Category Archives: Uncategorized

More street blogs coming soon.

Hey everyone, I see that this blog is getting some traffic despite my posting hiatus. I promise to get some fresh posts soon. I’m currently writing a novel, so all of my writing time has been spent on that. But, I’ll be making time, so come back later in the month.

Thanks for reading!

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Vallette Street

The Gist: Vallette Street in New Orleans is named after Francois Valette, an entrepreneur that owned several docks and warehouses in Algiers Point on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. His son, Octave, changed the spelling of the family name.

Yesterday:  Algiers Point dates back to the finding of New Orleans and had also been referred to as Point Antoine, Point Marigny, and Slaughter House Point over the centuries. The original land (now known as Algiers) was granted to Bienville and established in 1719. Its official name became Duverjeville upon the American annexation of Louisiana, and it would not be officially known as Algiers until 1840. Chase says, “One of the earliest appearances in print of its name as Algiers is the New Orleans City Directory of 1840. Thirty years later, on March 14, 1870, when the community was formally incorporated into the city of New Orleans, it knew no other name.” (185-86).

However, the area had been commonly called “Algiers Point” long before the name became official. Given the fact that it once was a prominent slave trade depot, the large presence of African slaves gave off the impression of it being like Africa itself. Algiers is the capital city of Algeria, and there is a legend that General “Bloody” O’Reilly suggested the name after recently fighting Algerian pirates in Mediterranean Sea.

vallette street home

This historic house along Vallette Street was built for Francois Valette’s sister, Josephine, and her husband in 1848. Credit: algierspoint.org

Born on the Belle Chase Plantation down in Plaquemines Parish, Francois Valette and his son Octave owned several warehouses on Algiers Point. A large part of their business came from the Vallette Drydock Company. During the Civil War, Valette feared that the Union Army would seize his docks to make repairs or procure supplies, so he dynamited them, essentially putting an end to his own business.

With the combination of steamboats and trains, Algiers later became an economic powerhouse as it became the chief port for transcontinental trade. According to Chase, by 1900 the point boasted “70 to 75 percent of all freight to and from the east and west coast of the United States! At these yards and docks transfers from freight train to steamship was made; often a whole train’s cargo from the West was loaded aboard ship in twelve hours for the remainder of its journey to an Atlantic seaboard point.” (191). Thus, Algiers has streets named Pacific and Atlantic. However, the Panama Canal would make Algiers Point an obsolete transcontinental port.

 

Today: Vallette Street is predominantly residential; however, one can find several local businesses and community centers. Arts-focused organizations, like the Rosetree Blown Glass Studio and the Calliope Puppet Center, are located along the street. A testament to the meandering nature of the Mississippi, Vallette Street first runs perpendicular to the river only to parallel it later.

 

The Rosetree Glass Studio on Vallette Street is housed in the historic Algy Theater built in 1940. Credit: algierspoint.org

The Rosetree Blown Glass Studio on Vallette Street is housed in the historic Algy Theater built in 1940. Credit: algierspoint.org

Algiers is located on what is known today as the “West Bank,” which refers to the Mississippi River’s geographic location, not its directional position. In other words, if you stand at the point, Uptown New Orleans is technically the western bank. Despite the incessant meandering of Old Man River, the “West Bank” is still the western side.

Algiers identifies with its iconic ferry, which brings commuters (both pedestrian and automotive) to the foot of Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. People can go to Algiers’s historic district for a small town feel. You can go listen to live music at The Old Point Bar or have a pint at the Crown and Anchor English Pub. Anyone with the photography itch should make it a point – ah – to go Algiers, since it boasts some of the best panoramic views of the city. There is also a bike path along the levee which leads to downtown Gretna, a separate town in the Jefferson Parish portion of the West Bank.

Tomorrow: Throughout history, the ferry has made Algiers what it is today, no matter if its ferrying people or commodities; however, this icon’s future is rather unknown at this point. Granted, I don’t think that the ferry will be disbanded (even though that happened a few years ago with the Gretna/Jackson Street Ferry), but it is undergoing a few changes that have residents wondering.

View from the Algiers Ferry. From Algiers Point, one can take in one of the best views of the city.

