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Holy Cross Neighborhood Snapshot

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

Holy Cross is one of two distinct neighborhoods in the Lower Ninth Ward. The other is called the Lower Ninth Ward. Holy Cross is a predominately African American neighborhood composed of mainly middle to low income families over generations. The majority of households are renters (58%), leaving still a significant and increasing number of homeowners in the area (Census 2000).

Although challenged with the problems of most inner city communities, there are a number of organizations, churches and individuals in the area who are addressing these problems and holding on to the family-oriented atmosphere characteristic of this neighborhood.

The Beginning

© GNO Community Data Center

  Holy Cross School, the namesake of this neighborhood.

The Holy Cross neighborhood is a portion of the Lower Ninth Ward, wedged between the levees of the Industrial Canal and the Mississippi River and stretching as far as the St. Bernard Parish line and as wide as St. Claude Avenue. Early 19th century maps show that there were several plantations in the area. Sugar was the dominant crop. Truck gardening and other farming activities were common, supported by easy access to and transportation of crops to the river. Restaurants and open markets in New Orleans, including the French Market, obtained fresh produce from the small truck farms in the area.

The farms were major sources of employment for those who lived in the Lower Ninth Ward. However, little statistical information is available as to the status of the African American population. Therefore, it is unknown how many may have been working the land as enslaved Africans, owned land or employed as free people of color.

In the late 1800s, poor African Americans and immigrant laborers from Ireland, Germany and Italy desperate for homes but unable to afford housing in other areas of the city risked flooding and disease to move in Holy Cross. In the 1870s, several African American benevolent associations and mutual-aid societies organized to assist scores of struggling freedmen into the area.

How Holy Cross Got its Name

In 1859, the Brothers of the Holy Cross purchased the Reynes plantation and established educational programs for boys, including orphans. After changes in focus and names, Holy Cross High School has been a stable force in the community.

It is the only private high school in the area and from which the neighborhood has taken its name. [More on the history of Holy Cross High School.]

A Historic Neighborhood

The Holy Cross population grew substantially following the early 1800s. The Catholic population alone had risen from 200-300 in 1840 to 1500-1800 in 1852. As a result, the Catholic Church began construction of St. Maurice Church in 1857. The original structure still stands on the corner of St. Maurice and Chartres Streets. A larger, more modern church was built next door.

As the population increased, neighborhood commercial entities, such as corner stores, sprang up as well. With the exception of the truck farms, which later became more modern ranch homes and apartment houses, most residential development in Holy Cross was complete by the late 1800s.

Building stock inventories performed in the early 1980s indicate that all early plantation structures had been destroyed, but the neighborhood's historical fabric was sufficiently intact to warrant listing the Holy Cross neighborhood on the National Register in 1986. In 1990 it was given a Local Historic District designation.

© GNO Community Data Center

  Doullut Steamboat Houses.

The predominant architectural style found in the neighborhood is the shotgun, but Creole cottages, side halls, bungalows, and occasional brick Italianate structures can also be found. The two Doullut Steamboat Houses were built in the early 1900's and were designated historic landmarks in 1977.

Jackson Barracks

In 1834-35, the U.S. government constructed the Jackson Barracks, which today is on the National Register of Historic Places. Some say that Andrew Jackson, who did not trust New Orleans Creoles, planned the army barracks as a defense against attack from inside as well as outside the city. The barracks now serves as headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard and houses the Jackson Barracks Military Museum. The Museum is in the Lower Ninth neighborhood.

Read more about Jackson Barracks

The "Official" Jackson Barracks Military Museum site

More information from Frommer's travel site.

A neighborhood Along the River

© GNO Community Data Center

  Scenic view of the levee.

In 1912, the levee along the Mississippi River was constructed to prevent problems due to land erosion. Another significant physical change in the district was the construction of the Industrial Canal by the Port of New Orleans in 1923 to provide navigation between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain.

The levee provides a broad expanse of green space and an informal recreation area to residents, while the Canal creates a physical barrier that isolates the district from the rest of the city.

Hurricane Betsy

Residents recall that Holy Cross was a vibrant neighborhood of predominately homeowners before Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans in 1965 and flooded the Lower Ninth Ward. Although the damage in Holy Cross was not as great as the rest of the area due to higher elevation, many residents believe it was the beginning of the decline of the neighborhood. Some say that residents did not receive sufficient financial assistance in the form of loans and other support to revitalize the area and longtime residents began moving out of the Lower Ninth Ward.

Industrial Canal

The Industrial Canal Lock Replacement Project, a U.S. Corps of Engineers project to expand the canal and replace the locks with larger facilities represents the continuation of a controversy issue between the area's residents and the Corps since shortly after the passage of The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1956, which authorized the project.


Holy Cross Neighborhood Association

Holy Cross has a strong neighborhood association.

Residents and business owners in the neighborhood founded the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in 1981 to make the neighborhood a safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable place to live and rear a family.

Successful projects have included Christmas in October, a community garden, and the establishment of the Delery Street Playground. The Association convinced NORD of the need for a playground for neighborhood children. NORD supplied the lumber and the residents designed and built the playground in 1996. Residents enjoy a myriad of activities, including sports, as a result.


The recent battle involved motions filed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (A.C.O.R.N.), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and All Congregations Together (A.C.T.) to delay or halt the project. All motions were denied. The Corps established the Community-Based Mitigation Committee (CBMC), a committee to advise the Corps on mitigation plans.

Read more about the Industrial Canal controversy

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers page

Gulf Restoration Network (GRN)'s report entitled, A Lock without Logic: The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock (requires Acrobat Reader)

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Overview of the Makeup of & Membership Guidelines for the Community-Based Mitigation Committee (CBMC) (requires Acrobat Reader)

Looking Up...

After many years of constant decline in the Holy Cross neighborhood, local residents, neighborhood organizations and churches have begun to reverse the downward trend.

Home renovation projects have been underway. The Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, St. David's Church, a member of All Congregations Together, the Holy Cross Community Development Corporation, and the Ninth Ward Housing Development Corporation combined have been working to decrease the number of blighted houses in the area and increase homeownership.

Over the years, various churches have introduced programs to improve the lives of those in their congregation and in the neighborhood. A sampling of these are food programs, where low-income people can obtain free food on a monthly basis, and an emergency assistance program that helps individuals in need to pay utilities and rent. There are after-school tutorial and summer programs for the young people. St. Paul Church of God in Christ operates Adam House, a Christian residential facility for drug addicts and alcoholics. Opened in 1993, more than 300 men and women have participated in the drug rehab program.

For more information...

1999 Land Use Plan New Orleans City Planning Commission

Relocate New Orleans - Holy Cross

Neighborhood Profiles Project Document prepared by the City of New Orleans Office of Policy Planning and the City Planning Commission. Published December 1980. Study available at the Williams Research Center (non-circulating collection).

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: October 10, 2002