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St. Charles Avenue is a thoroughfare in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. and the home of the St. Charles Streetcar Line. It is also famous for the hundreds of mansions that adorn the tree-lined boulevard for much of the Uptown section of the route. The southern live oak trees, particularly found in the historic Garden District, were added during the early twentieth century. Similar additions were made on other main streets throughout New Orleans, such as Carrollton, Napoleon and Canal, becoming one of the city's most memorable features. St. Charles is also known as one of the main Mardi Gras parade routes.
The "down river" end meets Canal Street. Across Canal Street in the French Quarter the equivalent street is Royal Street. From Canal Street St. Charles runs up through the New Orleans Central Business District, then the length of Uptown New Orleans, reflecting the crescent curve of the Mississippi River some distance inland. It continues to the Carrollton neighborhood, ending one block above Carrollton Avenue where it intersects with Leake Street/River Road at the foot of the Mississippi River levee.
From Canal Street to Lee Circle St. Charles Avenue is properly called St. Charles Street and is one way in the upriver direction with two lanes of traffic, with the streetcar track sharing right-of-way with one lane of auto traffic. From Lee Circle to Louisiana Avenue it has two lanes of traffic in each direction with two streetcar rail lines on the grassy tree lined median ("neutral ground" in local parlance). From Louisiana Avenue to Carrollton Avenue it has one lane of traffic in each direction plus the streetcar neutral ground. The streetcar line turns inland at Carrollton Avenue to follow the thoroughfare, while the final stretch continues the final short block to River Road.
Major intersections, from east to west, include: Canal Street, Poydras Street, Lee Circle/Howard Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd./Melpomene Ave, Jackson Avenue, Louisiana Avenue, Napoleon Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Nashville Avenue, Broadway Street, Carrollton Avenue, and Leake Avenue.
For the first half of the 19th century, the portion of St. Charles above Lee Circle (then "Tivoli Circle") was known as "Nyades Street". The lower portion, below the circle, was and is an important corridor through downtown; buildings include Gallier Hall, City Hall for a century until the 1950s.
The street was laid out atop a slight rise, the remains of an old natural levee, in connection with the construction of the New Orleans & Carrollton Railway, which became the St. Charles Streetcar line.
The long traffic avenue with mass transit running down the center helped fuel the development of Uptown in the 19th century. The Avenue itself became the favored site for construction of mansions of the wealthy throughout the early years of the 20th century.
A number of the old mansions were torn down in the mid and late 20th century until the area was declared an historic district. Many of the old mansions have been divided into apartments or condominiums, and others have found new use as homes for business, small hotels, and a library, but others remain privately owned single residences.
In early 1999, an increased effort by the NOPD was made to clean up the Avenue and the blocks north, which were beginning to show signs of seediness, and successfully pushed the drug industry backwards into Central City.
During the flooding of the majority of New Orleans in the aftermath of the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, St. Charles Avenue and the portion of Uptown closer to the river escaped significant flooding.
Notable buildings along St. Charles Avenue include several hotels, perhaps the most famous still in business being the Pontchartrain Hotel, in business since 1927. The "Columns Hotel" is a small hotel in a 19th-century mansion; part of the film "Pretty Baby" was filmed here. The St. Charles Hotel was perhaps the city's most famous hotel through most of the 19th and early 20th centuries; it was torn down in the 1970s. The Bienville Hotel on Lee Circle is now apartments.
The headquarters of the United Fruit Company was on St. Charles Avenue in the Central Business District.
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