In 2014, Veolia, a privatized transit company, began operating the ferry. Pedestrians now have to pay $2 per trip whereas they rode gratis before. Also, the operating hours have been reduced. Resident Algerian Ian Graham, who commutes to work at The Prytania Bar in Uptown, says, “The major fear right now is that reduced ferry hours will hurt restaurants, bars, and B&Bs.” He is skeptical about Veolia expanding hours of operation, despite their claims to do so. “Generally, I think people are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the ferries. Veolia says they are about to put advertisements on the boats, like they do on buses. Hopefully that can help pay for maintenance.” Graham feels that the $2 pedestrian charge is not unreasonable; however, the monthly passes do not yield much of a discount and that may affect the residents and working commuters (the people who rely on ferry service the most). The annual Algiers Riverfest was cancelled this summer due to reduced ferry hours, and is still on hiatus.

I’m quite confident that this ferry fiasco will sort its way out. One thing I know and respect about “West Bankers” is that they are truly devoted to their communities, and I don’t see that changing in any regard.

 

Sources:

John Churchill Chase. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children.

Liz LeCour. “Francois Azanor Vallette, Sr.” http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=89877611

Andrea Shaw. “Algiers Riverfest on hiatus; Wednesdays on the Point, hopes for extending ferry hours.” The Times Picayune. May 9, 2014. http://www.nola.com/festivals/index.ssf/2014/05/algiers_riverfest_on_hiatus_we.html

Algiers Point Association: http://www.algierspoint.org

Judi Robertson and Kevin Herridge. Algiers Point Association. http://www.algierspoint.org/historical-tour.html

Friends of the Ferry:  http://www.friendsoftheferry.org/algiers-point.html

http://nolaferries.com/

Calliope Puppet Center: http://artsneworleans.org/events_framed/for_venue/3054

 

 

Packenham Avenue

The Gist:  Packenham Avenue in Chalmette, LA, is named after the British general, Edward M. Packenham, who lost the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

Yesterday: As Americans, we tend to be very proud yet ignorant of our great history.  The War of 1812 is no exception, possibly being the least known American war among contemporary citizens. Basically, the War of 1812 ended up being Britain’s payback for the American Revolution, and this war almost ripped the country apart before any shots were fired. Several Federalists were against the war, whereas President Madison, a Democratic-Republican (if you could ever believe that in today’s political climate), detested the British as did his predecessor Thomas Jefferson. Anti-war New Englanders called it “Mr. Madison’s War” and threatened to secede from the Union that they had just created a few decades earlier. Although the start of the war drew opposing factions, the end of the War of 1812 generated the greatest sense of unity among Americans in their nation’s infancy. And, we have the Battle of New Orleans to thank for it. If you want to be technical, the battle actually took place in Chalmette, Louisiana, just a mile or so outside of the present-day New Orleans city limits.

As long as we are being technical, the British should have had control over New Orleans in the first place, since they defeated the French in the French and Indian War in 1763. The conditions of the Treaty of Paris dictated that all French colonial holdings west of the Mississippi River would be ceded to the Spanish, and everything east of the Mississippi would be subject to the English crown. However, the French and the Spanish devised a scheme to prevent New Orleans (which is technically east of the river) from falling into Britain’s clutches. New Orleans was officially documented as an island, or the “Isle of Orleans,” with all the surrounding bayous and lakes. So, the Spanish would take over New Orleans, not the British. Interesting to note, that the “French Quarter” consists of Spanish architecture as a result of two fires that burned the original French buildings. So, the “French Quarter” may look like the historic districts of Boston or New York if the British had rebuilt it.

If we still want to be technical about things, the War of 1812 had officially ended on December 24, 1814, when the Treaty of Ghent was signed. However, Sir Edward Packenham did not receive the memo as he was harboring experienced troops on Ship Island off the Mississippi Gulf Coast, preparing to attack New Orleans.

An artist rendition of the Battle of New Orleans painted by war veteran Jean Hyacinthe de Laclotte. www.andrewjackson.org

An artist rendition of the Battle of New Orleans painted by war veteran Jean Hyacinthe de Laclotte. Notice Jackson’s strong line of defense. http://www.andrewjackson.org

Many factors were against Packenham. It was foggy when he arrived, and his men were not in proper position, nor was the artillery. The impassable swampland also bogged down his troops, making more time for Jackson to take his position. Most importantly, the British’s plan to turn the Lafitte brothers and their pirates against the United States had backfired. The British offered Pierre and Jean Lafitte prestigious officer positions in the Royal Navy along with large quantities of money if they joined them. Historian Zachariah Frederick Smith wrote in 1904, “[The British] were imprudent enough to disclose to Lafitte the purpose and plans of the great English flotilla in the waters of the Gulf, now ready to enter upon their execution.” Despite having a warrant for their arrest, the Lafittes chose Louisiana over the redcoats and relayed the vital information to Governor Claiborne, who had previously gone to great lengths to capture and try them.

