It’s no surprise that street names in New Orleans change over time.

street names

Street tiles for General Pershing Street, renamed from Berlin Street. (Infrogmation photo)

The changing of street names.

City government changes street names for a number of reasons. Here are some examples, using the Robinson Atlas of 1883. Let’s start with the French Quarter.

Custom House to Iberville

street names

Custom House Street, 1883

The first street after Canal Street, inside the French Quarter, was originally named “Custom House.” It was later changed to Iberville Street. While we associate both LeMoyne brothers with the founding of New Orleans, Bienville had the greater role. Iberville’s contributions weren’t initially considered significant enough to earn a street.

Calle del Arsenal

street names

Calle Del Arsenal (Infrogmation photo)

The street was originally named for the Ursuline nuns. When the Spanish took over, streets received names in their language. Spanish troops were quartered on the lower side of the city, hence Barracks and Arsenal. Calle del Arsenal reverted to Ursuline after New Orleans was sold to the United States in 1803.

Hospital to Governor Nicholls

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Hospital Street, 1883

In the Lower Quarter, Hospital changed to Governor Nicholls, in honor of Francis T. Nicholls, governor of Louisiana from 1888-1892. The city changed the street after he passed in 1912.

Outside the French Quarter

Tulane Avenue from Common Street

street names

Common Street, from Claiborne to Broad, 1883

Common Street, above Elk Place, changed to Tulane Avenue in 1884, in honor of philanthropist and namesake of Tulane University, Paul Tulane. Several street name changes took place around this time. In addition to the creation of Tulane Avenue, Delord Street (which ended at Tivoli Circle) changed to Howard Avenue.

Adams to Lee to Toussaint

street names

segment of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing Lakeview

Before electric streetcars, transit to the West End and Spanish Fort recreational areas along Lake Pontchartrain was accomplished via steam trains. West End converted first, in 1898. The Spanish Fort train closed, but returned in 1911 as an electrified streetcar line. Both streetcar lines ran out to the lakefront on West End Boulevard. Spanish Fort turned on Adams Street (named after Presidents John and John Quincy Adams). With the increased significance of the street after 1911, the city renamed Adams for Robert E. Lee.

The city renamed the street a second time, in 2022. Perfectly normal course of action. So, is it revisionist? No. Would it be revisionist to say Robert E. Lee had a significant impact on the history of New Orleans? Yes, because, in his entire life, he only spent about thirty-six hours here.

Tivoli to Lee to Harmony

street names

Lee Circle, 1883

The roundabout on Naiads Street, now St. Charles Avenue, at Delord Street (now Howard Avenue). The city originally named it, “Tivoli Circle.” In terms of city ordinances, that name remained until 2022. From Wikipedia:

On July 31, 1877, “Lee Place” within “Tivoli Circle” was authorized by Ordinance A.S. 4064[4][5] Although the traffic circle is commonly referred to as “Lee Circle”, this ordinance makes clear that the “enclosure” containing the statue is to be known as “Lee Place”, while the traffic circle itself continues to be known as “Tivoli Circle”. This ordinance contains no reference to the name “Lee Circle”.

While the monument and park honored Lee, the roundabout never changed from Tivoli Circle. This demonstrates common usage colliding with legal names. So, since the Lee statue stood at the center of the park, the entire area became, “Lee Circle.”

In 2022, the City Council formally re-named Tivoli Circle, Harmony Circle.

street names

Harmony Circle via Google Maps

Was this “revisionist history?” No. Street names changed all the time. Would it be revisionist history to argue that Lee wasn’t on the losing side of the Southern Rebellion? Yes.

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