The Metairie Cemetery Entrance was at Metairie Road and Pontchartrain Boulevard in the 1880s.
Metairie Cemetery Entrance
Charles Roscoe Savage photo of Metairie Cemetery in the 1880s. BYU Digital Collections reference:
A view through a vine- covered archway of two men with their luggage at the base of a small mound with a statue on the top. Hand-tinted. Note: Written on the back- Transferred from P-167.
This entrance was for pedestrians. The Metairie Cemetery Association (MCA) constructed an automobile entrance on Pontchartrain Blvd. in the 1900s. The photographer stands with his back to the New Basin Canal. The tumulus seen through the vine-covered entrance arch is that of the Army of Tennessee (Louisiana Division). The equestrian statue on top is of Albert Sidney Johnson.
This entrance evolved as visitors arrived in automobiles more than on foot. The cemetery had an access gate just west of the Metairie Road-Pontchartrain Blvd. entrance. This allowed hearses and other horse-drawn vehicles access. Automobiles required a better entrance. The MCA added one about twenty years after this photo. Pedestrians could still enter the cemetery from here. The MCA later removed the brick archway. They replaced it with a lower fence.
The city filled the New Basin Canal, starting in 1948. By 1949, the section by the cemetery was filled. The Pontchartrain Expressway consists of an overpass over Metairie Road. Out of concern for pedestrian safety, MCA locked the entrance permanently in the 1950s. The entrance is now accessible.
With the archway/entrance gone, the cemetery developed the entrance area for more tombs. The most notable new construction is the Benson Tomb. It now stands to the left of where Savage stood for this photo.
Army of Tennessee (Louisiana Division)
This tumulus is one of several burial sites for rebels who fought in the Southern Rebellion. The most notable veteran interred here is P.G.T. Beauregard.
Our first #WatercolorWednesday is a cemetery scene.
Cemetery Scene by Goldman
Watercolor painting of a cemetery scene by Jeffrey H. Goldman of new Orleans. While the painting is a composite of New Orleans cemetery items, it’s not one specific place. The background suggests St. Louis Number One or Number Two, both in Treme.
There are five items in the foreground, before the wall. On the left is a “double” tomb. Behind it is an obelisk. the central item is a “triple” tomb whose lower vault is open. Next is a “single” tomb. On the right is a wall of “ovens.” These are mausoleum-style niches.
In the rear of the image stands a Creole house with a second-floor gallery. On the right is a sketch/outline of a church.
Single, Double, Triple
Goldman includes the three main types of tombs we see in New Orleans. The “single,” is the most expensive, since there can be only one burial per year. Families usually built “doubles,” so you can inter two loved ones at one time. When both vaults are occupied, the law requires the owners wait a year and a day since the most recent internment. The “triple,” three vaults, proved to be too expensive for most families.
Many cemeteries build single-vault niches into their walls. These became known as “ovens.” This concept predates the classic mausoleum buildings of the 20th century.
The obelisk in Goldman’s painting appears to be a “cenotaph,” a monument that is not an actual burial site. For example, the architect James Gallier was lost at sea with his wife. His son, James, Jr., erected a cenotaph to their memories in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. Many families erect monuments to loved ones buried away from New Orleans. So, it’s appropriate that the artist include such a monument.
From Jeffrey Hugo Goldman’s obituary:
A native and lifelong resident of New Orleans. Graduated 1958 from Alcee Fortier High School, John McCrady School of Art, and Delgado Trade and Technical Institute. He received a masters degree in Architecture from Tulane University School of Architecture in 1975.
Mr. Goldman was a warm and generous individual who contributed without recognition to numerous cultural institutions in the City of New Orleans including Tulane School of Architecture, The D-Day Museum, The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Aquarium of the Americas to name a few.
When he passed, Mr. Goldman’s son donated a number of his paintings to THNOC.
The Guiseppe Vaccaro tomb stands on Metairie Avenue.
Tomb of Guiseppe (Joseph) Vaccaro in Metairie Cemetery. The tomb stands on Metairie Avenue, which is part of the original “race track” section. The tomb was built in the 1920s. This Frank B. More photo is undated, but taken on the day of an interment. The Vaccaro Brothers, Guiseppe, Felix, and Luca, came to America with their father, Stefano. They started Vaccaro Brothers Company, a business to import coconuts and bananas from Honduras to New Orleans in 1899. That business later becomes the Dole Fruit Company.