Packenham was an experienced officer (Copenhagen, Martinique, and Nova Scotia) as was most of his troops (Peninsula War, Indies battles, Washington D.C., and Baltimore), but their experience on the battlefield would not save them. Despite having the first tactical advantage of seizing the Villere Plantation house (not the current house at Chalmette Battlefield), they were decimated on January 8th, 1815. General Andrew Jackson led one of the most diverse armies the United States had ever had: whites, free blacks, and Choctaw Indians along with enlisted men, local militia, and pirates. Although the battle included night raids of British encampments and gunboat skirmishes, the day was essentially decided on the battlefield. Andrew Jackson’s forces had built a parapet that provided excellent cover from musket fire, so the redcoats were easy targets as they marched across the field in their redcoats (which would only get redder-if you get my drift). The American casualties (less than 100) were nil in comparison to the British (over 2000).

This painting shows the death of General Packenham as he is brought to the rear of the English army's position. An officer weeps with a handkerchief at this death. However, another painting was commissioned to edit that feature in order to make it look more manly and honorable. The revised version shows the English officer pointing across his face. Both versions are on display at The Historic New Orleans Collection galleries.

This painting shows the death of General Packenham as his body was brought to the rear of the English position. An officer weeps with a handkerchief, mourning the tragedy. However, another painting was commissioned to edit that feature in order to make it look more manly and honorable. The revised version shows the English officer pointing across his face. Both versions are on display at The Historic New Orleans Collection galleries.

Packenham went out in a blaze of glory nonetheless. According to The Historic New Orleans Collection, “When General Gibbs rode over to report that his troops refused to follow him, Packenham spurred his horse and dashed to the right side of the lines. Immediately upon taking up the lead of his men, his horse was shot out from under him, and he was wounded in the shoulder. He leaped upon his aid’s horse and galloped a few more yards when he was mortally wounded… The bodies of generals Packenham, Rennie, and Gibbs were disemboweled, placed in casks of rum and returned to the fleet and on to England” (HNOC 103). The British weren’t even informed that the war had officially ended until they had camped on Dauphin Island to pick up the pieces.

Today:  It is quite odd that a street is named after a defeated enemy general. I doubt that Gettysburg, PA, has a Robert E. Lee Boulevard or that Yorktown, VA, has a Cornwallis Drive. But, I guess we do things differently down here. St. Bernard Parish actually has several smaller streets named Packenham, some having several spelling variations. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find out how this particular street got its name in Chalmette. It runs through Judge Perez Drive and ends at St. Claude/St. Bernard Highway. Chalmette Battlefield and Cemetery is near that intersection.  This street is mainly residential with some small businesses.

The Packenham Oaks are located near the battlefield along St. Bernard Highway. It has been rumored that Packenham died from his wounds under the mossy branches. Historians, however, have yet to confirm that claim.

The Packenham Oaks are located near the battlefield along St. Bernard Highway. It has been rumored that Packenham died from his wounds under the mossy branches. Historians, however, have yet to confirm that claim.

Chalmette, LA, (along with all of St. Bernard Parish) was utterly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. To give out-of-state readers an idea, this area is adjacent to the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans and was damaged to the same degree. Residents, however,have rebuilt their communities in “The Parish” on an impressive scale. I never lived in St. Bernard, but I have observed that residents really came together after Katrina to rebuild, and that sense of unity still exists today.

So, sometimes things don’t change, I guess. On January 8, 1815, this area witnessed a unity, resilience, and pride that America needed. Well, “Chalmations” still have those attributes, which New Orleans needs more than ever today.

Tomorrow:  Next year marks the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. Chalmette Battlefield is currently planning a special commemoration. I’m sure some impressive reenactments are in store for us. They are also working with race coordinators to organize a run/walk. But, the park is actually taking suggestions from the community. You can go to their website if you want to pitch an idea to them. They are very responsive. I’ve suggested a few things.

