Before the year 2000, I had never been to New Orleans. Since then, I have been almost twice a year. One of the most famous landmarks is Pirate’s Alley. Famous or infamous, detailed, factual information about the history of Pirate’s Alley is illusive. And yet, it is one of the most photographed and painted landmarks of the city. One can find some version of a painting or photograph in almost every shop in the French Quarter.
I had heard about it and sought it out, but actually walked it many times before I decided to pencil my version. And I went back several times after. It is one of those places that you can get a different feel each time you stand on the cobblestone street; a street that is just 600 feet long and 16 feet wide. In the daytime warmth of the south, there is a feeling of welcome and contentment. But in the evening as darkness begins to fall and the fog from the Mississippi rolls in, you might start looking over your shoulder, fearful of —-well, pirates.
It seems that the pirate Jean Lafitte (although he would have referred to himself as a privateer) is the main character in the story of how this alley way got its name. Lafitte, his brother Pierre, and their men came to New Orleans about 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase. Accounts say that people would whisper behind his back—PIRATE! Lafitte and his band controlled the black market commerce and the sale of illegal goods
openly in Pirate’s Alley. Throughout history, it seems that the line between outlaw and hero has many times been blurred. This was no exception. It has been said that Pirate’s Alley was the meeting place between Lafitte and Andrew Jackson when they formed an alliance to defeat the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1814.
Some say the street is famous as the residence of the renowned author William Faulkner. In fact, his former living quarters is now the home of Faulkner House Books. But, truth be known, Faulkner only lived in Pirate’s Alley in 1925 for about 6 months. But that is New Orleans and Pirate’s Alley; famous for food, fun and great legends, and a great subject for artists. Here is my version. Enjoy—and watch out for pirates!