Metairie Cemetery Main Entrance 1900

Metairie Cemetery Main Entrance 1900

Metairie Cemetery main entrance in the early 1900s.

metairie cemetery main entrance

Metairie Cemetery main entrance

Postcard from the V. O. Hammon Collection, Newberry Library, University of Illinois. The Metairie Cemetery main entrance at Pontchartrain Boulevard and Metairie Road, in the early 1900s. The handwritten caption says, “Left, Moriarity (sic) Monument, right, Army of Tennessee Statue of Albert Sidney Johnston.” The water in the foreground is the west bank of the New Canal. The two monuments mentioned are behind the gatehouse and its green fence.

Pontchartrain Boulevard and Metairie Road

Prior to the closure of the New Canal (1949), the Metairie Cemetery main entrance stood here at the Southeast corner of the property. Visitors to the Cemetery crossed the canal at the Metairie Road bridge, entering under the archways visible in this postcard. Funeral processions went directly from here to the specific tomb, mausoleum, or coping. In cases where a tomb wasn’t ready for the deceased, the remains were placed in the Receiving Vault. This chapel/vault stands directly behind the gatehouse. The cemetery demolished this gatehouse after the entrance was moved. So, this corner now features the (Tom) Benson family vault. Additionally, a small fence and gate stands on the corner.

Moriarty at the Metairie Cemetery Main Entrance

Daniel A. Moriarty immigrated to New Orleans from Ireland. He arrived poor and amassed a good bit of wealth in the second half of the 19th Century. Moriarty married Mary Farrell, a New Orleans woman who came from money. She was a good bit older than her husband. The combination of his poor Irish roots and the age difference of the couple left them out of “polite society.” When Mary died, Daniel built an 80-foot monument on top of the tomb. The four sculptures at the base of the monument are, Faith, Hope, Charity, and Memory. So, the urban legend/joke is that it’s Faith, Hope, Charity, and Mrs. Moriarty. Given Daniel’s disdain for New Orleans Society, there may be more than a grain of truth in the legend.

Entrance moved

After the city filled in the New Canal in 1949-1950, they built the Pontchartrain Expressway. The cemetery moved the main entrance to its current location up Pontchartrain Boulevard.

Entering Metairie Cemetery 1930s

Entering Metairie Cemetery 1930s

Entering Metairie Cemetery before the expressway, 1930s.

Entering metairie cemetery

Entering Metairie Cemetery

Franck Studios photo of Metairie Cemetery, from the 1930s. The perspective is from the Metairie Road side. The original entrance to the cemetery stands just behind the photographer. The New Canal flowed past Metairie Cemetery at this time.

Charles T. Howard acquired the land for the cemetery in 1871. The cemetery opened in 1872. By the 1930s, the “racetrack” portion of the cemetery stood for sixty years. Tombs filled what was the infield of the old Metairie Race Course. The cemetery expanded to the lake side of the oval.

Metairie Road and the New Canal

Metairie Cemetery overlooked the New Canal for almost eighty years. While the Metairie Race Course predated the canal by a few years, the canal defined the neighborhood. So, visitors rode the Canal streetcar to the end of the line at City Park Avenue. They walked past Greenwood and Cypress Grove cemeteries to the canal. Entering Metairie Cemetery meant crossing the canal. They approached the corner entrance. The equestrian statue of Albert Sidney Johnston atop the Army of Tennessee (Louisiana Division) tumulus loomed over the entrance. If you paused just after walking past the tumulus, this was what you saw.

The Receiving Chapel

Magnificent tombs present themselves upon entering Metairie Cemetery. The structure to the right of that gorgeous palm tree is the Receiving Chapel. The Metairie Cemetery Association used it as a temporary mausoleum for decades. Say you purchased a plot in the cemetery and had your tomb designed. Before it was completed, a loved one passed away. The cemetery “received” their remains, interring them in the Receiving Chapel. When your tomb was complete, they transferred the casket. Another use for this mausoleum was the year-and-a-day rule. Tombs may be re-used, but only after a year and a day from the previous burial. So, say maw-maw passes, and paw-paw follows a couple of months later. The cemetery association made room in the Receiving Chapel, until paw-paw could join his beloved for eternity.

Use the old entrance

Rather than driving in from Pontchartrain Boulevard, try entering Metairie Cemetery via the original entrance. It’s a different experience from when the New Canal flowed, but worth it to experience a bit of the history.

