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This information is pre-Katrina.
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McDonogh Neighborhood Snapshot

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

McDonogh's Early Years

Irish, Italian and German immigrants were the first New Orleanians to populate McDonogh in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city's robust economic growth from trade increased population and immigrants fled to the West bank to relieve the increasingly crowded East bank.

Excellent ferry service to the East bank's Faubourg St. Mary (now the CBD), Vieux Carre, and Marigny neighborhoods facilitated the growth of this neighborhood during this period.

Image courtesy New Orleans Public Library ( Permission for reuse required.
  "This 1860 catalog for the sale of the McDonogh lands shows the extent of his holdings." [Algiers exhibit]

John McDonogh

The neighborhood of McDonogh is named after the 19th century wealthy eccentric John McDonogh, who died a generous philanthropist. He had moved from Baltimore to New Orleans in 1800, and acquired wealth through his own business interests. In 1818, he lost the election for a seat in the U.S. Congress and left New Orleans proper to settle in McDonoghville, which is in present-day Algiers.

Holder of Enslaved Africans

John McDonogh was a holder of enslaved Africans and had educated a handful of his "slaves", granted them manumission, and helped them establish a model community at McDonoghville. His intent was to prepare them for a new life in Liberia, West Africa. In 1842, eighty of his former enslaved Africans left New Orleans for Liberia. The ship was provided by the American Colonization Society

Read more about the American Colonization Society at the Library of Congress: African-American Mosaic

Image courtesy New Orleans Public Library ( Permission for reuse required.

  "McDonogh No. 5 School, designed by William Freret [McDonogh School Plans]

A Boost to Education for the Poor

John McDonogh gave the New Orleans public school system a major financial boost. Upon his death in 1850, McDonogh left half his estate to New Orleans and half to Baltimore for the education of poor children, no matter their ethnicity. New Orleans established the McDonogh Fund with its settlement of $704,440, using disbursements from the fund to build thirty-five public schools, called McDonogh Schools. One such school was McDonogh No. 5, located on the spot where the Behrman School gymnasium sits today. No. 5, a "cottage school" style architectural building, opened in 1875 as a grammar and primary school for African American students. However, in 1909, the school was turned over to white students.

Antebellum Louisiana:Politics, Education, and Entertainment

McDonogh Biography at Encyclopedia Louisiana

McDonogh Day

For many years, in May of each year, students from the public school system would gather in Lafayette Park across from what is today Gallier Hall to pay homage to John McDonogh. The event was called McDonogh Day. In these segregated ceremonies, white students would be the first to lay their flowers at the McDonogh statue, the first to sing songs and the first to receive the keys of the city from the mayor. In contrast, black students often waited in the hot sun while white students performed their ceremony and could only begin after white students had finished.

In 1954, Arthur Chapital, then director of the local branch of the NAACP and a postal employee, called for a boycott of McDonogh Day after protests from the black teachers' associations. The boycott, which lasted for two years, was successful. In May 1954, only 34 of the city's 32,000 African American students showed up and one African American principal who "never regained a leadership role in the African American community." The ceremony eventually died out completely under pressure from African American students who were unhappy about honoring an owner of enslaved Africans.

Times Picayune article about McDonogh Day

A House Divided: A Teaching Guide on the History of Civil Rights in Louisiana

© GNO Community Data Center
  St. Bartholemew Cemetery

A unique neighborhood

Like many New Orleans neighborhoods, McDonogh has its share of corner stores and its playground, named McDonogh, in this residential area. There are two small cemeteries, the St. Bartholemew, founded in 1848, and St. Mary, founded in 1866, both maintained by the Church of the Holy Name of Mary. The Church's parish was founded in 1848 and the church built in 1929.

One thing that makes this neighborhood unique is the levee that overlooks the Mississippi River.

One of the largest commercial establishments that sits near the levee is Mardi Gras World. Started in 1947, this family business designs and builds carnival floats for Mardi Gras and massive fiberglass sculptures for businesses.

© GNO Community Data Center.

Mardi Gras World.  

For more information:

Personalities of Louisiana: An adventure in history and economic development.
Prosperity through cultural literacy

Tom Chalkley. Charmed Life/Iron Age. Baltimore CityPaper Online, February 7 - 13, 2001

Lobman, Carnahan, Batt, Angelle, & Nader: Current Issues

1999 Land Use Plan New Orleans City Planning Commission

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

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Last modified: December 8, 2006