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This information is pre-Katrina.
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Bywater Neighborhood Snapshot

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

It is not clear how the name "Bywater" was derived. Some say it came from an old telephone exchange that once existed in the area. Others say the "lower ninth" ward association sponsored a contest for students in the area to suggest a name. The winning entry came from a Francis T. Nichols High School (now Frederick Douglas High School) student who selected "Bywater" because the neighborhood borders the Mississippi River and the Industrial Canal. A group of businessmen used the name "Bywater" in promoting the area in 1947. The name stuck.

Before it was called Bywater

In the early 1700s, the commons or unassigned land below Faubourg Marigny were plantations. The Company of the Indies gave these tracts of land as concessions, the first parcels of land given to private owners. Pierre Dreux owned the LaBrasserie plantation and opened a brewery there. After various owners the land was sold to Nicholas Daunois (or Daunoy), who called it the Daunois plantation.

© GNO Community Data Center

  Houses along Poland street

By the early 19th century, French Creoles had designed six faubourgs or suburbs in the area that together were called Faubourg Washington. The faubourgs were Daunois, Montegut, De Clouet, Montreuil, Cariby and deLesseps. Ownership changed often, but the plantations remained throughout the district. Urbanization of these plantations began in the early to mid-1800s.

In 1831, Daunois sold the lower fourth of his plantation to the Levee Steam Cotton Press Company, who operated, at one point, the largest cotton press in the world. It was a major source of employment for the neighborhood and of sales for local suppliers. Railroad tracks were laid to support the operation. This section of Bywater was called the Lower Cotton Press. The press is gone, but the railroad corridor along Press Street, what was once called Cotton Press Street, impacts the neighborhood significantly.

Boxing in the Bywater

For boxing fans of the 1800s, the Old Olympic Club at Montegut and Royal Streets, was the place to go. Called, "the cradle of American boxing," three world champion fights were held on successive nights at the club in September 1892. At the turn of the 19th century, it burned to the ground and was not rebuilt.

As a result of manumitted offspring of "slave" owners and immigrants from Haiti escaping its revolution, 20 percent of the city's total population by the late 1800s were free people of color. Many of them moved in the Bywater area. St. Vincent de Paul's Catholic Church was erected to serve the French speaking population, due to the large number of Creoles in the community. When the Irish populated the district in the 1830s and 1840s, St. Peter and Paul's Parish was established in 1848 to serve the needs of the Irish Catholics. The 1840s and 1850s saw a major influx of German immigrants who settled in Bywater. The Marigny-Bywater area was called "Little Saxony" and St. Paul's, a Lutheran church near Franklin Avenue, was founded to meet their needs. By the end of the 1800s, large numbers of Italians had settled in the area. Development expanded to St. Claude Avenue in Bywater into the early 20th century as immigrants from southern and eastern Europe continued to pour into the city.

Image courtesy New Orleans Public Library ( Permission for reuse required.
  "The Southern Railroad Bridge on Florida Ave. across the Industrial Canal before work began on the building of new concrete and steel approaches and converting the span into a vehicular crossing of the canal in the downtown section. 1937 " [WPA Photographs: Bridges]

The Board of Commissioners, Port of New Orleans built the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, completed in 1921. One of its casualties was the Ursulines Convent. The Ursuline nuns owned an eighty-acre parcel of land on which they built their convent in 1826. In 1912, it was demolished to construct the Navigation Canal. The canal's purpose was to connect the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain, a shorter distance than to the mouth of the river, and to stimulate industrial development along its banks.

Naval Support Activity New Orleans

The Naval Support Activity, one of the largest military installations in the New Orleans area, occupies space on both the East and West banks of the Mississippi River. The East bank complex, in Bywater, sits on 30 acres of land and has three of the installation's largest buildings. A major part of the tenant commands are housed here. The buildings were constructed in 1919 for use as a general depot during World War I. After the war, they were used by the Quartermaster Corps and leased to the Board of Commissioners, Port of New Orleans.

