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This information is pre-Katrina.
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St. Roch Neighborhood Snapshot

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

This area has a proud history as home to one of the country’s largest populations of free people of color before the civil war. Many jazz musicians lived in St. Roch including one of the early jazz greats, Jelly Roll Morton.

A little history

The neighborhood, originally called Faubourg Franklin, began to be developed when in 1830 the Pontchartrain Railroad connected the Faubourg Marigny with the settlement of Milneburg on the lake. At that time the large boulevard now called St. Claude Avenue was called “Good Children” and St. Roch Avenue was called “Washington Walk.”

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

  A mini-Mardi Gras parades that started in St. Roch Playground. February 11, 1956 [Ragas Collection]

By the beginning of the 20th century, the St. Roch neighborhood had grown considerably, especially since sewerage and water service had been extended into the entire area by 1900. By the late 1920s, the St. Roch neighborhood was mostly settled.

During this time, the St. Roch neighborhood was described as a “low-key,” serene, racially-mixed residential section of New Orleans. There was huge baseball field located between Galvez and Miro and Marigny and Mandeville and the area is remembered for its numerous baseball enthusiasts, such as Moses Phillip, George Davis, Black Diamond and Emile Anderson. Blacksmith shops, dairies and small farms once characterized the neighborhood. Many of the private schools founded for Black and Creole children were originally located in the St. Roch neighborhood. Many jazz musicians lived in this area, as well as Creole and German families.

© GNO Community Data Center.
I-10 near Florida Avenue  

I-10 is built

St. Roch has for decades been the site of major transportation arteries. Indeed a major railroad artery supported the initial development of the neighborhood. Another railroad artery runs through the neighborhood along Florida Ave.

In the late 1960s, the city built an interstate loop that cut through St. Roch. Interstates built in this era had a decidedly negative effect on most of the neighborhoods through which they ran. The effect of the I-10 interstate is quite visible in St. Roch as the neighborhood on one side of the highway became a significantly less desirable place to live. Tenants left and houses felt into disrepair.

Some sites in St. Roch

St. Roch is still a vibrant community of primarily African American residents. St. Roch has several green spaces including the McCue Playground, Independence Square and the St. Roch Playground, which has been the site of many community activities for decades. The NFL donated $35,000 for new playground equipment, park benches, landscaping and signage. In 2001 the playground was renamed Harold Sampson, Jr. St. Roch Playground in memory of the late coach for the New Orleans Recreation Department who served more than 30 years.

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

  Interior of St. Roch Market, 2381 St. Claude, before improvements made by the WPA in 1937.[WPA Photograph Collection]

The St. Roch Market has a long history. In 1935, it was a deteriorating public market when the neighborhood residents protested to the city to keep it open. With assistance from the WPA, the building was renovated. Refrigerator units, protective glass displays and new plumbing were installed. In 1945 it was leased to a private owner. It is now a fish market that serves some of the best gumbo and seafood po-boys in town.

St. Roch, the healer

The neighborhood got its current name in 1867 with the dedication of the St. Roch shrine and cemetery. St. Roch Chapel and Cemetery are a very important part of the history of the St. Roch neighborhood. At the height of the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, a German priest named Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis arrived in New Orleans. Faced with the severity of the yellow fever epidemic, he turned to God invoking the intercession of St. Roch, the patron of good health. He promised that if no one in his parish should die from the fever, he would erect a chapel in honor of the Saint. Amazingly, not one member of Holy Trinity died from yellow fever, either in the epidemic of 1867 or 1878.

Some more about the Chapel & Cemetery

John McCrady's painting St. Roch– Forgotten

St. Roch Cemetery

In thanks, Rev. Thevis’s conviction was to build not only a chapel as a shrine to St. Roch, but also a mortuary chapel in a last resting place for members of his flock. The cemetery was called the Campo Santo (resting place of the dead). Rev. Thevis traveled to Europe to study the architecture and construction of many beautiful shrines and chapels before building the chapel. The chapel, completed in 1876, was considered a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.

© GNO Community Data Center
St. Roch Chapel in St. Roch Cemetery  

People came to the shrine in large numbers to ask St. Roch for help in cases of affliction, disease and deformities. At one time, the celebration of All Saints Day attracted thousands of people to the Shrine seeking guidance and help for themselves and others in distress. A small room on the side of the chapel holds a number of offerings left by visitors to the chapel. The tradition was to leave accoutrements of the illness or disability (including, in the past, eyeballs, crutches, and false limbs!) in gratitude for recovery.

Another New Orleans tradition related to St Roch that took place for many years is that on Good Friday young girls made a pilgrimage to St. Roch’s chapel because of a local legend, which promised a husband before the year was out to the maiden who said a prayer and left a small sum at each of nine churches. It was considered doubly lucky if St. Roch’s chapel was the end of the pilgrimage.

For more information...

1999 Land Use Plan New Orleans City Planning Commission

Travelocity Tourist Guide about St. Roch,1840,TRAVELOCITY%7C4266%7C3%7C1%7C229193%7C

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).

Chase, John. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children. New Orleans: Robert L/ Crager & Co, 1949.

New Orleans City Guide: Federal Writers Project. Boston: Houghton/Mifflin 1938.


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 5, 2002