City Park History
A Look Back At Key Moments in City Park's History
Over 150 years old, one mile wide and three miles long comprising a total of 1,300 acres, New Orleans City Park is one of the ten largest urban parks in the country. It is located in the heart of the city and is the largest recreation area for the entire metropolitan area.
Once the site of Allard Plantation facing Bayou St. John, City Park’s 1,300 acres offer visitors a sample of the city’s riches both in fine art and natural splendor. City Park is home of the New Orleans Museum of Art and the largest collection of mature live oaks in the world. Trees in the oldest grove are over 800 years old.
Today’s City Park is distinguished by its large menu of recreational activities as well as by its natural beauty. City Park has a special place in the hearts of generations of New Orleanians and is a must for visitors to the city. A popular place to picnic, play a favorite sport, wander through its gardens or take a boat ride, the park hosts 11 million visitors each year (pre-Katrina).
The Peristyle at New Orleans City Park, a concrete dancing pavilion of classical design, opened to the public in 1907. The unique structure features a raised platform framed by an Ionic colonnade with an apse at each end, guarded by the stoic lions of sculptor Pietro Ghiloni. With spaced columns that create an open-air effect, the Peristyle provides a framed view of the placid waters of Bayou Metairie and 800-year old live oaks draped in Spanish moss. In the early twentieth century, the Peristyle was home to a six-month concert and dance season for the well-heeled of New Orleans. Since then the Peristyle has served as a location for countless activities, including weddings, parties, meetings, photo shoots, or just climbing on the lions! New Orleanians of all backgrounds have fond memories of enjoyable hours spent at the Peristyle.
December 16, 1911
The Isaac Delgado Museum of Art is dedicated, renamed in 1971 “New Orleans Museum of Art”
Isaac Delgado Museum of Art is dedicated
The New Orleans Museum of Art is an exquisite pearl wrapped inside City Park’s gorgeous natural landscape. The city’s oldest fine arts institution contains a permanent collection with more than 40,000 objects and is noted for its extraordinary strengths in French and American art, as well as photography, glass, and Japanese works.
January 01, 1939
At the center of City Park’s 1,300 acres is Couturie Forest. The Forest was designated a community arboretum in 1939 with a bequest of $50,000 for 6,000 trees. Since then it has grown and it a major part of City Park.
(year is correct, day is approximate)
Dedication of Couturie Forest
At the center of City Park’s 1,300 acres is Couturie Forest. The Forest was designated a community arboretum in 1939 with a bequest of $50,000 for 6,000 trees. Since then, the Forest canopy matured and the infrastructure expanded to include trails, a rustic amphitheater, six education stations, and docks jutting into the surrounding lagoons. In 2005, destruction from Hurricane Katrina-spawned tornados and floodwaters killed 95% of the Forest’s trees, washed away the trail system, and disrupted the habitats of alligators, box turtles, and over 100 species of migratory and resident birds. City Park is revitalizing Couturie Forest by replacing trails, rebuilding docks, and recreating interpretive signage. The Forest has expanded from 30 acres to 62 acres of preserved land featuring ecosystems native to southeast Louisiana including: live oak and palmetto forest, upland hardwood forest, bottomland hardwood forest, coastal prairie, eastern pine savannah, and cypress swamp. There are now more than 2.5 miles of trails constructed entirely by volunteers using thousands of wheelbarrows filled with coarse mulch. City Park has completed extensive work and spent more than $80,000 removing invasive species, including Giant Ragweed and Chinese Tallow, and planted 2,000 new trees to reestablish the canopy.
The Beatles play Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park
June 16, 1994
On this date, the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in the Botanical Garden was dedicated.
Dedication of the Pavilion of the Two Sisters
Modeled after a classic European orangerie, the Pavilion of the Two Sisters offers one of the most picturesque backdrops for special events in City Park. Floor-to-ceiling, arched doors embedded with windows encapsulate two sides of the Pavilion and provide stunning views of the Botanical Garden’s colorful, landscaped grounds. Additional highlights include two outdoor terraces overlooking the garden and flagstone tile floors ideal for dancing the night away! (Don’t take our word for it: Gambit readers voted the Pavilion of the Two Sisters ‘Best Of’ for a wedding reception in New Orleans.) The Pavilion of the Two Sisters is also ideal for luncheons, dinners, meetings, seminars and corporate events.
Conservatory of the Two Sisters dedicated.
The Conservatory of the Two Sisters is located in the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Visit to see orchids, living fossils, a small tropical rain forest and more.
November 23, 2003
Located to the left of NOMA, the five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden holds more than 60 sculptures collectively valued at $25 million. These incredible works of art are nestled along meandering footpaths, reflecting lagoons, and 200-year-old live oaks inside the garden.
Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden opens
August 29, 2005
Hurricane Katrina hits. Katrina’s wind and surge coupled with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faulty levee design, devastate the park and cause $43 million in damages.
Hurricane Katrina Strikes New Orleans
90 percent of the park was under anywhere from one to ten feet of water.
The water that entered the park was salt water from the Gulf of Mexico. It killed nearly all the grass including that on three golf courses and most of the tender vegetation (The Botanical Garden) with which it came in contact.
The Park’s Administration Building was under four feet of water: archives lost, computers ruined and records soaked.
The Park had 14,000 trees. Over 2,000 trees were toppled or extensively damaged.
