A fascinating yet painful look at some of New Orleans’ iconic landmarks that did not endure the test of time. As Benny Grunch would say, they just “ain’t dere no more.”
1. First Saint Charles Hotel
The first Saint Charles Hotel was built in 1835. A traveling Brit called it the “finest piece of architecture in the New World.” It met its fate in an 1851 fire that burned many other historic structures to the ground as well. This 1847 photo is one of the only known surviving photos of the structure.
As the United States entered the 20th century, increasing population and industrialization led to a nationwide meat shortage. Moving west to acquire more land for grazing or hunting became a limited option as the frontier closed and buffalos were hunted into near extinction. In southern Louisiana, newly invasive water hyacinths, similar to water lilies, transported to New Orleans by Japanese tourists during the 1884 World’s Fair were creating massive ecological dilemmas. In 1910, an audacious plan was put forth to address both concerns: import hippopotamuses from Africa to the bayous of Louisiana to consume the water hyacinths and provide a tasty source of meat for a hungry nation.
New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral faced a myriad of obstacles through its circa 300 years of existence. It was first built in 1718, the same year the city was founded under French explorer and colonizer Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. The Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 scorched the original structure, and a new structure was completed in 1794. Enlargement and reconstruction in 1850 eradicated much of the original edifice, giving the city its current building. In 1909, the Cathedral faced an uncharacteristic obstacle: nitroglycerin.
“A blow across the shins with a racket is permissible, and broken heads are not uncommon.”
The Choctaw Nation of the lower Mississippi River Valley was one of the most influential yet lesser-known groups of 18th century New Orleans. Since French involvement in the region, interactions between the groups were frequent. Native-American and African-American relations were also common considering French and subsequent Spanish law was more lenient than English law.
On December 11, 1941, days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Adolf Hitler addressed the Reichstag to declare war on the United States. Although American efforts to assist Great Britain were well underway, Hitler’s declaration officially brought the country into the European theatre. The United States was at war on both fronts.
By early 1942, the United States had drastically increased their naval presence in the Atlantic and presented a distinctive challenge to German U-boats who previously had patrolled with little resistance. This newfound challenge coerced U-boats to find less militarized areas to patrol and harass. The Nazis turned their attention the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy traffic from New Orleans and the consistent flow of oil from the region made the waters a prime target. The Gulf Coast was unprepared to defend against Nazi submarine attacks. The Nazis felt they could significantly undermine the American war effort if they could successfully disrupt the free flow of oil.
Despite common belief, the American Revolution was more than 13 colonies fighting an oppressive European force; it was a transatlantic conflict involving multiple countries and their colonies. Louisiana, then under the Spanish flag, waged impressive campaigns to attack British territories and undermine the British war effort.
Spain decided to assist the rebels because of their humiliating loss to Great Britain during the French and Indian War, which was the North American theater of the Seven Years War. In 1762, Spain offered to help France in exchange for all of the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. However, Spain surrendered East and West Florida to Great Britain.