Re-enactors commemorating the Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette Battlefield. Credit: NPS.GOV

Re-enactors commemorating the Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette Battlefield. Credit: NPS.GOV

I always tell people the Battle of New Orleans never ended in 1815, but continues today, especially as we try to make sense of ourselves several years after Katrina.  Perhaps we can learn from Jackson’s victory. Tenacity and unity go a long way, yet we don’t need to disembowel English officers to succeed. So, that’s one thing we don’t have to worry about.

Sources:

The Historic New Orleans Collection: History Galleries Notebook. THNOC.

Zachariah Frederick Smith. “The Battle of New Orleans.” http://www.battleofneworleans.us/2013/02/battle-of-new-orleans.html

John Chase. Frenchmen, Desire, and Good Children. 1949

National Park Service. Chalmette Battlefield and Jean Laffite Historical Park and Preserve. http://www.nps.gov/jela/chalmette-battlefield.htm

Fulton Street

The Poydras Entrance to the Fulton Street Square.

The Poydras Entrance to the Fulton Street Square.

 

The Gist: Fulton Street is named after Robert Fulton, inventor of the steam engine and steamboat. Originally mostly industrial, Fulton Street served as an entertainment strip at the 1984 World’s Fair. Part of it has been revitalized as a popular, modern-day pedestrian mall. (There is also a Fulton Street in New Orleans East; however, this post is about the Fulton Street in Downtown New Orleans.)

Robert Fulton is credited with inventing the steam engine. His competitors, however, claim that he ripped them off.

Robert Fulton is credited with inventing the steam engine. His competitors, however, claim that he ripped them off.

Yesterday: Fulton Street runs parallel to the Mississippi River within the “American Sector” of early New Orleans, which became known as the Faubourg Ste. Marie (now known as the Central Business District or “CBD”). A few posts ago, I wrote about the history of Poydras Street, and Fulton Street ends as Poydras Street runs perpendicular. Dating as far back as the early 1800s, it was mainly used as an industrial avenue due to its proximity to the river. In fact, it remained predominately industrial through the 1970s. In New Orleans Architecture: The American Sector, Mary Louis Christovich wrote in 1972 that the 600 block of Fulton Street was “filled with boxcars, railroad tracks, and trash” despite having attractive commercial warehouses (164).

The Italian Village at the 1984 World's Fair. Fulton Street became a grand promenade to enter the fair.

The Italian Village at the 1984 World’s Fair. Fulton Street became a grand promenade with entertainment, food, and shopping. Credit: WYES

Today: Christovich also wrote that the “Fulton Street facades, now used as warehouses and railroad depots (circa 1972), could make an attractive street scene” (164). She was right. When the World’s Fair came to New Orleans in 1984, Fulton Street was a strip where fairgoers could eat, shop, and just embrace the exposition. The area would later be not readily used after the fair, as did many areas along the riverfront. After decades, it would later be revitalized into commerce once again. Since Hurricane Katrina, Fulton Street has become a popular dining and entertainment destination due to its proximity to Harrah’s Casino and several hotels. Restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Grand Isle provide people with quality surf-n-turf dining, whereas places like Gordon Biersch and Manning’s provide a good venue for watching sports and drinking brewskies. A local staple, Ernst Cafe, is across the street from the pedestrian mall’s end and usually has a crowd most nights. Fulton Street, as a regular street, runs through the Warehouse District to South Diamond Street from there, where several shops and restaurants give residents plenty of options.

Miracle on Fulton Street. Credit: Rusty Costanza/Times Picayune.

Miracle on Fulton Street. Credit: Rusty Costanza/Times Picayune.

Fulton Street has grown into a prominent Christmas destination as well with a covered promenade of seasonal items like Christmas trees and eternal emblems like the Fleur-de-lis. The Miracle on Fulton Street also has recreations of snowfall. That’s about all the snow we’ll see for 4 or 6 years.

Tomorrow: Overall, I don’t see Fulton Street falling into dilapidation anytime soon. In fact, several developments are underway. Manning’s, a sports bar owned by the …. you guessed it, the mighty Manning dynasty, is a new development on Fulton that offers sports fans a Mecca of options. An up-scale bowling alley (oxymoron?) just opened across Fulton from Manning’s. Fulton Alley claims to have high-end cocktails and an overall classier environment than your run-of-the-mill bowling alleys. Fancy bowling establishments? We’ve come a long way from steam engines.

