Thursday, July 17, 2008

Where Was It? Girod Street Cemetery

The Girod Street Cemetery (1822-1957) was located between Freret and Liberty Streets, and between Cypress and Perilliat Streets in what is now New Orleans Central Business District (CBD). During the first half of the twentieth century, the cemetery fell into disrepair and an overgrowth of vegetation. In 1957, the cemetery was deconsecrated, bodies were exhumed and removed to other locations, and eventually new buildings were constructed on the site: notably, the Curtis and Davis Superdome (1970-1975) and also Dominion Tower (1989), which is currently being considered for redevelopment as New Orleans Centre.

In August 1948, former Zulu Mardi Gras King Joseph J. Smith was interred in a baby blue coffin in Girod Cemetery, following a half-mile-long second line. For more on the history of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, click here. Many benevolent aid societies maintained so-called "society" tombs in Girod Cemetery: the Sobriety Benevolent Aid Society, the Home Missionary Benevolent Society, Male and Female Lutheran Benevolent Society, and the New Lusitanos Benevolent Association. Society tombs frequently bore names bestowed upon them by their organizations. One of my favorites is "Wide Awake Benevolent Society."

The records for Girod Cemetery are maintained in the Special Collections Division of Tulane University Libraries, located in Jones Hall 200, 6801 Freret Street. Local historian Leonard Huber (1903-1984), who extensively researched the city's cemeteries for his book New Orleans Architecture: The Cemeteries (Gretna: Pelican, 1974), also donated his records to the Special Collections Division.

[Image above: E[lisha] Robinson and R[oger] H. Pidgeon. Robinson's Atlas of the City of New Orleans, Louisiana. New York: E. Robinson, 1883]. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].
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