New Orleans Louisiana Sunday March 26
A sugar surge is keeping me energized as I write this post. Pralines (sugar, pecans, butter, milk and vanilla) from the New Orleans School of Cooking sit before me. Hopefully I will resist enough not to overdose on them.
Today was the opposite of yesterday. Early morning clouds and fog gave way to sunshine, a mild breeze, and temperatures in the high 70s. Algiers Point was settled in 1719 but many buildings burnt down in a major fire in the late 1800s. Wood homes seem to predominate in the historic district and are colorfully decorated. Chris and I walked numerous blocks marveling at the varied colors. On the negative side, in this area the streets are poorly paved and sidewalks in rough condition when they exist. Utility poles and wires are everywhere. I can not profess to be an expert on the area; when we drove 3 miles tonight to a grocery store, we encountered much better streets and new home construction. A former Navy base is being re-developed into a mix of public and private offices, businesses and housing.
From what we can tell, most of Algiers Point escaped major destruction during Hurricane Katrina. It is on higher elevation although walking on the levee this morning made that difficult to believe. During Katrina, there were incidents where the mostly white residents of Algiers Point shot blacks who were escaping the floods. News reports indicated that the whites were claiming they were protecting their homes from looters but facts proved otherwise. They shot first and asked questions later. The men shot all had legitimate reasons for being in the area. Issues I can not fully resolve for you.
After walking the neighborhood and the levee, we arrived at the Algiers Point Ferry Terminal. We took the ferry across the Mississippi RIver to a dock at Canal Street. The ferry charges $2 per person, exact cash only. We had to use some quarters to have the exact change. For the return trip, we had to make sure we bought just one post card to have four one dollar bills with us. We did encounter two women on the return trip asking people waiting in line if they had change. We saw them on the ferry so evidently they found a Good Samaritan with change.
There is a fancier river walk along the downtown New Orleans side of the river which we took to our first destination, the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint. The first floor of the museum is dedicated to history of the mint. It had some unique roles in that during the Civil War it was seized by the State of Louisiana and used briefly to mint coins for the state and later for the Confederacy. Since New Orleans was re-taken by Union forces by the middle of 1862 and the Confederacy ran out of silver and gold bullion early on in the war, not many Confederacy coins were minted here. Items on display include a coin press and a gold bullion scale.
The second floor has exhibits about New Orleans Jazz and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Displays discuss his upbringing here before he later moved to Chicago and New York. The last trumpet he used before his death is on display. There is an additional exhibit of art by southern artists, focusing on self-taught artists.
We left the Mint and headed to Jackson Square. Jackson Square is a large green space, with St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo Museum (history) and the Presbytere Museum (culture) flanking the Cathedral on the northwest side of the square. Three sides of the square were home to artists selling their wares and buskers performing for the tourists. One or two musical groups were always performing so you were serenaded as you strolled along inspecting the art. Even inside the two museums, you could hear the music. (Jackson Square is named after Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans where the Americans defeated the British in the War of 1812.)
The Cabildo was a pleasure. Three floors of displays on the history of New Orleans. There was so much info, I fear most of it went in one eyeball and out the other. When the museum covered the Battle of New Orleans, it mentioned how Andrew Jackson did not follow-up after the battle on his promises to the citizens. One of his actions was to not repeal martial law after the battle, waiting until the whole war was declared over. When a newspaper editor dared to write that the martial law could be lifted, he had the writer tossed into jail. When the judge said the writer was entitled to a public trial, he judge was tossed into jail. Gee, do we have a president who admires Andrew Jackson now? During his presidential elections, Jackson did not carry the city.
Some other tidbits.
The town early on had a Catholic heritage. The Catholics liked to go to Sunday Mass and then go out and eat, socialize, party on Sunday afternoon. When Protestants moved in, they were shocked at this scandalous behavior that did not keep holy the Lord’s Day.
New Orleans had six to ten times the number of saloons as were in Boston or Philadelphia.
New Orleans in its formative years had a wide variety of immigrants from Germans to Irish to French to Santo Dominguians to Canary Islanders etc that contributed to the mixed population. They called it the gumbo of the people. Yet, this did not stop anti-immigrant fever sporadically or the profitable discrimination against Indians and blacks.
Due to the early surrender of New Orleans, the Union government made an effort to test some Reconstruction plans here. Sort of “Reconstruction Light”. But actually due to the easy defeat, the citizens never faced the hardships of war. Thus the residents of New Orleans were more of a hassle to deal with than a pitched battle. They resisted the efforts and that helped lead to the eventual “Radical Reconstruction” that followed the Civil War with harsh enforcement. Louisiana was one of the last three Southern states to have rule by the military ended. Military forces left the state in 1877.
After the Cabildo (previously home to governmental functions), we went to the Presbytere Museum (previously associated with religious functions). The Presbytere focused on Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Mardi Gras. The Katrina exhibit had video of the storm, the damage and the stories of individual people. It discussed the geography of the area, the engineering failure that led to the horrendous flooding, and the actions of people who have destroyed the natural features of the land to help minimize the effects of major storms. The great flood of 1927 (the one that Herbert Hoover led the reconstruction for and which helped him to be elected President) was a major impetus in the levee building which now protects the city from river flooding. That same levee building makes the city more susceptible to hurricane flooding.
The Mardi Gras exhibit was informative but less interesting. Possibly this is due to our having seen the Mardi Gras museum in Mobile which covers the subject quite well also.
All in all, a tiring yet informative day.
Ed and Chris