Sources:

WYES: http://www.wyes.org/local/a-worlds-fair-to-remember/

1984 New Orleans World’s Fair. Bill Cotter. 2009.

New Orleans Architecture: The American Sector. Mary Louise Christovich. 1972.

“Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival, Miracle on Fulton Street, and More this Weekend in New Orleans.” The Times Picayune. 3 December 2010.  http://www.nola.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2010/12/plaquemines_parish_orange_fest.html

http://nola.curbed.com/tags/coming-attractions

St. Louis Cemetery #1

Image

Getting into the Halloween spirit, I decided to change the blog this week. I initially thought to do a brief profile of each New Orleans cemetery, but that would have been quite an undertaking since there are over 14 historic cemeteries, each of which deserves more than one small paragraph. So, the obvious choice was to choose the St. Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans’s oldest extant (or still-in-use) cemetery. Above is a painting I did for the Save Our Cemeteries art contest in 2000.

The Place

The aboveground tombs from St. Louis Cemetery #1 blend in well to the New Orleans skyline.

The above-ground tombs from St. Louis Cemetery #1 blend in well to the New Orleans skyline.

The cemetery’s site was designated by the Spanish Crown in 1789 in order to not only make room for more corpses but also to distance the citizens from potential disease outbreaks. At this time, (what is now) Basin Street was low swampland beyond the city limits.  The traditional “above-ground” tomb became popular because it helped maximize space (multiple people or whole families could be buried in one tomb). It also proved better than burying people underground since the mud was saturated, and the Mississippi River frequently flooded its natural banks. Now that modern technology can pump water from New Orleans, underground burials are possible; however, above-ground burials are a tradition. [Saveourcemeteries.org]

The flat tombs are a stark contrast to the aboveground tombs in the "Catholic" section.

The flat tombs are a stark contrast to the above-ground tombs in the “Catholic” section.

A small Protestant section exists in the back of the cemetery, whereas most of the grounds are designated as Catholic burials. It is ironic that such hallowed ground would eventually be next door to Storyville, the infamous red-light district, which was closed down by the Navy during World War I out of fear that it might distract the sailors from their duty. It was later demolished in the 1930s. The Iberville housing projects are now adjacent to the cemetery in its place.

The People

Just like today, a diverse population resided in New Orleans back then.

Here lies Bernard de Marigny. Custom has it that vistors leave dice on his tomb to commemorate his destructive love for the game of craps.

Here lies Bernard de Marigny. Custom has it that visitors leave dice on his tomb to commemorate his destructive love for playing craps.

Bernard de Marigny: The name should sound familiar to many New Orleanians since the trendy “Marigny” neighborhood was once his former plantation. He also founded the city of Mandeville and established a sugar plantation on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain where Fontainbleau State Park exists today. He was highly influential in the development of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Also, he was a degenerate gambler who lost most of his lavish fortune. Supposedly, he introduced New Orleans to “craps.” Robert Florence says, “He ended up destitute and terribly in debt … and at 53 had to go to work as a clerk in the Office of Mortgages and Conveyances after having been not only a business tycoon but also a senator who helped frame the state constitution” [42].

Even though tourists make wishes, give objects, and mark "XXX" as some kind of voodoo ritual, it is still uncertain whether Marie Laveau is buried there.

The Glapion Family Tomb. Even though tourists make wishes, give objects, and mark “XXX” as some kind of voodoo ritual, it is still uncertain whether Marie Laveau is even buried there.

Marie Laveau: The legendary Voodoo priestess is supposedly buried here. Ironically, Laveau was also a devoted Catholic and attended mass daily. It was her mixture of Catholic tradition and Voodoo practice (or “gris gris”) that made her so prominent.  She was born to a wealthy French planter, Charles Laveau, probably due to the “Code Noir” that decreed that a white man must marry a slave if they birthed a child together.  Laveau married two men in her life. Her last husband was Christopher Glapion, a captain in the Battle of New Orleans. His family still owns the tomb, and they do not approve of the droves of tourists that mark X’s on the tomb.  Florence says it’s more “vandalism” than “voodoo” to them. Although it is possibly the most popular tomb in St. Louis #1, it is not quite certain if her actual remains rest there. Florence says, “The date of death, 1897, is not hers, but closer to her daughter’s, Marie Laveau II. So the question is, which one of them is buried here?”

