The Kenner library branch in 1949 was on Airline Highway.
Kenner Library Branch
Photo of the interior of the Kenner Branch of the Jefferson Parish Library in 1949. The caption from the State Library of Louisiana reads: “B&W photo, Circa 1940s. Jefferson Parish library. Kenner, Louisiana. Airline Hwy. Left to right: Mrs. Beatrice Hidalgo and Mrs. Dixie Stephens.” If anyone knew these ladies, let us know in comments! The Kenner Branch at this time was on Airline Highway, near Williams Blvd. The branch later moved to Williams Blvd, near Kenner City Hall, in the 1960s.
Jefferson Parish Library System
The Jefferson Parish Police Jury authorized a public library for the parish in 1946. In 1949, the first public library opened at Huey P. Long Avenue and Fourth Street, By December of 1949, branches opened in Gretna. Metairie, Jefferson, Kenner, Harahan, Marrero, Gretna, and Westwego. The parish converted existing buildings to libraries. This enabled the quick expansion. Growth of the library system continued into the 1950s and 1960s. In Kenner, the original branch re-located, and a North Kenner branch opened. This fit the growth pattern of Kenner, as folks moved above Veterans Blvd.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted serious damage to a number of parish library branches. For example, Hurricane Rita damaged 33% of the North Kenner branch. While libraries play important roles in building communities, repairing such damage was a challenge. It’s not something that happens overnight. Fortunately, the system continues to recover and grow.
Growing up in Old Metairie, we used the branch at Metairie Road and Atherton St. So, that branch later moved further up Metairie Road to its current location. While it received damage from Katrina, the branch now thrives. When we bought our house, the Wagner Library, by Bissonet Plaza Elementary was our branch. Now, the East Bank Regional Library is home, to family, and to our small writers’ group.
Kenner Sanborn maps offer insight into the city in 1926.
Kenner Sanborn maps
This plate shows a section of Kenner, LA. Fire insurance companies used these maps to set rates for customers. Kenner Sanborn maps provide the underwriter with details on structures, streets, and railroads. They offer the historian a rich set of information on the evolution of a metro area. This map shows the area from what is now the Canadian National (formerly Illinois Central) right of way at Kenner Avenue, down to 3rd Street, towards the river. In modern Kenner, the top of this map marks the start of “Rivertown,” along Williams Boulevard.
David Alfred Sanborn lined up clients for his map project in 1866. His work gained traction quickly. Insurance companies sought improvements in setting rates. He began with Boston and expanded to other large cities. Sanborn mapped the details insurance companies desired to set competitive rates. By 1916, Sanborn’s company grew to the point where they bought out all of their major competitors. So, by the creation of Kenner Sanborn maps 1926, these maps were the standard.
Kenner in 1926
The maps illustrate the city’s role at the time. Kenner was the “town” that Sicilian truck farmers drove to when they went “into town,” for supplies, news, and social functions. Kenner had two Baptist churches (segregated) and a Catholic parish, St. Mary’s. The archdiocese renamed St. Marys to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1936.
Railroad links defined Kenner in 1926. Kenner Sanborn maps show three railroads, the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company Railroad, and the Illinois Central Railroad. The IC splits at Kenner. The IC segment turns north, heading across Lake Pontchartrain to Hammond, LA. The Yazoo and Mississippi Railroad continues west. “Kid Ory” and his jazz band took the Yazoo and Mississippi into New Orleans from LaPlace, to play gigs in the city on weekends.
The map shows freight and passenger platforms on the IC line, along with a number of industries on both sides of the railroad right-of-way.
Kenner shoemaker in his shop, 1938.
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Kenner Shoemaker 1938
“Shoemaker in his shop. Kenner, Louisiana,” by Russell Lee. Lee was a documentary photographer. He worked for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. Lee traveled extensively, documenting life during the mid-late 1930s. He caught this shoemaker at work in Kenner in 1938.
UT Austin maintains a collection of Lee’s post-FSA work. This is their biographical note:
Documentary photographer Russell Lee was born in Illinois in 1903. Trained as a chemical engineer and a painter, he took his first photographs in 1935. He worked for the Farm Security Administration from 1936 to 1942 and remained active in the field of documentary photography until 1977. Lee, who enjoyed a reputation for technical excellence and sensitivity to his subjects, moved to Austin, Texas, in 1947. Although he often traveled as a free-lance photographer and on assignment for magazines, corporations, the federal government, and the University of Texas, Austin remained his home and Texas a major focus of his work until his death in 1986. From 1965 to 1973 he taught photography at the University of Texas.
The Farm Security Administration photos provide a deep-dive look into New Orleans, from shots like this, a rural slice of life, to war production at Higgins Industries.
Kenner in the 1930s
The City of Kenner, Louisiana, stands on land initially occupied by the Tchoupitoulas indigenous tribe. French initially named the area, Cannes-Brûlées. Phillip Minor Kenner established the Belle Grove Plantation, at what is now the area around Williams Boulevard and Jefferson Highway. Additionally, the Kenner family established two more plantations in the area. So, the city took the family name.
Kenner connected to New Orleans via the Orleans-Kenner Railroad. The OK-RR operated from 1915 to 1931. So, by the time of this photo in 1838, Jefferson Highway provided connectivity.
People of Kenner
Lee’s shoemaker is unidentified. After the Southern Rebellion, many of the Sicilians that immigrated to New Orleans moved out to Kenner. They established farms on the former plantation land. These were called “truck farms” because the farmers would load crops on pickup trucks and bring them to the public markets in New Orleans. Some used the OK-RR. They loaded the interurban cars with their crops. Family members picked them up at the Uptown New Orleans terminal.