By Dan Goodman
St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the United States. It contains some fantastic Spanish architecture and feels a lot like a movie set from Pirates of the Caribbean. Although fairly small, it is a popular tourist destination because of its history and beauty.
Savannah, Georgia is another gem of the South. It is larger than St. Augustine and boasts an Academy award winning history with the help of Tom Hanks. The live oaks compliment a variety of European influenced architectural styles to make Savannah one of the most photogenic cities in the United States.
Charleston, South Carolina is even more European feeling than Savannah, with narrower streets and a denser layout. Buildings along the palm tree lined roads often share a pastel color scheme, adding to the city’s beach paradise aesthetic. Every narrow alleyway in Charleston is a work of art.
Finally we have my hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, a much larger city than the previous three and the only one with a visible skyline. Architecturally New Orleans is a goldmine. It’s the kind of city that shocks newcomers with the utter bizarreness lurking around seemingly every corner. While the French Quarter is its oldest and most European neighborhood, There are numerous areas throughout the city worthy of exploring for their architecture alone.
There are distinct differences in architectural influence within these four places, but they all share a common thread. The emphasis on flair and color seen in these old Southern cities is in stark contrast to much of the architecture from similar time periods up North.
To be clear, there is a lot of great architecture in old North Eastern cities like Philadelphia and Boston. These cities are wonderful in their own right. It’s possible that the warmer climate down south along with the Spanish influences that promoted a more colorful aesthetic style.
New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, and St. Augustine are spread out over four states with miles of hot, flat, southern coastline in between. The urban spaces in between them have little in common with them aside from the occasional decorative wrought iron balcony. These cities are islands of old world urbanism in a sea of southern sprawl. And now I’ll leave you with some photo examples of just how European they are.