 

Here lies Homer Plessy. His plan to challenge a state segregation law backfired when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him in Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Here lies Homer Plessy. His plan to challenge a state segregation law backfired when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him in Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Homer Plessy: He was the Rosa Parks of his time, except it all blew up in his face (along with every other black person living in America at the end of the 19th Century). Plessy and the “Comite des Citoyens” challenged a Louisiana law that segregated passenger trains. Only 1/8 black, he was legally recognized as a “Negro” and was arrested after boarding the white car. Six years later, Plessy vs. Ferguson went before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the court ruled against Plessy, establishing the “separate-but-equal” doctrine for more than 6 decades.

 

Here lies Paul Morphy. Child prodigy and chess master. Chess players commonly leave chess pieces on his tomb as a sign of respect.

Here lies Paul Morphy. Child prodigy and chess master. Chess players commonly leave chess pieces on his tomb as a sign of respect.

 

Paul Morphy: Morphy was the best chess player that the world had every seen. Oliver Wendell Holmes said that he was “a triumph of the American intellect.” As a child he was defeating Union generals and world champions. After easily defeating the best chess players around the globe, he decided to call it quits at the early age of 22.  During the Civil War, he and his family evaded the Union occupation of New Orleans by fleeing to Paris, where he would slowly go insane.

 

 

 

The elaborate Italian Society tomb has made popular when the movie Easy Rider featured during the acid trip scene. As a result of that, filming was banned there for many years.

The elaborate Italian Society tomb was made popular when the movie Easy Rider featured it during the acid trip scene. As a result, filming was banned at the cemetery for many years.

There are several “benevolent society” tombs in the cemetery. Such societies were formed to support immigrants. There are society tombs from cultures such as Portugal, Spain, France, China, and Italy.

Dieu Nous Protege Society Tomb; a society for free people of color.

Dieu Nous Protege Society Tomb; a society for free people of color.

Overall, the St. Louis #1 is quite pleasant and intriguing within the confines of its walls. What is a little creepy, however, is how many graves no longer remain in the cemetery. The iconic “Varney” tomb, with its pyramid shape and ball top, greets visitors at the main entrance, yet it once was the half-way point of the cemetery. So, you can assume that you might be walking over corpses when you cross Basin Street and its neutral ground. Actually, many cemeteries are smaller than their original sites (such as Greenwood Cemetery along Canal Boulevard). In fact, St. Peter Street in the French Quarter was one of the original cemeteries of the city. With the development of condos and hotels, construction workers have unearthed skeletons as late as 2011.

This memorial honors the fallen veterans of the Battle of New Orleans. There is also a society tomb in the Catholic section for veterans of this war.

This memorial honors the fallen veterans of the Battle of New Orleans. There is also a society tomb in the Catholic section for veterans of this war.

Each cemetery in New Orleans tells countless stories, including the expansion of the city. Typically, cemeteries marked the outskirts of the current development. Florence says, “To track the growth of the New Orleans, one must start at the river. The story of New Orleans burial begins here as well, on the natural levee.”

Only in New Orleans where “death” can be synonymous with “growth.”  Happy Halloween!

Old tombs easily fall into disrepair or neglect. Organizations, like Save Our Cemeteries, do a great civic duty to the city in helping restore and preserve our history.

Old tombs easily fall into disrepair or neglect. Organizations, like Save Our Cemeteries, do a great civic duty to the city in helping restore and preserve historic tombs.

Sources

City of the Dead: A Journey Through St. Louis Cemetery #1. Robert Florence. 1928.

http://www.saveourcemeteries.org/st-louis-cemetery-no-1/

“15 Coffins Unearthed When Property Owner Digs for Pool on Edge of the French Quarter.” John Pope. Nola.com. http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2011/11/15_coffins_unearthed_when_prop.html

Poydras Street

The Gist: Poydras Street is named after Julian Poydras de Lalande, who was a poet, landowner, philanthropist, and a prominent statesman.