The East bank installation experienced a number of uses as the changing needs of the military dictated. With the advent of World War II, the facility was once again a total military complex. When the Quartermaster Corps released the buildings, the official title was the New Orleans Port of Embarkation. The New Orleans Army Terminal was the tract of land and in 1965, the name changed to the New Orleans Army Base.

Today, the Naval Support Activity New Orleans, both on the East bank in this neighborhood, and a larger site on the West bank in the U.S. Naval Support Area neighborhood, houses approximately 40 tenant commands with personnel from all branches of the military service. NSA New Orleans (to include both East and West Bank facilities) is the national headquarters for both the Navy Reserve Force (NAVRESFOR) and the Marine
Forces Reserve (MARFORRES).

Marine Forces Reserve

Naval Reserve Force

Naval Support Activity NOLA

Industrial Canal Lock Replacement Project

The Industrial Canal Lock Replacement Project is a U.S. Corps of Engineers project to expand the canal and replace the locks with larger facilities. The project will affect four neighborhoods, Bywater, St. Claude, Lower Nine and Holy Cross. Bywater, whose impact on its community is lesser than those separated from the city by the Industrial Canal, is one of many neighborhoods giving input to the mitigation plan for the neighborhoods. The Corps established The Community-Based Mitigation Committee (CBMC), a committee to advise the Corps on mitigation plans. Most of the committee members are residents or business members of the four neighborhoods surrounding the Industrial Canal.

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)

© Neil Alexander [email protected]

  View of NOCCA from the levee.


The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) provides intensive training in the arts to Louisiana's high school students. It was founded in 1973 by a diverse group of artists, educators, business leaders, and community activists who saw the need to develop the region's young talent.

Greats such as Wynton Marcelis, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, and Wendell Pierce have graduated from the institution.

Changing times

At one time in Bywater's history, there were five Catholic parishes: Annunciation, St. Cecilia, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Gerard, and St. Vincent de Paul. However, due to a smaller church population, the Archdiocese of New Orleans decided to consolidate the parishes into one and named it Blessed Francis Seelos, headquartered at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

© GNO Community Data Center

  Folk art outside of Dr. Bob's Studio.

The Bywater neighborhood has an interesting mix of residential, commercial and industrial activity, along the riverbank. The Pauline Street Wharf remains busy. Warehouses and industrial companies, such as the National Rice Mills warehouse, Kearney Company and Dreyfus Contractors and Marine Equipment use the river and canal for its businesses. And yet the neighborhood has become a residential hotspot for artists. As a result, many galleries can be found throughout the neighborhood, including Studio Inferno, a glass blowing studio and showcase, and Dr. Bob's Studio. The very active Bywater Neighborhood Association is dedicated to the improvement of Bywater.

Learn more about some of the galleries (

Learn more about the Bywater Neighborhood Association (

Bywater's rich history is still evident today. Creole cottages, Victorian doubles, and Greek Revival and Italianate townhouses flavor the neighborhood.


1999 Land Use Plan: New Orleans City Planning Commission

Bywater History

Industrial Canal Lock Replacement Project -- IHNC -- New Orleans District -- USACE

Five parishes to become Bl. Francis Seelos parish, New Orleans, March 15, 2001

New Bl. Seelos parish rises from closure of others New Orleans
July 5, 2001

Dawson, Farth. "Neighborhood Watching." New Orleans Magazine, January 1996, pp. 80-90.

Naval Support Activity New Orleans brochure.

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).

For more information:

Preservation Resource Center’s listing of target neighborhoods

The Faubourg Bywater link gives a brief description of the Bywater and contact information for the Faubourg Bywater Improvement Association.

New Orleans Center for Creative Arts official web site

Read about programs, faculty, and auditions as well as abut their galleries and current events open to the public., a travel website

Listing of music clubs in and around the Faubourg Bywater, a travel web site

Description of Faubourg Bywater

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