The Old Point Bar has appeared in over forty movies, including Green Lantern, the Oscar-winning Ray, Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, and Nicolas Cage’s Seeking Justice. And there’s good reason, too. Its worn, wooden floors and walls exude a palpable feeling of age. A lot of people have passed a lot of time in this space. In the nineteenth century, the Old Point was a coffeehouse, back when coffeehouses served as much brandy as they did coffee. It later became a music spot, popular among African American musicians who were not welcome in many white clubs in New Orleans. Now everyone is welcome here, and you can catch a variety of musical acts pretty much any night of the week.
There’s just enough quirky decor to keep the place from feeling like a movie set. Lovely carved mermaid figureheads, loosed from their ships and attached near the ceiling, keep watch above the patrons. They rest among scores of license plates that pepper the walls. It’s a relaxed, comfortable bar with low prices and a set of patrons who know each other and who call the bartenders by name. The Old Point embodies what is charming about Algiers. It feels like New Orleans because it is New Orleans, but the pace also feels a little slower than the rest of the city. Things are a little more laid back on this side of the river.
Just down the Mississippi River from the French Quarter lies the Marigny. It’s named for Jean-Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, better known as Bernard Marigny, who owned the plantation from which this neighborhood was carved. Bernard was a bon vivant who allegedly introduced the dice game craps to the citizens of New Orleans. Despite his fondness for the game, he was apparently terrible at it, and over time he gambled most of his wealth away. Marigny eventually decided to sell the land to the city, but before doing so he carved the plantation into streets, naming them as he went along. Notably, the street now called Burgundy was originally Rue de Craps, a nod to his favorite pastime. By the early 1800s, his plantation was owned by the city.
The next neighborhood down the river is the Bywater, separated from the Marigny by the train tracks at Press Street. This area was a staging ground for many of the troops who fought in the Battle of New Orleans just down the Mississippi River in Chalmette. The British were defeated there under the leadership of Andrew Jackson, whose statue graces Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Both the Marigny and the Bywater were working-class neighborhoods throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Their proximity to the port made them popular among people who worked on the wharf. In recent years, the neighborhoods have become popular among young millennials, so instead of salty sea captains drinking rum in taverns, you will see coffeehouses full of guys in skinny pants and Warby Parker glasses. Tennessee Williams set his play A Streetcar Named Desire in the Marigny near Elysian Fields, and the Desire Streetcar to which he refers ran along Desire Street, which sits four blocks from the train tracks in the Bywater.
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