The two historic districts of Gretna and Algiers Point on the west bank of the Mississippi River embody the urban, industrial, and semi-rural development that took place on the outskirts of New Orleans in the nineteenth century. Algiers Point, named for its location in the bend of the river directly across from the Vieux Carré, began as a land grant to Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville in 1719 and served in its early days as a holding place for newly arrived slaves.¹ The community soon evolved to include a robust shipbuilding industry, saw mills and lumber yards, a slaughterhouse, citrus groves, and truck farms.² In 1870, Orleans Parish annexed Algiers, which for thirty years had operated as an independent municipality.³ Although several of its historic buildings were destroyed by fire in 1895, Algiers Point still boasts a number of notable examples of mid- and late-nineteenth-century residences.⁴ Now a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and became a locally regulated historic district in 1993.⁵
Gretna, the government seat of Jefferson Parish since 1884, comprises the three historic communities of McDonoghville, Mechanikham, and Gretna.⁶ In 1815, educational philanthropist John McDonogh founded McDonoghville as a residential farming community, which is still evidenced by the neighborhood's sizeable lots and limited commercial activity.⁷ Mechanikham, established upriver from McDonoghville in 1836, became home to several German families and was soon affiliated with its neighbor, Gretna, which the St. Mary's Market Steam Ferry Company founded in 1838.⁸ The three communities were incorporated as the City of Gretna in 1913, and in 1985 Gretna's historic core was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.⁹ Major individual landmarks on the National Register include the David Crockett Firehall (1859) and the Jefferson Parish Courthouse (1907), which now serves as Gretna City Hall.¹⁰ An appointed Historic District Advisory Committee oversees the local Gretna-Mechanikham and McDonoghville historic districts, which are characterized by their collections of modest shotguns and bungalows in a variety of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century architectural styles.¹¹
1. Algiers Historical Society, “The History of Algiers.”
3. Historic District Landmarks Commission, “Algiers Point.”
5. Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office, “Algiers Point Historic District”; and Historic District Landmarks Commission, “Algiers Point.”
6. Betsy Swanson, Historic Jefferson Parish: From Shore to Shore (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1975), 109-121.
7. Swanson, Historic Jefferson Parish, 109-10.
8. Mary Grace Curry, A Sesquicentennial Salute (New Orleans: Laborde Printing Company, 1986), 4.
9. Curry, A Sesquicentennial Salute, 18, 80.
10. Curry, 56-60.
11. City of Gretna, "Historic District Advisory Committee."