Friday, January 6, 2012

Lincoln Memorial Park

In 1954, the Theosophical Foundation of New Orleans began advertising a new cemetery located on Old Gentilly Highway near Lee Station and the Louisiana and Nashville Railroad Line. Surveyor/Engineer Guy J. Seghers (1898-1986) had surveyed the land and developed a drainage scheme that included a semi-circular 25' canal and an adjacent 20' levee. Seghers also designed the cemetery, a vast axial complex divided into alphabetical sections conjoined by a central artery with a chapel.  Advertised as the "largest park plan cemetery in the South" and intended as an exclusive African-American cemetery, Lincoln Memorial Park attracted speculators who purchased lots in bulk, and later individually sold them.  Sellers touted the park's "Baby Land," a special area within the necropolis dedicated to infant burials (image above, right).

Two years later, Hurricane Flossie hit the Gulf of Mexico.  Lincoln Memorial Cemetery was inundated with water, and its protective levee and canal ostensibly trapped the storm water within the park. By October 1957, the city's director of public health sanitation closed it, declaring a health hazard.  The Times Picayune reported that local children were using the park as a crawfish breeding ground (October 8).  In 1960, Seghers was solicited to develop a proper drainage plan and estimate costs of maintenance and operation for a five-year period. He proposed a gasoline and electrical pump that would be replaced at five-year intervals.

In 1966, the cemetery was rededicated as Resthaven Memorial Park (10400 Old Gentilly Road).

Rebirth Brass Band saxophonist James "Phat Nasty" Durant (1972-2003) was buried there.

Image above:  Guy Seghers, Section "A" (Entrance), Lincoln Memorial Park, New Orleans Third Municipal District, LA.  1952. Guy Seghers Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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