A portrait of Julian Poydras. Many sources have different spellings for his first name, such as "Julien" and "Julian." State Library of Louisiana via Knowla.org

A portrait of Julian Poydras. Many sources have different spellings for his first name, such as “Julien” and “Julian.” State Library of Louisiana via Knowla.org

Yesterday

Poydras Street was one of the original streets in New Orleans’s first subdivision, the Faubourg Ste. Marie. Originally calling it “Ville Gravier,” Bertrand Gravier owned this area that was once the site of Bienville’s own plantation, and this area grew due to the American migration into New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase. It was Julian Poydras de Lalande, however, who supposedly persuaded Gravier to undergo this development after the 1788 fire. He promised to buy multiple lots, one of which was at the intersection of (what is now) Tchoupitoulas and (what then became) Poydras Street [Chase 71-72]. Poydras was originally from France and owned a plantation in Pointe Coupee, northwest of New Orleans near the False River. A jack-of-all-trades of sorts, he dabbled in banking, poetry, and politics. It is argued that Louisiana literature actually begins with Julian Poydras. Germaine Beinvenu, while asserting that Louisiana literature should begin with the French explorers’ reports and journals, admits that “nevertheless, it is not until the appearance of Poydras’s poems in the Spanish colonial period that [scholars] detect the first works written for a literary purpose” [27]. Poydras also was influential in the political arena. He chaired the Louisiana Constitutional Convention in 1812, which was the only state convention that was conducted in French. He also started the Female Orphan Society in 1817, which cared for orphans and widows that were left destitute from the yellow fever epidemic.

Though built in the 1970s, One Shell Square still stands as the tallest building in New Orleans at 697 ft. It is not uncommon to see modern skyscrapers mixed in with historic buildings such as the one on the left.

Though built in the 1970s, One Shell Square still stands as the tallest building in New Orleans at 697 ft. It is not uncommon to see modern skyscrapers mixed in with historic buildings such as the one on the left.

Today

Poydras Street is just as active and eclectic as the life of the man it is named after. It can be said that this street is the epicenter of the Central Business District of New Orleans. More colloquially referred to as the “CBD,” New Orleanians no longer know of this area as the Faubourg Ste. Marie. Poydras street begins near the Mississippi River near Harrah’s Casino, and ends (generally) at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. These two facilities are top revenue producers for the city. Overall, Poydras Street has become synonymous with business and professionalism for good reason because several skyscrapers house countless corporations, law firms, and other organizations. The Hale Boggs Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is at the intersection of Camp Street and houses several government offices. The New Orleans Center closed down its shopping mall after Hurricane Katrina, and has since been cleared to make way for Champions Square, where the Who Dat Nation prepare themselves for Saints games. City Hall is also along Poydras at the intersection of Loyola Avenue, and it is a blemish on the urban landscape of the thoroughfare. Of course, I am referring to the old building itself. As far as what goes on inside City Hall…well, I leave that for you to decide.

Tomorrow

Overall, the future of Poydras Street and the CBD looks rather bright. Businesses continue to thrive and relocate to this bustling commerce district. For example, the Recovery School District recently moved their headquarters into an office on Poydras Street in order to improve their overall operations. Although not on Poydras Street, the Poydras Home (at the Uptown intersection of Jefferson and Magazine) is undergoing expansion and renovation. Now operating as a retirement community, the Poydras Home was originally the Female Orphan Society that was established by Julian Poydras.

Countless people say “Poydras” everyday in conversation in New Orleans. While they mainly refer to the actual street and not the man, Poydras’s legacy lives on in the prosperity of the city nonetheless.

intersection

Sources

Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children. John Chase. 1949.

“The Beginnings of Louisiana Literature.” Germaine Beinvenu. Louisiana Culture from the Colonial Era to Katrina. Editor, John Lowe. 2008.

The Historic New Orleans Collection. “Between Colony and State: Louisiana in the Territorial Period.” http://www.hnoc.org/pdf/LA_territorial.pdf

“Recovery School District shifts home base to Poydras Street in New Orleans.” Nola.com. http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/08/recovery_school_district_shift.html

“Ground is Broken for Poydras Home Expansion in Uptown New Orleans.” Annette Sisco. Nola.comhttp://blog.nola.com/new_orleans/2012/05/ground_is_broken_for_poydras_h.html

www.poydrashome.com

www.knowla.org

Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. http://www.gnocdc.org/orleans/1/47/snapshot.html

Milne Boulevard

Milne Boulevard.

Milne Boulevard.

The Gist: Milne Boulevard is named after a Scottish landowner, Alexander Milne, who owned most of the lakefront area. (He is not to be confused with the British author Alan Alexander Milne.)

