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.

Brief History

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).

Peristyle opens

January 01, 1907

The Peristyle is an icon part of New Orleans City Park

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Peristyle opens

Peristyle opens

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.

Isaac Delgado Museum of Art is dedicated

December 16, 1911

The Isaac Delgado Museum of Art is dedicated, renamed in 1971 “New Orleans Museum of Art”

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Isaac Delgado Museum of Art is dedicated

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.

Dedication of Couturie Forest

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)

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Dedication of Couturie Forest

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

September 16, 1964

The Beatles play Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park. A tickets cost $5.00.

The Beatles play Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park

Dedication of the Pavilion of the Two Sisters

June 16, 1994

On this date, the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in the Botanical Garden was dedicated.

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Dedication of the Pavilion of the Two Sisters

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.

November 22, 2002

On this day, the Conservatory of the Two Sisters was dedicated.

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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.

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden opens

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

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden opens

Hurricane Katrina Strikes New Orleans

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.

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Hurricane Katrina Strikes New Orleans

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

February 26, 2008

The Three Little Pigs debut in Storyland

The Three Little Pigs debut in Storyland

Morning Call opens in City Park

November 20, 2012

In 2012, the coffee and beignet stand opened in City Park.

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Morning Call opens in City Park

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

December 05, 2012

The Park lost over 2000 trees in Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath.

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5,000th tree was planted since Hurricane Katrina

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.

Timeline

1699

Bienville uses Indian trail to reach site of future city of New Orleans.

1718

City of New Orleans founded. Francois Hery receives property in land grant from France.

1770

Santiago Loreins leaves property to his daughter and son-in-law, Jean Louis Allard.

1845

John McDonogh purchases Allard plantation property at sheriff's auction.

1850

McDonogh dies and leaves estate to cities of New Orleans and Baltimore, Maryland.

1854

4th District Court pronounces the property a public park (approximately 100 acres).

1890

Dueling in the Park outlawed.

1891

City Park Improvement Association is founded. Property officially established as "City Park"

1892

July 15, the first "Fete Champetre" is held to raise funds.

1897

Mule-driven carousel is first operated.

1898

First operation of miniature train.

1902

Original golf course is constructed.

1905

City Park racetrack opens February 11 (closed 1908)

1906

Murphy builds new mechanical carousel. Pony rides begin.

1907

Peristyle completed for outdoor dances.

1910

International Aviators use Racetrack for airfield.
Moisant crashes and is killed.

1911

December 16, the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art is dedicated, renamed in 1971 "New Orleans Museum of Art"

1913

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.

1915

May 26, G.T. Beauregard Statue is erected.

1917

Popp Bandstand is constructed and dedicated on July 4.

1919

McFadden purchases property and builds mansion (from 1949 to the present it is used as a boys' school)

1924

Irby swimming pool is built.

1927

900-acre extension of the park.

1928

First tennis courts were built. John Phillip Sousa performs at bandstand.

1937

April 29, President Roosevelt visits park to dedicate Roosevelt Mall and other WPA projects including City Park Stadium (renamed Tad Gormley in 1965)

1938

First New Orleans Open, the city's PGA event, is held (last played in City Park in 1962)

1942

Dorothy Lamour sells war bonds in stadium.

1944

Bob Hope performs in stadium.

1946

First City Park Big Bass Fishing Rodeo.

1956

Storyland opens. 

1959

Roy Rogers and Trigger appear in stadium.

1964

September 16, the Beatles perform in stadium.

1973

Pan American Stadium built and dedicated.

1978

Friends of City Park established.

1982

Enclosure and restoration of Rose Garden by Friends of City Park.

1984

First "A Tribute to the Christmas Tree" event held (later renamed Celebration In The Oaks)

1986

Restoration of Storyland by Friends of City Park.

1988

Restoration of Carousel by Friends of City Park.

1989

Carousel placed on National Register of Historic Places.

Restoration of the Peristyle by Friends of City Park.

1991

100th Anniversary of City Park Improvement Association.

1992

Tad Gormley Stadium remodeled to host U S Olympic Track & Field Trials.

1994

June 16, dedication of Pavilion of the Two Sisters in the garden.

1999

Popp Fountain restored.

Casino Building renovated.

2000

Couturie Forest Nature Trail and Arboretum project completed.

Natural turf system installed in Tad Gormley.

2002

November 22, Conservatory of the Two Sisters dedicated.

2003

November 23, Besthoff Sculpture Garden opens.

2004

Celebration in the Oaks adds James Rice's 'A Cajun Night Before Christmas' computer animated light display.

2005

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.

2006

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.

2007

Carousel Gardens Amusement park resumes seasonal operations. 
 

2008

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.

2009

Big Lake dedicated.

2010

Goldring / Woldenberg Great Lawn dedicated.  NOLA City Park Dog Park opens.  2,050 trees planted in Couturie Forest.

2011

New City Park / Pepsi Tennis Center is dedicated.  Staff moved into a brand new Administration Building.  The Arbor Room at Popp Fountain opens.

2012

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.