Today in New Orleans History

December 16

Shushan Airport      Milneburg Joys

 Delgado Art Museum Opens in City Park 
December 16, 1911


“PRESENTED TO THE PEOPLE OF NEW ORLEANS BY ISAAC DELGADO MCMX” reads the lintel over the main entrance to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). Delgado's only stipulations were that the museum be under the control of a group of three or four members from the City Park board of directors and of an equal number from the Art Association, that a room be set aside for his own collections, and that the the museum be “A temple of art for rich and poor alike”. A native of Jamaica, Delgado made his fortune in sugar, acquiring a wealth of land and businesses including Delgado and Co. on Bienville Street at the river near the present-day Aquarium . He was well-known as a benefactor of the arts, medicine, and education. When the museum opened on December 16, 1911 Mr. Delgado could not attend the dedication because he was aged and ill. Isaac Delgado died the following month on January 4, 1912. 

From NOMA:

"New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), New Orleans’ oldest fine arts institution, opened on December 16, 1911 with only 9 works of art. Today, the museum hosts an impressive permanent collection of almost 40,000 objects. The collection, noted for its extraordinary strengths in French and American art, photography, glass, and African and Japanese works, continues to expand and grow, making NOMA one of the top art museums in the south.

The five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA is one of the most important sculpture installations in the United States, with over 60 sculptures situated on a beautifully landscaped site amongst meandering footpaths, reflecting lagoons, Spanish moss-laden 200-year-old live oaks, mature pines, magnolias, camellias, and pedestrian bridges."

To receive an update for each day in New Orleans history,  join our facebook page - Today in New Orleans History

Charles Willard Moore, born on October 31, 1925, designed the exuberant, postmodern archetype Piazza d'Italia which was dedicated in 1978.  He was also an educator, writer, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and winner of the AIA Gold Medal in 1991.  Moore passed away on December 16, 1993.

New Orleans born performer Dorothy "Dottie" Lamour (born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton) came home to celebrate her 50th birthday on December 10, 1967 while on a tour starring in "Hello, Dolly!" which ran at the Municipal Auditorium on Saturday, December 16.  Dottie died on September 22, 1996 in North Hollywood at the age of 81.  

The World Cotton Centennial (World's Fair) opened in New Orleans on December 16, 1884 and ran until June 2, 1885 in what is now Audubon Park. It featured displays with a great deal of electric light illumination, an observation tower with electric elevators, and several prototype designs of electric streetcars.

Saturday, December 16, 1865 -- Louisiana Legislature disusses frist "Black Code" act.  "A bill, reported from the House, to punish persons eniceing laborors from plantations, was taken up.  Another bill reported from the House, which had orginated in the Senate, relative to establishing a system of apprenticeship and indented servants, was taken up.  The House had amended these bills somewhat.  Those amendments received the concurrence of the Senate. Mr. Fonte called up a joint resolution on the subject of taxes and licenses on all trades and professions."  The Picayune.

Huey P. Long Bridge Opens
December 16, 1935

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1934CircaHueyPUnderConstruction.jpgHuey P. Long had been dead a mere three months when the bridge linking the New Orleans area to the west bank of the Mississippi River was dedicated in his memory on December 16, 1935. It was the first to span the river in Louisiana, the 29th in the United States, and the world's longest railroad bridge.  Designed by Ralph Modjeski, it span of 135 feet rises 409 feet above the high water mark and includes two 18-foot wide automobile roadways (a local radio personality was fond of calling it the "Huey P. Narrow") with two 2.5 foot pedestrian walkways.  As many as 1,000 workmen spent three years pouring 413,370 tons of concrete and handling 4,400 tons of granite and 60,000 tons of steel.  Its main pier sits upon a man-made island consisting of 131,500 cubic yards of sand within a caisson of steel. Railroad tracks run 4.4 miles to and from the bridge. 


Southern Pacific Railroad had proposed a bridge as far back as 1892 and in 1924 the Public Belt Railroad had commissioned Modjeski to design a bridge which was rejected by the Department of Defense.  In 1926 Modjeski drew new plans which were approved.  On December 30, 1932 the Public Belt, the city, the state, and the Reconstruction Finance Company (RFC) signed the contract for construction of the new bridge.

On opening day, 1000 people rode the Southern Pacific train across the bridge and back.  Thousands watched as Long's daughter, Rose, cut the ribbon to allow cars to take their first ride across the $13,000,000 project.  Many, without automobiles, walked over the river and back.  Bands played and a pageant was presented by school students. 

A banquet was held in the evening at the Roosevelt Hotel.  A.D. Danziger credited Long with making the new bridge a reality.  Thomas F. Cunningham, president pro tem of the Public Belt Commission also spoke -- he had been awarded the Times-Picayune Loving Cup in 1932 for his 31 years of efforts to see that a bridge be built to what some people deemed "nowhere".  

Another Huey P. Long bridge, at US 190 (Airline Higheay) was built in Baton Rouge in 1940. 

Photos from the Library of Congress.

From the New Orleans Public Library: The first train to cross the Public Belt Railroad's new Huey P. Long Bridge, December 16, 1935. The was one of the Southern Pacific's largest freight engines, piloted by Stanley L. Barras and Thomas G. Hebert, veterans of the SP line. The opening of the bridge was celebrated with elaborate ceremonies, including a historical transportation pageant that preceded the trains over the bridge: boy scouts dressed as Native Americans, colonial horsemen and mounted guards, a pioneer stage coach, a primitive locomotive, a "horseless carriage," and modern automobiles. Once the first train had crossed the span, an excursion train carrying nearly 1000 people left Union Station for a trip to Avondale and back. Regular train service on the bridge began on December 17, 1935 - and continues today.

Holiday Shopping?

Local history lovers on your list might enjoy
these books by Catherine Campanella:

To receive an update for each day in New Orleans history,  join our facebook page - Today in New Orleans History

If you have enjoyed these daily updates, you might also enjoy these books by Catherine Campanella:



You Can Support this Site by Clicking on & Shopping from the Amazon Ad/Link below -- and it won't cost you a penny more:

Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

Shushan Airport
To receive an update for each day in New Orleans history,  join our facebook page - Today in New Orleans History.