?Cabildo?, a Spanish word which means council, is also the name of one of the most significant historical buildings in the United States. The Cabildo, which name came from the Spanish governing body ?Illustrious Cabildo? or city council, served as the seat of government in New Orleans, Louisiana during the Spanish colonial period. In the ?Sala Capitular? (one of the rooms overlooking the town square) of this three-story edifice, the Louisiana Purchase or the transfer of the Louisiana territory ceremonies took place in 1803. This act expanded the territory of the United States, making it almost double in size at that time, and exploration, expansion and settlement in areas west of Mississippi River started.
On March 21, 1788 the Great New Orleans Fire destroyed 856 of the 1,100 structures in the city including the Cabildo. It was rebuilt between 1795 and 1799 with the main hall, the ?Sala Capitular?, initially operated as a courtroom by the Spanish colony from 1799 to 1803 and was used by the Louisiana Territorial Superior Court from 1803 to 1812. From here on, the New Orleans city council continued to occupy the Cabildo until the mid-1850s and after the American Civil War, from 1868 to 1910, the Louisiana Supreme Court held its seat here.
Despite the many occupants of the Cabildo, it went in a state of deterioration in 1895 and was recommended for destruction; however, due to the successful campaign led by William Woodward, the building was saved from devastation, was conserved and was renovated. In 1911, the Cabildo became a museum named the Louisiana State Museum or generally referred to as the Cabildo Museum and continued to highlight the rich and colorful history of New Orleans and Louisiana.
The varied cultures, ethnic groups, and nationalities that make up the City of New Orleans are featured in the museum making it one of the most fascinating attractions in the city. The museum reflects the lives of the Native Americans who dwelled in the region before the European Settlers arrived and this is demonstrated through more than 1,000 artifacts and original works of art which includes a huge 1839 painting entitled ?The Battle of New Orleans,? by Eugene Louis Lami that elaborately details the final and most conclusive battle of the War of 1812. Visitors of the Cabildo museum can also catch a glimpse of the portraits of famous (and infamous) Louisiana dignitaries and delicate engravings of nature artist John James Audubon. There are also many interactive displays in the museum. Other exhibits include: ?Freshly Brewed: The Coffee Trade and the Port of New Orleans? and ?Louisiana and the Mighty Mississippi.? The museum also illustrates the Colonial period covering the first European settlements in Louisiana. All these tell the story of Louisiana and its place in American history.