Metairie Cemetery traffic pattern was important on All Saints Day.
Metairie Cemetery traffic pattern
Ad in the Times-Picayune, 28-October-1962, for Metairie Cemetery. The cemetery stood next to the New Canal for over eighty years. The city filled in the canal in 1949-1950. They then built the Pontchartrain Expressway, connecting Lakeview with downtown, in 1954. It took a few years to complete the ground-level access at Metairie Road. By 1962, the cemetery decided to explain the traffic flow to visitors:
Highway service and traffic lanes are now completed in the Metairie Cemetery area to accomodate autos entering Metairie Cemetery. If you plan to visit the Cemetery on All Saints’ Day, or the preceding day to place flowers, we suggest that you use the road guide printed below.
Visitors driving in from the west turned off Veterans Highway at Bellaire Drive. Bellaire is the first street on the Orleans Parish side of the 17th Street Canal. As Veterans evolved, this pattern altered slightly. Now, drivers turn right at Vets and Fleur-de-Lis. Since Bellaire no longer connects directly with Veterans, drivers go up to the light at Fleur-de-Lis, then curve around from there.
This route didn’t change after the construction of the I-10/I-610 highways over the canal. Just follow the service road. The sights along the way changed over time, from the country club, to New Orleans Academy (a military school), to the local LDS Temple. Now, the area along the service road is all residential.
All Saints’ Day continues to be one of the busiest days for local cemeteries. Since All Saints’ is a “holy day of obligation” for Roman Catholics, many companies took the day off. So, folks would attend Mass at their parish church, then head to the cemeteries to spruce up the family tombs. This was important, because of the next day, All Souls’ Day. All the Saints were already in heaven. The Souls in purgatory needed to get out of the holding pen and up to heaven. You knew that maw-maw went on to her reward. Paw-paw, on the other hand, you had your doubts. So, fixing up the tomb to show you cared became an important ritual.
Freret’s Cenotaph remained on paper when the Washington Artillery chose another design.
“Front elevation design for the Washington Artillery Monument (tomb).” by James Freret. Like most architects in New Orleans, Freret worked on spec. He drafted concept drawings to accompany proposals for buildings and monuments. This drawing illustrates Freret’s concept for the Washington Artillery Association monument. The monument stands in Metairie Cemetery. So, when Freret lost the bid, he filed away the drawings. Those illustrations eventually found their way to the Southeastern Architectural Archive at Tulane University.
Washington Monument Association
The United States Army formed the Washington Artillery (WA) in 1838. The unit now operates as the 141st Field Artillery Battalion. While originally an Army unit, they’re now part of the Louisiana Army National Guard. After the Southern Rebellion, veterans of the WA formed the Washington Artillery Association. Their mission was mutual aid and remembrance of the members of the unit. In 1879, the Association decided to build a monument. It would be a memorial to fallen members of the unit. They raised funds and solicited proposals from architectural firms.
James Freret responded to their request for proposal. He submitted the concept shown above. He submitted a design for a tomb. The number of vaults isn’t clear from the drawing. Freret envisioned an obelisk. So, Egyptian pyramids and obelisks were quite popular in burial architecture in the late 19th Century. Therefore, Freret expected his design to be appealing.
Invitation to the dedication of the Washington Artillery Monument, 1880. Card features a sketch of Charles Orleans’ design, including the Doyle sculpture.
The Association passed on Freret’s design. They chose a design by architect Charles A. Orleans. Mr. Orleans represented the Hinsdale-Doyle Granite Co. of New York. The Association changed their original plans for a tomb. They shifted the specifications to that of a cenotaph. This reduced the construction costs. Orleans selected the sculptor Alexander Doyle to create a statue. Doyle produced a sculpture of a WA private, wearing the uniform of the rebellion period.
The WA moved past the direct connection of the Metairie Cemetery monument to the rebellion. So, the 141st expanded the scope of the monument. While the statue remains, they included other battle honors. The cenotaph lists honors from other. conflicts. Given the backlash against “Confederate monuments” in recent years, perhaps Freret’s design would have been better in the long run.
Metairie Cemetery is the site of the Washington Artillery Cenotaph.
Washington Artillery Cenotaph
George Mugnier photo (courtesy NOPL) of the Washington Artillery Cenotaph in Metairie Cemetery. A “cenotaph” is an empty tomb. They serve as monuments to people buried elsewhere. So, the United States Army formed the Washington Artillery (WA) in 1838. It is now the 141st Field Artillery Regiment. The unit is attached to the Louisiana National Guard. In 1861, the government of Louisiana took control of the unit. It was a battalion at the time. WA fought as part of the main rebel force. WA re-organized in the 1870s.
The Washington Artillery Association raised funds for a monument to the battalion in 1879. The unit consisted of four companies at the time. Additionally, a fought with the Army of Tennessee. So, the association accepted proposals from various architects, They chose the design submitted by Charles A. Orleans. Orleans proposal included a sculpture by Alexander Doyle. Doyle imagined a figure of an artillery private, holding a “sponge.” The sponge was fixed to a ramrod. Gunners used them to clean out a just-fired gun. So, the cenotaph’s price tag was $10,000. Donations ranging from $25 to $250 came in to cover the costs.
While the unit fought for twenty years in the Union Army, the monument honors the rebel years. The roll of the dead listed members of the unit killed during that period. The battle honors initially engraved on the cenotaph began with Bull Run. Mexican War honors were not listed. The list of engagements shows just how active and effective the unit was.
The Association dedicated the cenotaph on February 23, 1880. A thousand people came out to honor the unit. The unit and its veterans association updated the cenotaph, expanding the battle honors as the battalion returned to active duty with the Army. The 141st hold a memorial annually at the cenotaph, as part of the unit’s heritage and traditions.
Metairie Cemetery main entrance in the early 1900s.
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.
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 before the expressway, 1930s.
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 at the turn of the 20th Century.
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.
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.