Gentilly, New Orleans East, and the Ninth Ward
Away from downtown, there is still rich history in culture in New Orleans – in fact, many argue this is where the culture comes from. Historic neighborhoods like Holy Cross and Gentilly Terrace sit on some of the highest ground in the city. These once rural areas live today as the starting ground for the neighborhoods that now surround them.
The Gentilly neighborhood is home to historic Dillard University and the largest collection of California Craftsman-style bungalows in Louisiana. There are also many English cottages and Spanish and Mediterranean Revival raised houses from the early 1900s. Part of this neighborhood became Gentilly Boulevard and later U.S. Highway 90 – part of the Old Spanish Trail – that connected St. Augustine, Florida to Los Angeles, California.
Originally this settlement founded on the long, narrow ridge, as most of the surrounding area, especially between the Pontchartrain and Gentilly Ridge, was very swampy. The Gentilly Terrace was actually man-made – built by piling up earth in the shallow sections of the swamp to create high land. The homes along Gentilly Terrace came up in the early 1900s and by the mid 1900s, with the development of drainage pumps the area became entirely populated and knows as Gentilly.
They City of New Orleans defines the Gentilly neighborhood beginning at the Lake on the north, Peoples Avenue to the east, the London Avenue Canal on the west and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad bounding the south. Although some maps and New Orleanians refer to Gentilly when speaking about the Upper Ninth Ward and the eastern side of the Industrial Canal, which is now known as New Orleans East.
The Ninth Ward/New Orleans East
New Orleans Ninth Ward is the largest of the city’s 17 wards and definitely the most infamous. Within the Ninth Ward there is the Upper Ninth – notable for the Habitat for Humanity Musician’s Village, started after Hurricane Katrina by Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr.
The Musicians' Village will consist of 81 Habitat-constructed homes for displaced New Orleans musicians. Its centerpiece will be the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, dedicated to the education and development of homeowners and others who will live nearby. In early 2006, Habitat for Humanity acquired eight acres of land in the Upper 9th Ward where the Musicians' Village. In addition to the homes in the tract, plans call for building at least 150 other homes in the surrounding neighborhood.
On the other side of the Industrial Canal is New Orleans East, which includes the Lower Ninth Ward, which gained national attention for it tragic devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The area has also been in the national spotlight as major sections of the area were used for filming in the 1994 Anne Rice film “Interview with a Vampire” staring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
Other notable areas of the Lower Ninth Ward include Jackson Barracks, which also serve as headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard when they are stationed in New Orleans. Notable residents include musician / singer / songwriter Fats Domino and NFL star Marshall Faulk.
A noted historical area in this section of New Orleans is the Holy Cross Neighborhood. Holy Cross hugs the Mississippi River on the “lower” side of the Industrial Canal, just a few minutes away from downtown New Orleans. Currently, this neighborhood serves as the staging ground for the revitalization of the Lower Ninth Ward – most remarkably an effort spearheaded by Global Green and a continued effort by the Preservation Resource Center.
The Ninth Ward also includes the Lakefront Airport and NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. Farther east visitors find Fort Macomb, Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, Chef Menteur Pass, the Venetian Isles, Lake St. Catherine, Irish Bayou and the remains of historic Fort Pike.
A visit to these areas is truly a visit to an important part of New Orleans’ past, as well as its modern-day history.