The picturesque colonial architecture of New Orleans and Saint-Louis du Senegal is one of the most obvious similarities between the two cities. Tourists are drawn to both places to experience the charm of an imagined past through the medium of architecture adapted to tropical living in a colonial setting. Photographs or film of a typical street from Saint-Louis is eerily familiar to anyone who has visited the New Orleans French Quarter. There are balconies, shaded galleries, and courtyards, an open air market, a central house of worship, and the remains of colonial government buildings. The delta of the Senegal River, like the Mississippi delta, has no stone to be quarried, so buildings are constructed of wood and filler and faced with plaster.
Several scholars have studied the African influences that are detectable in the architecture of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Since we know that most of the region’s colonial buildings were constructed by enslaved Africans, there is a direct connection to Senegal. The scholarship on the colonial architecture of Senegal, however, is still very much in its infancy. For now, the visual evidence of the links between the architecture and town planning of the two places supplies the best starting point for a comparison of the built environment of the two places.