Located in a self contained, fully walkable community within the city of New Orleans. Within walking distance are 4 excellent independent restaurants, two local coffee spots (not chains!), a locally owned wine shop with weekly tastings and a locally owned bookstore. Jazz Fest is literally in our back yard, and City Park with the New Orleans Museum, tennis courts and acres of open land around the bayous is a 5 minute walk. The French Quarter is an easy 15 minute bike ride, or catch the streetcar near City Park. As for the neighborhood itself, here's what the Times Picayune roving reporter had to say:
A jazzy little block off Esplanade
THE NEIGHBORHOOD: A sliver of Faubourg St. John (in the Esplanade Ridge Historic District) snuggled up to the Fair Grounds Racetrack and wedged between the cemeteries and Esplanade Avenue. This small enclave includes three short streets -- Verna, Marie and Leda -- all carved from the extensive grounds of the landmark Luling Mansion, also known as the Louisiana Jockey Club.
THE BLOCK: The 1400 block of Verna Court on the racetrack (or even) side of the street, just off Esplanade Avenue. Houses on this side back onto the Fair Grounds.
THE HOUSES: An assortment of early 20th-century houses in varying sizes and styles. There is no real pattern. One comes right up to the sidewalk, another is set far back; one has an ample front yard and garden, another is on a terraced lot. Yet emblems of early 20th-century style, such as exposed rafter tails and low, wide dormers, are abundant and help unite the group.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY STEPHANIE BRUNO / THE TIMES-PICAYUNEThe houses in the 1400 block of Verna Court have a bird's-eye view of Jazzfest just across the fence. The structures are as varied as the melodies their owners can hear from the front porches.
What would it be like to have the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell in your backyard? To sit on your porch and listen to the music, to people-watch as fest-goers walk by? There are a few blocks that afford such an experience: Any place on Fortin Street, where one of the entrances is; maybe on the lake side of the track, near Belfort Street.
But I want to visit Verna Court, because I have always been fascinated by the tiny hideaway and where it is situated.
Anatomy of the block
Verna runs roughly north-south, like Leda Court, while Marie Street runs east-west. The streets were named for sisters when the grounds of the Luling Mansion were subdivided. At the north end of Verna, on the racetrack side, there are no houses, just a fence and a view of the track. A tree holds a child's swing. A little closer to Esplanade are the houses, about eight total. I focus on a group of four in the center, because their individual personalities draw me in. A pretty interesting group of residents seems to have chosen this block.
I start with a large stucco house with terraced grounds and a large, square tower. You could watch the horse races (or Neville Brothers) from here. This house still has a terra-cotta tile roof, and the color is picked up in the accent hue applied to the window sash.
Next door, a more modest Arts and Crafts-style house is enlivened with vivid, warm colors. It has a low, wide dormer and a roof overhang with exposed rafter tails. But what really gets my attention is the front yard. Half of it -- the side closer to Esplanade -- is sand, and it's clearly a playground for children. Under the cypress tree, I see toy trucks and a pail -- someone has been digging. Fanciful metal sculptures are arranged in the sand field, too: They look like stylized jazz musicians, but maybe I just have music on my mind.
A two-story purple house stands next door. Someone has taken a lot of time to get the colors just right, design the garden and add personal elements. I take a closer look at the gable boards and think that perhaps they have been created especially for this house. The pattern of carving is one I have never seen anywhere else. The garden is lush and features a metal orb fountain. Who would think that olive, purple and salmon would work well together? But they do. The biggest chromatic surprise: blue under the eaves and on the porch floor.
After the exuberance of the dragon house (did I forget to mention the dragon on one of the gables?), the simplicity of the adjacent Craftsman double is almost comforting. A terraced lot leads to a porch with chaste white columns neatly set off by red brick. Cement planters hold begonias, which add another bit of color.