The History Behind Wrought Iron Features in Historic New Orleans Architecture


If there’s one thing New Orleans’ architecture is known for, it’s the use of decorative wrought and cast-iron in both residential and commercial construction. Though used in modern buildings, ironwork has been an integral part of the city for centuries, becoming a staple of the historical architecture of the Big Easy. Like much of the city, ironwork has a history all its own.

The Nineteenth Century

Originally, the balconies on New Orleans apartments and buildings were built of wood, much like modern construction elsewhere in the state. However, around the mid-nineteenth century, cast iron started making its way into the designs and decorative elements around the city. Many building owners started replacing wood balconies with intricate ironwork. To add to the elegance, many parks and private residences started creating cast-iron fences and incorporated these decorative elements into their homes as well.

Modern Incarnations

Since decorative ironwork is so deeply associated with New Orleans architecture, many construction companies continue to use the designs on historical renovations and new construction alike. While certain areas must adhere to strict homeowners’ associations and building regulations regarding decorative metalwork, most homeowners choose to use at least a small amount to reflect the heritage of the city.

What This Means for Homeowners

Though cast-iron is beautiful and adds a great touch of history to the exterior of any home or apartment, it’s not without maintenance. Remember, the frequent rains and high humidity levels of New Orleans can cause cast-iron to rust and corrode. Over time, the corrosion weakens the iron until the piece can become a safety hazard. However, through routine maintenance and frequent inspections, ironwork can last for decades. The metal itself is easy to repair and modern protective coatings greatly reduce the risk of premature corrosion and damage.

MLM Incorporated is proud to help build new residential and commercial construction projects reflective of New Orleans’ unique history and style. Home and business owners alike can view our gallery for inspiration and contact us for a quote for their upcoming project.