Metairie Cemetery 1905ish

Metairie Cemetery 1905ish

Metairie Cemetery at the turn of the 20th Century.

metairie cemetery 1905ish

Metairie Cemetery

Detroit Publishing Company postcard of Metairie Cemetery, circa 1905. The state granted the Metairie Cemetery Association a charter in 1872. So, at the time of this photo, the cemetery was about thirty years old.

The cemetery sits on the Metairie Ridge, next to Bayou Metairie. The Metairie Race Course, occupied the location prior to the cemetery. The race track opened in 1838. Metairie Race Course operated until 1861. The horse track became an army encampment in 1862. That camp stood empty after the rebels ran from the city.

Racetrack to Cemetery

Charles T. Howard, desired to join the Metairie Jockey Club. The club owned Metairie Race Course. Howard was a local businessman. The membership declined his application. Outraged, Howard vowed to buy the race track. He told the membership it would become a cemetery. Both club and race course declared bankruptcy after the rebellion. Howard acquired the property. He formed the Metairie Cemetery Association. The corporation hired architect Benjamin Morgan Harrod to convert the property into a cemetery.

Oval design

Harrod’s incorporated the racing oval into the cemetery’s design. Rows of tombs and copings, like the one in this photo, follow that pattern. The race track’s infield became “Millionaire’s Row.” Charles Howard’s tomb stands along the infield.

Detroit Publishing Company

This publisher sold postcards from across the United States. They built their catalog by encouraging local photographers. A photographer in, say, New Orleans, shot film in and around their home. They sent the exposed film to Detroit Publishing. The company developed the film. They sent new film back. If the company found postcard potential, they printed the photos. The company sent prints to artists in the photograph’s locale. The artists colorized the photos. They returned them to Detroit Publishing. The company produced the postcards. They sold postcards to newstands, hotels, etc.

Detroit Publishing Company postcards grew in popularity. Collectors kept them. Benefactors donated the collections to libraries. Additionally, heirs to Detroit Publishing Company donated the company’s prints to the Library of Congress.

Cemetery Sunday – Angelo Brocato, Sr, Metairie Cemetery

Cemetery Sunday – Angelo Brocato, Sr, Metairie Cemetery

Angelo Brocato, Sr, founder of Brocato’s Ice Cream

Angelo Brocato

Brocato Family tomb, Metairie Cemetery

Angelo Brocato, Sr – Ice Cream and Pastries

Angelo Brocato, Sr, was born in Cefalù, Sicily, on May 25, 1875. At the age of twelve, he apprenciced in an ice cream shop in the Sicilian city of Palermo. Brocato emigrated to the United States, coming to New Orleans, where he plied his trade. He soon opened his own shop, on Decatur Street. At this time the Italian groceries like Central and Progress were anchors on Decatur Street. The French Market was across the street. So, this combination was perfect for an ice cream shop. That shop grew in popularity. By 1905, Brocato needed a bigger location. He moved the shop to the 500 block of Ursulines Street. Brocato’s clientele kept growing, to the point where Angelo moved the shop in 1921, to 612-614 Ursulines. This location is now occupied by the Croissant d’Or coffee shop. You can still Angelo Brocato’s name in the tiles at the front door.

From the French Quarter to Mid-City

Brocato’s sold their ice cream and pastries at 612-614 Ursulines from 1921 to 1978. The family purchased a building on N. Carrollton Avenue that year. Much of the Sicilian community moved away from the French Quarter to Mid-City in the early 1900s. Still, Brocato’s stayed for over fifty years. Now, the shop is a Mid-City institution. Angelo Sr’s ice cream, along with his Italian Ices, fig cookies, cannolis, and other goodies define Mid-City. The French Quarter store closed in 1981. The family returned to the Quarter in 1984. Brocato’s opened a second store in the Lower Pontalba Building, at the corner of Rue Chartres and Rue St. Ann. This shop closed after the 1984 World’s Fair closed.

Angelo Brocato, Sr passed away on July 25, 1946. He was buried in Metairie Cemetery. His son, Angelo, Jr, continued to run the business until his death in 1982. Angelo Jr is also buried in the family tomb.

The Brocato tomb is typical of many “double tombs” in New Orleans. The BVM statue is a common addition on tombs owned by Catholic families.