Monday, September 12, 2011

War of the Trees

This blog has previously addressed New Orleans' growing parking concerns and the development of private motor stations after the invention of the automobile.

In the winter of 1920, the city's Parking Commission provoked public outcry when it began to fell live oak, sycamore and elm trees along Esplanade Avenue between Liberty (now Treme) Street and North Claiborne Avenue. With the support of architect and Commissioner of Public Property Sam Stone, Jr. (1869-1933) and under the authority of Parking Commission President W.H. Douglas, Superintendent E.A. Farley coordinated the tree removal. Esplanade Avenue residents voiced their outrage, especially when Douglas admitted that the railway company was financing the activity. Dentist George Bernard Crozat, who lived at 1222, expressed to The Times-Picayune:

'It would appear as if some commission or other is constantly trying to wipe out every vestige of historic interest in the Vieux Carre* . . . It is an inexcusable outrage to cut down the beautiful trees of our avenue. Look at them! They tell us they are dead. Their hearts are as sturdy as our own. See the splendid foliage which will never wave again. We must save what remains at all costs.'

Residents claimed that some of the avenue's trees had been planted by Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville (1680-1767), and "threatened to shoot if certain trees were destroyed."

Read more in The Times-Picayune 6 February 1902, p. 2.

*Another earlier post addressed changing notions of the Vieux Carre. See "The Heart of the French Quarter." Architecture Research 23 June 2009.

Image above: Copy print from glass plate negative. George F. Mugnier (1855-1936). Esplanade Avenue from St. Claude Street. n.d. [Detail]. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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