NEW ORLEANS BEFORE AIR CONDITIONING
In New Orleans before there was air conditioning, homes were built with cross ventilation to take advantage of breezes through large open windows and doors. The higher ceiling heights allowed for the hot air to rise, and most folks relied on either ceiling or oscillating fans to help them cool their homes. At one time it was customary to dress your home for Summer and Winter. Whereas lighter fabrics and jute rugs were used during the Summer, the opposite was used during the Winter. The lighter fabrics were replaced with heavier brocades, and wool rugs replaced the jute rugs.
All great inventions bring about significant social changes. Prior to the advent of air conditioning, families and friends would sit out on their front porches in the evening. As they visited with one another, the generations shared their concerns, celebrated life’s joyous moments, traded recipes, and laughed as they told stories. Children played outdoors until their parents called them home. Many porches had swings, and sweethearts would sit on the swing dreaming about their futures. As neighbors passed by on their way to the corner store, they would exchange a few words and pass a little time. As air conditioning was added to homes and businesses, more folks began to close their windows and doors. They began to remain indoors more frequently too.
In New Orleans, no one is a stranger at the kitchen table. Even though a neighborly visit may have shifted from the front porch to the kitchen, one thing remained the same. New Orleanians know how to have a good time. Whether on the front porch, enjoying a cool breeze from the cross ventilation indoors, or sitting in the AC, we know how to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. With creativity and ingenuity, we know how to make the most of everything!