Vaccaro Tomb – Metairie Cemetery

Vaccaro Tomb – Metairie Cemetery

The Guiseppe Vaccaro tomb stands on Metairie Avenue.

vaccaro tomb

Vaccaro Tomb

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[10]

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.[3]

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

Funeral Procession Jefferson Davis, 1889

Funeral Procession Jefferson Davis, 1889

The Traitor Davis died in New Orleans in 1899. The city gave him a grand funeral procession.

funeral procession of the traitor davis

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)

Additional notes

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.

Metairie Cemetery

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.

Gates of Prayer Cemetery 1999

Gates of Prayer Cemetery 1999

Chevra Thilim Cemetery (Gates of Prayer) stands at 4824 Canal Street, near City Park Avenue.

gates of prayer cemetery, 4820 canal street, new orleans

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.

The cemetery

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 [1]. 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.

Botinelli Place

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.

The photo

This photo, dated 1999, is from the Louisiana Film Commission collection at the State Library of Louisiana. The photographer is unidentified.


Cemetery Curses Revisited

Cemetery Curses Revisited

Cemetery curses revisited: is the Caesers Superdome really cursed?

cemetery curses revisited

Map of the area around Caesar’s Superdome. The red rectangle shows the outline of Girod Street Cemetery.

The Saints: Cemetery curses revisited

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 burials

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.

Initial Disorganization

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.


cemetery curses revisited

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.

Cemetery Disintegration

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.

Consecrated Ground

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.

Twelve Months New Orleans November

Twelve Months New Orleans November

Twelve Months New Orleans November, continuing the series by Enrique Alferez

twelve months new orleans november

Twelve Months New Orleans November

This image is the eleventh in a series of images by Enrique Alferez, published by Michael Higgins as “The Twelve Months of New Orleans.” Higgins published the illustrations in 1940. The image features a New Orleans cemetery for All Saints.

Enrique Alferez

Alferez was born in Northern Mexico on May 4, 1901. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1927 to 1929. He came to New Orleans in 1929. Alferez made New Orleans his home. He took advantage of various Works Progress Administration grants in the late 1930s. Alferez created a number of sculptures in the metro area, particularly in New Orleans City Park. Additionally, he designed the large fountain in front of Shushan Airport (now New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

Alferez drew and painted, as well as sculpting. So, he included many New Orleans landmarks in the “Twelve Months” booklet.

Twelve Months

Twelve Months New Orleans January

The title/cover page of the booklet says:

Twelve Months
New Orleans

A set of 12 Romantic
Lithographic Prints
Displaying 60 local subjects
drawn direct on the plate
with pen, brush, and crayon
Enrique Alferez

Printed and published by Michael Higgins
at 303 North Peters St

November’s Lithograph

Visiting the cemetery is the theme of November’s illustrations.

The Corners

Top Left: Racing Season Begins. Horse Racing traditionally begins on Thanksgiving Day. New Orleans in 1940 meant going out to “Da Track,” the Fair Grounds in Gentilly.

Top Right: LSU Rodeo. The “Block and Bridle” Club at Louisiana State University presents an annual rodeo. This year’s rodeo is the 83rd annual, on 5-6 November.

Bottom Left: Loading cotton. Cotton planters harvested their crop, baled it, and shipped it to New Orleans on steam-powered riverboats. Cotton Factors, traders buying and selling crops, negotiated purchase with the ship captain. They transferred the cotton from the riverboat to cotton presses along the riverfront. The mill/press compressed the cotton into much denser bales, for transfer to ocean-going ships.

Bottom Right: Colored Nuns. Women of Color could be nuns, too! Several orders of nuns consisting of women of Creole and/or African descent called New Orleans home.

All Saint’s Day

The central drawing for November features a cemetery scene. The caption reads:

On All Saints Day, NOVEMBER 1st.,
The tombs, all whitewashed the day
before, are decorated with especial care.

November’s center illustration presents a second scroll:

on account of
water near the surface
till recently all our dead
were entombed ABOVE the ground

Alferez offers a scene from All Souls Day, November 2nd. He’s a day off, in that families went to the cemeteries on November 1st, because most had the day off. All Souls Day was more important, as families prayed for mitigation of time in purgatory for their deceased.

See you for the twelfth image in December.



Tombs, Ovens, All Souls

Tombs, Ovens, All Souls

Tombs, Ovens, All Souls, the preparation was all for today.

tombs, ovens, all souls

Tombs, Ovens, All Souls.

Illustration from the 1870s, A Cemetery Walk, (Tombs and “Ovens.”) shows the scene in a New Orleans cemetery. The tombs on the right are typical of the city’s older cemeteries, particularly the Creole/Catholic St. Louis Numbers 1 and 2 cemeteries. Both feature an outside wall. The wall surrounded tombs of many styles and designs. While St. Louis Number 2 is better planned, the older cemetery features haphazard layouts and walkways. Many people went out to the cemetery on All Saints Day, November 1st, to spruce up the family tomb.

Praying to the Saints

The Catholic Church observed a calendar full of honors to various saints. While some “saints” were fictional, most were real people, recognized by the Church to be in Heaven. Martyrs receive canonization for giving their lives to God. Other Saints require more detailed documentation. Some saints receive a sort of “fast-track” path to canonization. The cause of others may take decades to achieve the desired result. Once declared a saint, the Church designates a feast day for them. Their cult (not a derogatory term in this context) then celebrate the saint’s life on that day.

If everyone in heaven is a saint in the eyes of God, that’s a lot more saints than there are days in the year. So, the Church marks 1-November as the catch-all date. In New Orleans, offices and other businesses closed on All Saints, ostensibly so folks could go to Mass.

Praying for the Souls

Catholics pray to the Saints for intercession. (Note that the saints don’t perform miracles, etc. The faithful ask the saints to put in a good word with God for the request.) They pray for those who have passed away, in the hopes that they are in that number of saints. Families visited their dead in simple and elaborate tombs. They also prayed for those in the “ovens” — niches in the cemetery’s walls.