Joseph built a “double” style tomb for his family. This allowed the owners to bury two family members within a year. Our law says a vault in an above-ground tomb may be re-used after a year and a day has passed since the last internment. So, if you have a double, hopefully the family doesn’t suffer extended tragedy.
Standard Fruit Company
The brothers re-organized the company as Standard Fruit Company in 1924. So, like Sam Zemurray’s United Fruit Company, the Vaccaros involved themselves in Central American Governments. They helped create the “Banana Republics.” To handle the increased volume of business, the Vaccaros bought almost every ice plant in the New Orleans area. Standard Fruit operated services to the ships transporting their bananas. They acquired their own ships in the early 1920s. The company changed its name in 1926 to Standard Fruit & Steamship Company.
Vaccaros to Dole
While the story is fascinating and we’ll come back to it, I’m just nicking this from Wikipedia, on why Dole Foods is traced back to the Vaccaros.
Standard Fruit continued operations until 1964 when it was purchased by Castle & Cooke, an agricultural and real estate company founded in 1851 by S. N. Castle and A. S. Cooke which had become one of the five largest companies operating in the Territory of Hawaii. James Dole‘s Hawaiian Pineapple Company was a supplier of Castle & Cooke since 1906, and Castle & Cooke had been selling Dole branded bananas since 1927. David H. Murdock bought the company in 1985 and in 1991 renamed Castle & Cooke to the Dole Food Company. Murdock split the two companies into two separate companies, Dole plc and Castle & Cooke, Inc., in 1995.
The majority of the land and operations that became Dole Food Company was directly from Standard Fruit, leading to the Vaccaro brothers’ enterprise being considered the first incarnation of the Dole Food Company.
So, the family faded as the company joined a conglomerate.
Thanks as always to the Earl K. Long Library at my alma mater, the University of New Orleans
The Traitor Davis died in New Orleans in 1899. The city gave him a grand funeral procession.
Funeral Procession of the Traitor Davis
Jefferson Davis died in the Garden District on December 6, 1889. They city held a massive funeral procession for Davis on 11-December. This is the Library of Congress summary for this photo of the procession:
Photo shows coffin in horse-drawn wagon as the “funeral procession for Jefferson Davis winds through the French Quarter in New Orleans on December 11, 1889. An estimated 200,000 people lined the streets. Davis died early on December 6, and over 70,000 people viewed his remains at New Orleans City Hall. The body was laid to rest in a vault in Metairie Cemetery, then was taken to Richmond in 1893 and reinterred at Hollywood Cemetery.” (Source: Papers of Jefferson Davis Web site at Rice University, 2009)
This is a concise summary of the event. Some additional notes:
Davis’ last home was the Beauvoir Estate, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi. While he did not maintain a house in New Orleans, he was frequently the guest of White League families in the Garden District.
As mentioned in the LOC summary, the Traitor Davis was initially interred in Metairie, before being moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. The specific location of Davis’ vault was in the Army of Northern Virginia (Louisiana Division) tumulus. He was interred in a vault near the entrance. Davis’ signature was engraved and inlaid with gold in the marble covering the vault. When he was re-interred, that vault was permanently sealed.
Royal Street, 1889
Streetcar tracks are visible in the photo, as are electric poles. While commercial electrification began in the mid-1880s, electrification of street rail was still a few years away. The main line using the streetcar tracks at this time was the “Jackson Depot” line. this later morphed into the Desire line by the 1920s.
The Jackson Depot line ran from Canal and St. Charles Street, up to Delord (later Howard), making its way to the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad (later Illinois Central) station on Clio Street. It wound its way back to Carondelet Street, crossed to the downtown side and Bourbon Street, terminating at the Pontchartrain Railroad/L&N station on Elysian Fields. It then returned via Royal Street.
Chevra Thilim Cemetery (Gates of Prayer) stands at 4824 Canal Street, near City Park Avenue.
