Tuesday, August 28, 2018

City Park

The Carousel at City Park 

          City Park is a 1,300 acre public park in New Orleans. The park has long been a staple of life in New Orleans and has a long and rich history. The park’s collection of live oak trees are one of its one most distinctive features. They are over six hundred years old and have a history dating back before the creation of the park. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, male residents of New Orleans would engage in duels in the area that later became the park. At the time, the oaks sat outside of the city’s population centers in the French Quarter and American Sector (the present day Central Business District). They provided a private location for the city’s gentlemen to settle affairs of honor. Over time, the area became known for the “Dueling Oaks” a pair of oak trees where men frequently met to duel. One of the oaks, however, fell over during a hurricane in 1949.

            In 1854, the 4thDistrict Court of the City of New Orleans declared a plot of land left to the city by a plantation owner named John McConogh to be a public park. The park remained largely undeveloped until the late 19thcentury. In 1891, the City Park Improvement Association was founded and officially gave the park its name. The Improvement Association was part of a broader reform movement in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies that sought to create and preserve open spaces within cities. Pollution from factories and other industries had made cities unpleasant places to live. Dirty air and dirty water sickened residents. Middle and upper-class reformers stressed the need for free, public, and open spaces for residents to enjoy the outdoors. Parks also served as gathering places for public concerts, rallies, and meetings. 

The Oak Trees 

            By the early 20thcentury, City Park had installed a carousel, miniature train, golf course, and a racetrack. The Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, later the New Orleans Museum of Art, opened in 1911. The Improvement Association continued to buy more land surrounding the park, expanding it to its current size. During the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration poured millions of dollars into upgrading the park. Artists built statues and murals to decorate the grounds. WPA workers built bridges, roads, and the electrical and plumbing infrastructure. Throughout the ensuing decades, the park added new golf courses, athletic fields, and a rose garden that would later become the city’s Botanical Garden. 

            Hurricane Katrina devastated City Park. The park lost over 1,000 trees and suffered $43 million in damage. About 95% of the park was under several feet of water for about a month. The buildings, rides, equipment, and electrical systems all suffered extensive damage. Years of recovery efforts have repaired and expanded the facilities at the park. The New Orleans Botanical Garden reopened after losing nearly all of its plants as a result of the storm. 

The Botanical Garden 

            Currently, the Botanical Garden is one of the key features of the park. It was created as part of the WPA. After World War 2, however, the Garden lost Federal funding and fell into an extended period of neglect. In the 1980s, the Friends of City Park, another improvement association, fenced in the park, removed the trash, restored the statues and revived the gardens. As the city worked to revive the park, the Botanical Gardens became a popular destination. 

Here are a few other features of the park. 

Tad Gormley Stadium: The stadium was built in 1937 by the WPA. It has hosted high school football games, track and field, and soccer. The New Orleans Pelicans baseball team played there from 1957-1958. In 1969, the New York Mets and Minnesota Twins played a doubleheader at Tad Gormley stadium. Over the years, the stadium has hosted concerts by The Beatles, Pearl Jam, and Journey. Currently the stadium houses the track teams for the University of New Orleans, Tulane, and Xavier. 

The miniature train 

Carousel Gardens Amusement Park: Carousel Gardens is a seasonal amusement park including a small rollercoaster, a Ferris wheel, a miniature train, and the Flying Horses carousel, one of the oldest in the United States. The park is open only on weekends. 

New Orleans Museum of Art: NOMA was created by sugar baron Isaac Delgado in 1911. Delgado felt that the city needed an art museum that rivaled those of other major cities. Currently the museum houses over 40,000 objects from the Renaissance to the present. Their collections are especially strong in the areas of 18thand 19thcentury American and French furniture. It also includes a wide range of European and American art with pieces by Degas, who lived in the city from 1871-1872, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Gaugin, Jackson Pollack, and Georgia O’Keeffe. 

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