Tremé is a neighborhood of the city of New Orleans, in the U.S. state of Louisiana. "Tremé" is often rendered as Treme, and historically the neighborhood is sometimes called by its more formal French names of Faubourg Tremé. Originally known as "Back of Town", urban planners renamed the neighborhood "Faubourg Tremé" in an effort to revitalize the historic area. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, and early in the city's history was the main neighborhood of free people of color. Historically a racially mixed neighborhood, it remains an important center of the city's African-American and Créole culture, especially the modern brass band tradition.
The modern Tremé neighborhood began as the Morand Plantation and two forts—St. Ferdinand and St. John. By 1794 the Carondelet Canal was built from the French Quarter to Bayou St. John, splitting the land. Developers began building subdivisions throughout the area to house a diverse population that included Caucasians and free persons of color.
At the end of the 19th century, the Storyville red-light district was carved out of the upper part of Tremé; in the 1940s this was torn down and made into a public housing project. This area is no longer considered part of the neighborhood. The "town square" of Tremé was Congo Square - originally known as "Place des Nègres" where slaves gathered on Sundays to dance. This tradition flourished until the United States took control, and officials grew more anxious about unsupervised gatherings of slaves in the years before the Civil War.
For much of the 19th century, the square was an open-air market. "Creoles of color" brass and symphonic bands gave concerts, providing the foundation for a more improvisational style that would come to be known as "Jazz".
In the early 1960s, in an urban renewal project later considered a mistake by most analysts, a large portion of central Tremé was torn down. The land stood vacant for some time, then in the 1970s the city created Louis Armstrong Park in the area and named Congo Square within Armstrong Park. In 1994, the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park was established here.
Musicians from Tremé include Alphonse Picou, Kermit Ruffins, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Lucien Barbarin, and "The King of Treme" Shannon Powell. While predominantly African-American, the population has been mixed from the 19th century through to the 21st.
Jazz musicians of European ancestry such as Henry Ragas and Louis Prima also lived in Tremé. Also, Joe's Cozy Corner in Tremé is often considered the birthplace of Rebirth Brass Band, one of the most notable current New Orleans bands. Alex Chilton, who led the rock groups Big Star and The Box Tops, lived in Tremé from the early 1990s until his death in 2010. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Tremé neighborhood received minor to moderate flooding. In the portion of the neighborhood in from I-10, the water was generally not high enough to damage many of the old raised homes.
Located in Tremé, the New Orleans African American Museum is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and promoting through education the history, art, and communities of African Americans in New Orleans and the African diaspora. It is listed on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail, as is the community's St. Augustine Church; the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the U.S.
Treme has made film appearances in Shake the Devil (2007), Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (2008), and Tradition is a Temple (2011). All are non-fiction works that tell the story of the people, culture and music of Treme.
Treme, an HBO drama series created in 2010 by David Simon (creator of The Wire) and Eric Overmeyer, is set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and centers on the lives of residents of the Tremé area.
Cover image by Infrogmation of New Orleans licensed under CC BY 2.0. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.