Gates of Prayer Cemetery, also known as Chevra Thilim
1999 image of the “Jewish Cemetery” at 4824 Canal Street. The building in the background is the Botinelli Building. The spires on top originally stood on top of the old Temple Sinai building on Carondelet Street. In 1977, the congregation decided to move uptown, they demolished their synagogue. Theodore Botinelli built an office/apartment building behind his family’s home. He salvaged the spires and put them on top of his new building.
Botinelli’s building overlooks the Jewish Cemetery, which was founded in 1858. Gates of Prayer has a detailed history of the cemetery, which has a fascinating story:
The Gates of Prayer cemetery at 4824 Canal Street has been called many names since it was founded in 1858 . It’s been called many names, in part because it has never been a single cemetery. Instead, it has been owned by and used by five different local congregations/organizations who have buried their members there over its lengthy history. Today, the cemetery is owned by Congregation Gates of Prayer, Chevra Thilim Cemetery Corporation, and Congregation Beth Israel.
So, as you walk up Canal Street from, say, St. Dominic Church at S. St. Patrick Street, you first encounter the old McMahon Funeral Home, 4800 Canal Street (cor S. Bernadotte). That building is now “The Mortuary,” a haunted house.
Theodore Botinelli’s father was an Italian-born artist and sculptor. The family lived in a house on St. Anthony Street, between the Jewish Cemetery and St. Patrick Number One. His mother opened a flower shop on the corner. Botinelli acquired more property on St. Anthony Street. He eventually built a three-story building at the end of the dead-end street. With the distinctive spires installed on top, people took notice. Theodore pitched the City Council to change the name of that dead-end block of St. Anthony to Botinelli Place.
This photo, dated 1999, is from the Louisiana Film Commission collection at the State Library of Louisiana. The photographer is unidentified.
Cemetery curses revisited: is the Caesers Superdome really cursed?
Map of the area around Caesar’s Superdome. The red rectangle shows the outline of Girod Street Cemetery.
The Saints: Cemetery curses revisited
Portion of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing Girod Street Cemetery
As we approach Halloween, fans of the New Orleans Saints often return to the topic of the Superdome and the Cemetery. While much research exists on the boundaries of Girod Street Cemetery and the Superdome, the curse theory always returns. The talk always gets serious when the Saints aren’t playing well.
We’ve discussed this before and in detail: Girod Cemetery isn’t under Da Dome. Still, folks find remains in the vicinity of the stadium that are outside the perimeter of the cemetery. This happens all over the city, and there are reasons for burials outside established cemeteries.
Indigenous burial mounds in the city come as no surprise. The native tribes were here before the colonizers, after all. Most of these mounds stand on high ground. When the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority discovered human remains near Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue as part of bus/streetcar terminal construction, it made sense. The area is on the Metairie Ridge. It’s high ground. Since cemeteries surround the intersection, those remains were a combination of indigenous people and colonizers.
It takes years for government to green-light cemetery construction. While the wrangling takes place, families often buried loved ones in the general vicinity of the proposed site. It’s not like they could wait for things to shake out, after all. So, figuring close was better than not, they did what they felt they had to do.
Section of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, along Claiborne Avenue in Faubourg Treme
Even after a cemetery opened for business, people often couldn’t afford the price of a plot, much less an above-ground tomb. The same thinking as initial disorganization applied. Let’s get the departed close. A walk through the cemetery connected those still living with the dead, even if they couldn’t put flowers on a grave.
When a cemetery falls into disrepair, things get messy. This was the case with Girod Street. The chapter of Christ Episcopal did not adequately prepare for long-term maintenance of the cemetery. By the 1950s, the cemetery was in ruins. Grave robbers discarded coffins and remains all over the cemetery, in search of valuables. Naturally some of the remains ended up outside the cemetery walls.
This is also a complicated subject. It was important to Christians that those buried in “holy ground” were free of serious sin. For example, if a spouse committed adultery, but did not seek forgiveness for the mortal sin, the family who owned the plot might refuse that person burial. A priest might refuse to preside over the rites of burial. Those close to the deceased were told to find someplace else. Another reason for exclusion from consecrated ground was suicide. Clergy and family would reject any connection to a person who took their own life.
In most of these cases, there were relatives who disagreed with this harsh treatment. While they were unable to get the departed inside the walls, they buried their loved one close by. Therefore, numerous reasons exist to explain remains outside the cemeteries.