Gentilly Gentilly Neighborhood Guide
The quintessential middle-class residential neighborhood in New Orleans, Gentilly offers interesting 20th-century architecture and quiet, tree-lined streets with large lawns and spacious backyards.
Gentilly is one of the least foot-trafficked areas of New Orleans, with decidedly fewer landmarks and dining destinations than the more touristy areas. What it lacks in centuries-old architecture, Gentilly makes up in a family-friendly, community-oriented vibe and lots of green space. This traditionally middle-class, racially mixed neighborhood is a great place to raise a family, especially if you want to live somewhere quiet, have a big yard, and not worry about parking. Expect to pay, on average, $126 per square foot.
Read on to learn more about this neighborhood’s residents, notable features, hotspots, and history. Are you looking to buy a house in Gentilly, New Orleans? Our experienced Realtors can make the home-buying process seamless and swift. Contact us online or call (504) 483-8884 to discuss your real estate needs and goals.
Where Is Gentilly Exactly?
Gentilly consists of several communities, including:
- Mirabeau Gardens
- Oak Park
- Vista Park
- Gentilly Terrace
- Gentilly Heights
- Gentilly Woods
- Lake Terrace/Lake Oaks
- Lake Terrace.
The boundaries of Gentilly, as defined by the City Planning Commission, are:
- North: Lake Pontchartrain
- East: France Road
- West: Bayou St. John
- South: Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
What’s to Love About Gentilly?
While Gentilly doesn’t have the wrought iron splendor of the French Quarter or the stately mansions of the Garden District, it’s still an architecturally interesting neighborhood, full of 20th-century Spanish Revival bungalows and ranch houses with spacious lawns and plenty of parking. It’s also the least visited area by tourists, and therefore quieter, where neighbors greet you by name and young families choose to buy starter houses to raise kids. There are many things to love about Gentilly, including:
Varied, Modern Cityscape: Gentilly makes for an interesting drive because it’s less homogenous architecturally than some of the older areas of New Orleans. Most of the houses were built in the 20th century, so you’ll see a lot of California Craftsman and Spanish Revival bungalows, early 20th-century English cottages, and mid-20th century ranch houses — most with wide lawns — along Gentilly’s broad, oak-lines streets and its main thoroughfare, Elysian Fields Avenue.
Home to Universities and Notable Schools: The University of New Orleans (UNO), Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO), and Dillard University campuses are located in Gentilly. Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary‘s main campus, and the private Holy Cross School and Brother Martin High School are also in Gentilly.
Lots of Space: This includes easy parking, broad streets and boulevards, sprawling lawns and backyards, and open spaces interlaced with strip malls.
Convenient Access to Other Areas and Main Thoroughfares: Interstates 10 and 610 are within easy reach, and Mid-City, Lakeview, and Bayou St. John are but a few minutes away by car. The French Quarter is about three miles away.
The Many Prides and Pearls of Gentilly
The sprawling neighborhood of Gentilly boasts picturesque, oak tree-lined boulevards, bustling commercial strips convenient for errands, and a few eateries with a decidedly neighborly vibe (and arguably the best fried chicken in the city).
Here are a few of our favorite highlights:
- Take a drive up Gentilly Boulevard, Elysian Fields, or St. Bernard Avenue to take in the neighborhood, or, better yet, bike along the picturesque Wisner Avenue (which will lead you to City Park). Gentilly Boulevard in particular rivals Esplanade Avenue, and even St. Charles Avenue, when it comes to stunning architecture, with rows of live oak trees serving as a backdrop.
- Tour the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery. See how the local small-batch rum is produced. The tour is a bargain at $10, since you’ll be provided many samples.
- Go to the Greek Fest on the last weekend of May in the Hellenic Cultural Center, a beautiful Greek Orthodox church beside Bayou St. John at Robert E. Lee Boulevard.
- Have some of the best friend chicken in the city at The Original Fiorellas’, the legendary family eatery, or at McKenzie’s Chicken in a Box, 3839 Frenchmen St. An unpretentious, budget-friendly Southern eatery, McKenzie’s also has biscuits and po-boys. The rustic Old Gentilly Spicy Kitchen, 4058 Old Gentilly Road, is also a great choice for soul food such as BBQ ribs.
- Want lunch made from scratch? The casual, counter-service FUD BAR in the Gentilly/Lake Terrace neighborhood offers a fresh, seasonal menu with quite a few gluten-free items, cafeteria-style.
- Party with Krewe of Dreux on the Saturday before Mardi Gras in the little park dubbed the “People’s Park” (Filmore and People’s Avenue). The smallish parade rolls around the neighborhood after gathering first in the park for an informal block party.
A Brief History of Gentilly, New Orleans
Gentilly is a newcomer among New Orleans neighborhoods, with architecture reflecting its relatively recent existence. It was sparsely settled as early as the 1830s, but because of the low elevation and the swampy lands, it wasn’t densely populated until the drainage system was introduced in the early 20th century, making the area more habitable.
The construction of a floodwall at the lakefront and the existence of the railroad line connecting the developed areas along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and the lower end of Elysian Fields Avenue also brought homeowners to Gentilly in the beginning of the 20th century. The first part of Gentilly to be developed was a stretch of high ground along the former banks of Bayou Gentilly, called Gentilly Ridge. Gentilly Terrace, the land adjacent to the natural ridge, was developed by creating blocks of terraced land (hence its name). It was the result of excavating the swamp in the area.
Gentilly experienced a post-World War II boom in housing and became the racially diverse, middle-class residential neighborhoods it’s known as today. It was badly damaged, however, following Hurricane Katrina. While the population numbers aren’t quite back to their pre-Katrina levels, many of its businesses and residents have returned. Gentilly is undergoing a slow yet steady recovery, experiencing a residential and commercial comeback.