The Holy Cross Neighborhood Association was incorporated September 28, 1981 with Raymond Tell, Eugene Gerdes III, Mary Geneva Morris and Mary Clare Hogan as its founding members. Since then, Holy Cross has persevered through hurricanes, storms, floods, and loss of meeting places. Residents are invited to attend our monthly meetings and help steer us to the future of the neighborhood. We need your involvement to help this community have a strong voice. Some of the major issues HCNA is fighting and working towards presently include:
- Opposing the expansion of the Industrial Canal, which would be a detriment to all communities surrounding it
- Advocating for family and community oriented businesses on the St. Claude corridor and against more convenience stores
- Supporting more affordable housing and ownership in the area
- Coordinating directly with the NOPD 5th District on neighborhood safety issues
- Hosting candidate forums for city and state wide elections
HCNA also holds annual Fourth of July potlucks and winter holiday gatherings.
Email us at email@example.com for more information about our membership and activities.
President: Calvin Alexander, Jr.
Vice-President: Bette Perez
Chairperson: Adero Lewis
Recording Secretary: Doreen Piano
Correspondence/Social Media Secretary: Elizabeth Elmwood
Mary Patsy Story
Membership Committee: Chair, Bette Perez
Finance Committee: Chair, Vacant
Economic Development Committee: Chair, Vacant
Land Use Committee: Vacant
Bylaw Revision Committee: Vacant
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE AREA
What is now the Historic Holy Cross Neighborhood, originated as plantations in the early 1800s, with sugar as the main crop. The Holy Cross area, part of the Lower Ninth Ward, represents the furthermost eastward expansion of the City of New Orleans, along the Mississippi River. In 1849 the Brothers, Priests and Sisters of Holy Cross established an orphanage on land that was the Reynes Plantation. In 1879 they established a school to serve the growing diverse population. This population consisted of a mix of immigrant groups, native-born Americans, and included free people of color. This wide group of Germans, Italians, Irish and African-Americans established benevolent associations and mutual-aid societies to assist the many families who were struggling.
This wide diversity contributed to the different styles of architecture of the homes built along the river. Along with the traditional shotgun houses found here, there are beautiful Creole Cottages, bungalows and the two-story Victorian and Queen Anne houses as are two iconic Steamboat Houses. The Doullut houses, as they are also called, were built to resemble high style steamboats and were among the first Landmarks designated by the Historic District Landmarks Commission and placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. These ornate Victorian Wooden Houses at the levee were designed by Paul Doullut to remind him of the ships that he and his wife captained. He built the one by the levee in 1905 and the one across the street in 1913 for his son. These traditional style houses helped to create a “Porch” community, with neighbors knowing neighbors. Today, it is still a common occurrence to see neighbors enjoy a visit on the porch with each other. In 1834 the Jackson Barracks were built to provide headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard.
The parcels created in Holy Cross, were larger parcels than those found in the Marigny and Bywater. This resulted in many small farms in the area and these farms continued producing and selling their produce through the 1940’s. This Truck gardening was a source of employment for many in the area, and products were sold to the restaurants in the French Quarter and at the French Market. From the late part of the 19th Century through the early part of the 20th century, the population grew quickly. The residents opened shops, churches and small businesses throughout the area.
Along with Holy Cross School, the original Ursuline School, the oldest Catholic School in the nation, was established here in Holy Cross. In 1895 the Holy Cross school that you see now in the photo was built at its present day location by James Gallier, Sr. and the wings added by his son. In 1912 the levee along the river was built in its present form, and in 1923, the Industrial Canal was finished to provide passage from the Mississippi to Lake Pontchartrain. To build the Industrial Canal, Ursuline School along with many residential homes were destroyed. This separated the Lower Ninth Ward along with St. Bernard from easy access back and forth to the rest of the city.
African-American working class homeowners pre-dominated prior to Hurricane Katrina, which led to a mixed income and more racially diverse area that included many artists and musicians. To this day the music and traditions of New Orleans are passed down in this neighborhood. Fats Domino, one of the most famous musicians from this area, remained here all his life until he was forced to move after Katrina. His Second Line parade, done in honor of his death, proceeded down St. Claude Avenue to his home and was attended by thousands. In one of the pictures Professional trumpeter and U.S. Cultural Ambassador Shamarr Allen, who lives nearby in Musicians’ Village, returns to his childhood neighborhood every week to provide free music lessons to the kids. Mr. Allen is seen filming a video for one of his songs with Martin Luther King high school students.
The area continued to thrive with a large mixed community until Hurricane Betsy. The first levee failure of Hurricane Betsy in 1965 decimated the area. Holy Cross rebounded and continued to thrive and maintain the amazing cultural diversity it is known for. Proud of our New Orleans culture, Holy Cross has been home to artists, Mardi Gras Indians and well known musicians such as George “Kid Shiek” Colar of the Olympia Brass Band and Freddie Lonzo of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Deslondes. Holy Cross Area was listed on the National Register in 1986 and was named a local Historic District in 1990.
In 1996 after 18 months of planning the Delery Street Playground was built with 300 volunteers and the help of 10 Neighborhood Volunteer Captains. Many children enjoyed this large and beautiful playground as seen in the photo and it is still enjoyed today. The Delery Street playground soccer team existed with over 70 children participating in the program from the ages of 5 to 13 also before Katrina. This photo taken in 2002 shows one of the teams after a great season.
As most people are aware, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Lower Ninth Ward Area and while resilient is still struggling to recover. The loss of life which occurred was tragic for the area, as well as the multi-generational families who lived in the community. As you can see in the photos, unfortunately our namesake, Holy Cross, has not been rebuilt. Historical homes such as the one in the photo built around 1860 is close to being lost forever. Sadly we are under another threat of loss with the proposed widening of the Industrial Canal, which would remove our historic bridge and increase the danger of flooding to the entire city. The removal of the Historic St. Claude Bridge, one of the last remaining single Bascule Strauss Trunnion Bridges in the United States, would be a significant loss to the community.
Even with these losses and heartbreaks it is recovering. Families are returning and new residents are discovering Holy Cross as an affordable city neighborhood with a feel of a village community. While strolling along the levee with the stunning views of the city follow your eyes: from Holy Cross School to Crescent Park, past the spires of St. Louis Cathedral to the tall buildings of the CBD, see the Superdome in the background, and then over the Mississippi River Bridge to Algiers giving you the ability to see and feel the history of the city. With its spacious yards, historic character, cultural diversity and proximity to the city, Holy Cross is an amazing community on its march back to realizing its full potential again.