Monday, October 19, 2015

Segregation Forms

Dillard University architect Moise H. Goldstein (1882-1972) designed the Richard Berthelot Lemann Memorial Park in 1934 (illustration above). The playground was built on city land that had resulted from the overfill of the former Carondelet (Old Basin) Canal. Site clearance and grading took nearly a year to complete.

Touro Infirmary Chief of Staff Dr. I.I. Lemann and his family donated $15,000 for materials and equipment, and federal emergency relief workers (FERA) supplied the labor. Under Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley's administration, the city offered the former canal site extending from Marais Street to North Prieur. Additionally, the city agreed to the Lemann family's stipulation that should the city ever use the site for other purposes, the city would develop a new Richard B. Lemann Memorial Playground elsewhere.

The playground was originally segregated by race, gender and size. From Marais to North Claiborne - the section closest to the Municipal Auditorium - the playground was for white children.  From North Claiborne to Prieur, the playground was for black children.  Each park had its own designated girls and boys areas, and separate areas for small children and big children.

The North Claiborne entrance to each playground section featured memorial iron gates, each with its own plaque. The two playground sections were entirely surrounded by fencing in order to protect the children from "automobile hazards."  Park superintendent Lawrence Di Benedetto proclaimed the fenced enclosure a "new era" in playground design.(1) Since the park's namesake had died in an automobile accident, the safety feature was apropos.

The dedication ceremonies were held on June 16, 1925, with the riverside section celebration at 4:00 pm and the lakeside section following at 5:00 pm. FERA bands performed at both events, although the evening celebration had considerably higher attendance numbers.

To see the gates today, click




(1)Di Benedetto, L. "2 Playgrounds To Be Dedicated." New Orleans States 14 June 1925.

Image above:  "Drawing of Lemann Memorial Playgrounds." The Times-Picayune New Orleans States 30 December 1934.

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