PGT Beauregard was alive and well when this photo was shot, which is one of the reasons you don't see his statue on the City Park side of Bayou St. John. The bayou was still a navigable waterway at this time, a "back door" to the city. Fishing boats and others would come in from the Gulf of Mexico, into Lake Borgne, then Lake Pontchartrain, finally coming down Bayou St. John. That's why the bridge at the end of Esplanade Avenue was a drawbridge. Shrimp boats and oyster luggers would go out from the old turning basin near Congo Square, up the bayou to the lake, and return with their catches.
At this time, the New Orleans City RR Co. ran streetcar lines up to either side of the bridge. On the west bank of the Bayou left in the photo), the Bayou Bridge & City Park line operated from the Half Way House to the bridge. On the eastern side, the Esplanade line ran the length of that beautiful street, turning into barn, looping around the block, along the bayou on Moss St., then re-joining the Esplanade tracks for the inbound run. The NOCRR had just begun streetcar operations four years earlier, in 1861. Even though the Civil War was raging in other parts of the country, New Orleans was an important port, and opportunities abounded for entrepeneurs. Because the city did not oppose the Union occupation after the naval battles were lost by the Confederacy, New Orleans was spared the fate of many other southern cities. Commerce and development continued throughout the war, in spite of the harsh rule of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, USA, whom the locals called "Beast."
This area was referred to as the "back of town" in those days. As the neighborhoods of Mid City and Faubourg St. John spread out this point at City Park, the term "back of town" came to refer more to the neighborhoods around S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues.