The Greater New Orleans Bridge and the Delord-Sarpy House

The Delord-Sarpy House was considered to be the oldest remaining structure above Canal Street when it was demolished for an exit ramp for the new Greater New Orleans Bridge.

When the first span of the Greater New Orleans Bridge opened to traffic in April 1958, it was celebrated as a sign of modernization and a feat of engineering.¹ The longest cantilevered structure in the United States at the time, the bridge was considered to be a key piece of the regional transportation network that would ultimately spur development in the growing West Bank suburbs.²

One casualty of this progress, however, was the Delord-Sarpy House. Situated on Howard Avenue between Camp and Magazine streets, it sat within the path of a planned exit ramp for the new bridge.³ The house was built between 1814 and 1818, less than a decade after planner Barthelemy Lafon laid out the streets of the former Faubourg Duplantier, and in the 1950s it was a rare remaining example of an early French Creole plantation-style residence. Built of brick with a traditional hip roof and dormer windows, there were two primary chambers and two smaller cabinets on each level, a small rear gallery, and a full-width front gallery oriented towards the river. By the mid-1950s the building was hemmed in by adjacent construction, with only its side view remaining visible from Howard Street.

When plans for the bridge were made public, the Louisiana Landmarks Society fought to preserve the building by raising awareness of its architectural and historical significance, investigating options for a possible relocation, and even developing an alternate plan for the ramp that would have spared the house. The Times-Picayune also weighed in, publishing editorials advocating for the building’s preservation. 

Despite these efforts, the Mississippi River Bridge Authority acquired the Delord-Sarpy property through expropriation, and in 1957 the house was demolished. According to architect Samuel Wilson Jr., that loss changed the Louisiana Landmarks Society’s approach to preservation: “We didn’t want to offend anyone when we started out so we used the gentle approach, talking with people quietly and privately behind the scenes and avoiding confrontations and arguments…but it didn’t work very well when trying to actually save buildings from destruction. We found that out with the Delord-Sarpy House when, after talking with the Bridge people, they just ignored us and went ahead and destroyed the place. After this we changed our tactics and became a little bolder in our efforts.”

The ramp that doomed the historic structure was later reconfigured during the construction of the National World War II Museum campus, which now occupies the former Delord-Sarpy site.

 

1. “Greater New Orleans Bridge Opens 12:01 A.M. April 15,” The Times-Picayune, April 14, 1958; Walter Goodstein, “Mississippi River Bridge Dedicated in New Orleans,” The Times-Picayune, October 19, 1958.

2. Walter Goodstein, “Traffic Network to Speed Progress of Area,” The Times-Picayune, January 25, 1959.

3. “Historic House in Bridge Path,” The Times-Picayune, May 24, 1955.

4. Samuel Wilson Jr., “Early History of the Lower Garden District,” in New Orleans Architecture, Volume I: The Lower Garden District, edited by Mary Louise Christovich, Betsy Swanson, and Roulhac Toledano (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1971), 13-14.

5. Ibid.

6. “Could Delord Sarpy Home Be Moved?” The Times-Picayune, December 29, 1955; “Historic Home's Doom Deplored,” The Times-Picayune, February 17, 1956.

7. “Toll of the Bridge,” The Times-Picayune, May 25, 1955; and “Faubourg and Bridge,” The Times-Picayune, October 23, 1955.

8. William R. Cullison III, The Louisiana Landmarks Society: The First Thirty Years (New Orleans: Louisiana Landmarks Society, 1980), 15-16.

9. John Pope, “National World War II Museum Expansion Enters Delord Sarpy House Turf,” The Times-Picayune, February 3, 2012.

 

Suggestions for Additional Reading and Research

Price, Virginia B., and Richard Koch. DeLord Sarpy House, 534 Howard Avenue, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, LA. Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, c. 1936–41.

Campanella, Richard, and Marina Campanella. New Orleans Then and Now. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1999.  

Back to top