloons and nightclubs behind the Southern Railway Station.
Whether you are from the other side of the globe, another city or locale in Louisiana or one of New Orleans' great neighborhoods, Basin St. Station is a place to have a cup of wonderful New Orleans coffee and enjoy a quiet moment among the exhibits. Take in the energy of our local artists, musicians, chefs and community neighbors who are often present adding excitement and vibrancy to Basin St. Station cultural crossroads of New Orleans. At Basin St. Station you are also likely to meet local New Orleanians coming and going — attending community and neighborhood meetings and seminars or enjoying philanthropic and civic events.
For the last decade, urban planners and economic development professionals have targeted the historically important Basin Street Corridor for economic revitalization. The transformation of Basin St. Station from a transportation crossroad to a cultural crossroad will establish a community link for New Orleanians to meet for social gatherings and to share respective traditions through entertainment venues, educational programs and exhibits and for visitors to receive an authentic introduction to our diverse and richly historical City.
Basin St. Station is a four–story 22,500 sq. ft. building with adjoining landscaped parking. The first floor culture, art, and entertainment area will have a staffed visitor and information center; educational and community exhibit and performance venues; a staffed walking tour kiosk; a coffee shop and an authentically New Orleans and Louisiana fine gift shop. The second and third floor renovated office space will have views of Basin Street., the Municipal Auditorium and St. Louis Cemetery #1. The fourth floor function venue and rooftop terrace overlooks Canal St., the Central Business District and the French Quarter and will accommodate meetings, receptions, performances, symposia, and parties.
Basin St. Station retains the New Orleans Company/Southern Railway Freight Office Building's 1904 Neo Classic conservative symmetrical architecture. The façade of Basin St. Station emulates the exterior of the original Southern Railway System Passenger Station, formerly located at Canal and Basin Street between Krauss Co. and the Saenger Theatre just 2 blocks from the Basin St. Station redevelopment. The Southern Railway System Passenger Station was constructed in 1908 and demolished in 1956. The neo-classical façade of Basin St. Station echoes the dramatic two-story stone and brick arches and exterior cement clustered column design of the 1908 Southern Railway System Passenger Station. Basin St. Station's dramatic front façade compliments the 1904 Neo Classic design of the original New Orleans Terminal Company / Southern Railway System Freight Office Building. The three exterior sides of the building visible from Basin, St. Louis and Crozat Streets will retain the building's 1904 stylistically Neo Classic conservative symmetrical architecture. Complimenting the dramatic front exterior façade is a two clear-story area leading to the original New Orleans Terminal Company/Southern Railway Office Building. Inside the atrium, a dramatic limestone and brick cement entryway leads into the building's original first, second and third floors. A highly polished terrazzo floor surface will cover all 7,500 sq ft of the first floor areas — crafted with geometric patters to compliment the natural building column placements. A large inlaid floor compass design will greet visitors at the entrance, but with Upriver/Downriver/Uptown/Downtown directional indicators. The building's original interior brick walls, ceilings and cypress beams have been restored and incorporated into the restored Neo Classic interior design. The fourth floor function venue and rooftop terrace addition is glass on three sides with a skylight ceiling. The function venue and rooftop terrace exterior façade replicates the building's neo–classical design and has spectacular views of Canal St., the Central Business District and the French Quarter.
The Valentino family of New Orleans has been in the hotel and hospitality business in New Orleans for almost 50 years, operating hotels and offering travel services to visitors since 1958. They acquired the Basin St. railroad property in December of 2003. Planning and development of the site began in the summer of 2004. Basin St. Station was scheduled to open in late summer of 2005, but Hurricane Katrina delayed the building's opening until February 2005.
In addition to Basin St. Station, the Valentino family owns three hotel properties in New Orleans — the Place d'Armes, Prince Conti and Hotel St. Marie — all located in the beautiful French Quarter.