Sections of the Maintenance Building collapsed and virtually every vehicle and piece of equipment the Park owned were destroyed including tractors, bucket trucks, end-loaders, bush hogs, golf carts, everything.
The Three Little Pigs debut in Storyland
Morning Call opens in City Park
Whether you need an early morning coffee fix, an afternoon snack, or you have a late-night craving for a New Orleans tradition, Morning Call has you covered.
In 2012, this then 142-year-old coffee and beignet stand opened its newest outpost in City Park. Located in the Casino Building on Dreyfous Avenue, this New Orleans favorite serves classic café au lait and beignets 24 hours a day. The menu also offers heartier fare like jambalaya and gumbo, plus ice cream and other treats. But don’t forget your foldin’ money: Morning Call is cash only.
5,000th tree was planted since Hurricane Katrina
The Park lost over 2000 trees in Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. Since then the Park has made a point to plant more trees to ensure the future of City Park. The 5,000th tree since Katrina was planted in New Orleans City Park on December 5th, 2012.
Bienville uses Indian trail to reach site of future city of New Orleans.
City of New Orleans founded. Francois Hery receives property in land grant from France.
Santiago Loreins leaves property to his daughter and son-in-law, Jean Louis Allard.
John McDonogh purchases Allard plantation property at sheriff's auction.
McDonogh dies and leaves estate to cities of New Orleans and Baltimore, Maryland.
4th District Court pronounces the property a public park (approximately 100 acres).
Dueling in the Park outlawed.
City Park Improvement Association is founded. Property officially established as "City Park"
July 15, the first "Fete Champetre" is held to raise funds.
Mule-driven carousel is first operated.
First operation of miniature train.
Original golf course is constructed.
City Park racetrack opens February 11 (closed 1908)
Murphy builds new mechanical carousel. Pony rides begin.
Peristyle completed for outdoor dances.
International Aviators use Racetrack for airfield.
Moisant crashes and is killed.
December 16, the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art is dedicated, renamed in 1971 "New Orleans Museum of Art"
July 11, Casino building is opened offering refreshments. The name means a small 'casa' used for enjoyable activities, later becomes commonly used to refer to gambling establishments.
May 26, G.T. Beauregard Statue is erected.
Popp Bandstand is constructed and dedicated on July 4.
McFadden purchases property and builds mansion (from 1949 to the present it is used as a boys' school)
Irby swimming pool is built.
900-acre extension of the park.
First tennis courts were built. John Phillip Sousa performs at bandstand.
April 29, President Roosevelt visits park to dedicate Roosevelt Mall and other WPA projects including City Park Stadium (renamed Tad Gormley in 1965)
First New Orleans Open, the city's PGA event, is held (last played in City Park in 1962)
Dorothy Lamour sells war bonds in stadium.
Bob Hope performs in stadium.
First City Park Big Bass Fishing Rodeo.
Roy Rogers and Trigger appear in stadium.
September 16, the Beatles perform in stadium.
Pan American Stadium built and dedicated.
Friends of City Park established.
Enclosure and restoration of Rose Garden by Friends of City Park.
First "A Tribute to the Christmas Tree" event held (later renamed Celebration In The Oaks)
Restoration of Storyland by Friends of City Park.
Restoration of Carousel by Friends of City Park.
Carousel placed on National Register of Historic Places.
Restoration of the Peristyle by Friends of City Park.
100th Anniversary of City Park Improvement Association.
Tad Gormley Stadium remodeled to host U S Olympic Track & Field Trials.
June 16, dedication of Pavilion of the Two Sisters in the garden.
Popp Fountain restored.
Casino Building renovated.
Couturie Forest Nature Trail and Arboretum project completed.
Natural turf system installed in Tad Gormley.
November 22, Conservatory of the Two Sisters dedicated.
November 23, Besthoff Sculpture Garden opens.
Celebration in the Oaks adds James Rice's 'A Cajun Night Before Christmas' computer animated light display.
March, City Park 2018 Master Plan is approved by the Park's board.
August 29, Hurricane Katrina and failure of the Federal Levee System leads to flooding up to eight feet in sections of the park. Water sits as long as three weeks. Park incurs $43 million in damages. Operations cease. Staff count drops to 23.
September, A donation from the Azby Fund allows rehiring some staff, replacement of electrical systems, and clearing, & replanting of the Botanical Garden allowing a special post-Katrina Celebration in the Oaks (December).
Some Tennis courts are reopened.
March, The Botanical Garden, Driving Range, and Storyland reopen following Hurricane Katrina; repairs begin on the Carousel Gardens Amusement area.
The Carousel Gardens Amusement Park is reopened for Celebration in the Oaks.
Carousel Gardens Amusement park resumes seasonal operations.
The North Golf Course, Pan American Stadium and Tad Gormley Stadium all reopen after millions of repairs and upgrades.
Hurricane Gustav caused approximately $500,000 in damages in the park.
Big Lake dedicated.
Goldring / Woldenberg Great Lawn dedicated. NOLA City Park Dog Park opens. 2,050 trees planted in Couturie Forest.
New City Park / Pepsi Tennis Center is dedicated. Staff moved into a brand new Administration Building. The Arbor Room at Popp Fountain opens.
Matt Savoie Soccer Complex dedicated. 50-acre Festival Grounds dedicated
Slow-moving Category 1 Hurricane Isaac pummeled the park for more than 60 hours. Lost revenue and damages exceeded $750,000.