Yesterday: At one time, New Orleans was basically swampland, and the land near Lake Pontchartrain is no exception. What’s interesting about the development of this area of New Orleans (Lakeview and Gentilly roughly) is that its development happened opposite of the way the original city developed. The original city’s site was focused primarily on the Mississippi River for its economic and agricultural advantages, and the city sprawled out from the river. The areas near the lakefront grew from its proximity to the Lake Pontchartrain. Many of the early inhabitants were drawn to the lake’s lush fisheries and luxurious boating opportunities. And, these areas remained mostly rural and swampy until the end of World War II.

Capuchin priests originally owned the land and then sold it to a Spanish nobleman, Don Almonester y Roxas, who has a street named after him, too. Eventually, Alexander Milne, acquired the swampy area and began his own town by the 1830s, which became known as Milneburg. Milneburg was not anywhere near where the present-day Milne Boulevard is. Instead the town was located near the University of New Orleans and its Research and Technology Park. John Chase says, “This odd Scot declared the swampland to be exceedingly healthy, and proved it by living to be eighty.” Ironically, selling parts of his precious swampland as real estate is what really made him rich along with a brick-making business.

The area around current-day Milne Boulevard was not much more than a resort at West End, a lighthouse, and the New Basin Canal, which was dug mostly by Irishmen. Thousands of them died due to sickness and poor working conditions.

Although most of Lakeview's homes have been restored since Hurricane Katrina, it is not uncommon to see a house being reclaimed by nature.

Although most of Lakeview’s homes have been restored since Hurricane Katrina, it is not uncommon to see a house being reclaimed by nature.

Today:

The massive swamp that Alexander Milne enjoyed is now an extensive metropolitan area that comprises the neighborhoods of Lakeview, Gentilly, Pontchartrain Park, and Lake Vista. The latter two actually sit on top of artificial land that was pumped in for development. If you go to the UNO Research and Technology Park, you’ll see the old abandoned Milneburg Lighthouse that once sat in the lake itself. The New Canal Lighthouse (along Lakeshore Drive) is now a museum operated by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, whereas the New Basin Canal was filled in as a massive neutral ground in the 1950s. Lakeview still attracts New Orleanians who have a vested interest in Lake Pontchartrain whether it is boating, biking, jogging, fishing, or swimming.

But, just as the lake waters brought development to the area, they would destroy it during Hurricane Katrina. Lakeview residents were severely flooded when the 17th Street Canal levee breached from the pressure of the lake surge.

As for Milne Boulevard, it runs from Robert E. Lee Boulevard through Lakeview until it stops at Kenilworth right before the I-610. It later resumes a few more blocks until ending at the railroad tracks before Greenwood Cemetery.

The front view of Lakeview School from Milne Boulevard. It was built in 1913 and then rebuilt in 1915 after a fire. It has been sitting idle since being damaged in the floods caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The front view of Lakeview School from Milne Boulevard. It was built in 1913 and then rebuilt in 1915 after a fire. It has been sitting idle since being damaged in the floods caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Tomorrow:

Projection of the future would be impossible without considering what is being done today. Overall, the rebuilding process in Lakeview has been impressive, especially considering most (if not all) homeowners were left high-and-dry (pardon the ironic phrasing) by the insurance companies’ “flood vs. wind” policies. Two new restaurants, Brisbi’s and The Blue Crab, have recently opened on the lakefront, which used to be bustling with eateries and recreational activities.

At Milne and Brooks, the Lakeview School (the area’s first school) sits festering in its Katrina shell; however, a developer has recently purchased the building with the plans for a condo or assisted living. According to WWL, Scurlock Development bought the early 1900s structure for $1.2 million. Mixed feelings always exist among neighbors. Some people feel like it will change the dynamics of the area, whereas others just want something done about the building that, quite frankly, looks like a haunted orphanage from the Soviet Union. Also, according to WWL, neither the development company nor the city council had much to say about the new venture. So, nothing may be happening for all we know.

However, with the way New Orleans politicians roll, big things may, in fact, be in play.

An ominous rear-view from Lakeview School.

An ominous, rear view of Lakeview School.

Sources:

• John Chase. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children. 1949.

http://www.neworleansonline.com/tools/neighborhoodguide/lakeview.html

• Paul Murphy. WWL TV. http://www.wwltv.com/news/Private-Developer-Buys-Abandoned-Lakeview-School–217170981.html