Dedication of the new City Hall
May 6, 1957
Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr. (in office from April 4, 1946 –
July 17, 1961) was all about change and the "modernization" of New Orleans. Born in New Roads in Pointe Coupee
Parish on January 18, 1912, his family was related to Sidney Story, an alderman for whom the area of Storyville was named.
After moving to New Orleans, he became an attorney with the National Recovery Administration, a New Deal agency. Thereafter,
he became a law partner with his brother Jacob Morrison and Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr.
Morrison sold most of the city's public markets, addressed a housing crisis by building veterans' housing operated by the
Housing Authority of New Orleans, and engaged in more large-scale urban renewal than any other New Orleans mayor. Morrison's
administration demolished low-income neighborhoods to build new or expand existing public housing projects and expropriated
private property to construct the New Orleans Civic Center (which included the then new City Hall), the New Orleans Union
Passenger Terminal, and several street-widening projects in the city's downtown district.
Center/City Hall was the brainchild of Brooke Duncan, the city Planning and Zoning Director in Morrison's administration.
As a young man during the 1920s, Duncan sold residential real estate and was a noted local golfer. In 1925 he became an associate
of Latter and Blum Realtors. During the 1930s, Duncan was appointed director of the Municipal Beverage Department, which was
tasked with assigning liquor licenses. By 1935, he was the city's Registrar of Conveyances and in 1936 he moved
up the municipal ladder to become Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley's secretary. He had a lovely home on Eleanore Street, a yacht
-- Duncan's Folly -- housed at the Southern Yacht Club, and in 1942 was named Manager of the Real Estate Department of the
city of New Orleans. In 1946, Mayor Morrison announced the purchase of the the initial properties which would late comprise
the Civic Center, Duncan advocated the new construction (which would include the new main branch of the New Orleans
Public Library and other municipal buildings) as a revitalization project which would rid the city of an unsightly poverty
stricken area. Louis Armstrong's childhood home, as well as other historic landmarks were destroyed.
Plaza, the greenspace fronting City Hall was named for Brooke Duncan. (Sources include WIKI).
View additional photos of the City Hall property before and during demolition of the area.
Photo -- Parade of Progress banquet at the Roosevelt Hotel, May 6, 1957. Mayor Morrison is at the podium with emcee Harry
Latter (Brooke Duncan's early real estate associate).
Photo -- Mayor Morrison prepares to open the new City Hall with a ceremonial sword, May 6, 1957
Photo -- Mayor Morrison, Mrs. Morrison and their son Toni walking to the new City Hall, May 6, 1957.
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Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr. (born June 11, 1956), afrom 2002 to 2010, was the 60th mayor of New Orleans
(May 6, 2002 to May 3, 2010). He became internationally known in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area. Nagin was first elected in March 2002 and received significant crossover vote
from just about every segment of the population. He was re-elected in 2006 even though the election was held with at least
two-thirds of New Orleans citizens still displaced after Katrina struck. He was term limited by law and left office on May
3, 2010. After leaving office, Nagin founded CRN Initiatives LLC, a firm that focuses on emergency preparedness, green energy
product development, publishing and public speaking. He wrote and self-published his first book, Katrina Secrets: Storms
after the Storms which gives a first-hand account of how New Orleans overcame the effects of Hurricane Katrina. On January
18, 2013, Nagin was indicted on 21 corruption charges, including wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering related to his
alleged dealings with two troubled city vendors following Hurricane Katrina disaster. On February 20, 2013, Nagin pleaded
not guilty in federal court to all charges but was found guilty of all but one charge. (WIKI)
Born in New Orleans on August 20, 1922, Charles Schwartz, Jr. received a B.A. from Tulane in 1943
and served in the Army as a Second Lieutenant from 1943 to 1945. He was then an Army reservist from 1946 to 1965,
attaining the rank of Major. He received a J.D. from Tulane Law School in 1947, and was then in private practice in New Orleans
until 1976. He was a district counsel for the Gulf Coast District of the U.S. Maritime Administration from 1953 to 1962.
On March 23, 1976, Schwartz was nominated by President Gerald Ford to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana vacated by Herbert W. Christenberry. Schwartz was confirmed by the United States Senate on May
6, 1976, and received his commission on May 7, 1976. He assumed senior status on February 28, 1991. He also taught
as an adjunct professor of law at Tulane University beginning in 1977. He died in his home town on November 3, 2012.
Robert Sidney Maestri (December 11, 1889 – May 6, 1974) was mayor
of New Orleans from 1936 to 1946 and a key ally of Huey P. Long, Jr., and Earl
Robert Maestri was born in New Orleans on December 11, 1889, the son of two Italians,
Francesco Maestri and Angele (Lacabe) Maestri. He inherited his father’s furniture store at an early age, and quickly
built it up into one of the city’s largest. After investing in real estate, Maestri was able to amass a considerable
fortune. He also had political ambition, and after allying himself with governor Huey Long, he was appointed to head the
state’s Conservation Commission, which allowed him to control production quotas in the state’s oil industry.
He served as conservation commissioner from 1929 to 1936, and was a powerful member of Long’s inner circle.
of Businessman James Holtry; Joe Bartholomew, golf pro of the Pontchartrain Park golf course; Mayor Chep Morrison; and
Herbert Jahncke, President of the Parkway and Parks Commission attended the dedication of the Pontchartrain Park on May
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established by executive order of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
on May 6, 1935
. It replaced the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) as the federal government
agency responsible for combatting the ill effects of the Great Depression. The WPA was a work relief program and it was instrumental
in providing jobs for many individuals who had become unemployed during the nation's economic downturn. (NOPL) A large listing of WPA funding New Orleans project photographs
Oliver Morgan (May 6, 1933 - July 31, 2007) was an American
R&B singer born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward, alongside Fats Domino, Jessie Hill and Smiley Lewis. In 1961, he released
his debut single on AFO Records under the pseudonym "Nookie Boy." It was in 1964 that
he released his only national hit "Who Shot the La La" which sings about the mysterious
situation surrounding the death of singer Lawrence "Prince La La" Nelson in 1963. The recording session took
place at Cosimo Matassa's studio in New Orleans with Eddie Bo at the piano. Following the success
of the song, he went on a tour nationally, but eventually settled as a local singer appearing
at local clubs and festivals. He also had a day job working as a custodian at City Hall and
as the caretaker of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Chartres Street. In 1998, he released
his first and only full length album I'm Home from Allen Toussaint's Nyno label. Toussaint gave
him full support providing songs and producing the album. Morgan's Lower Ninth Ward home was destroyed
in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and he evacuated to Atlanta, Georgia with his wife where
their children were living in. Morgan died from a heart attack in Atlanta on July 31, 2007. He
had not performed since he evacuated out of New Orleans.
On May 6, 1926, operatic soprano Marguerite Piazza was born in New Orleans.
Victor Hugo "Vic" Schiro, born in Chicago, Illinois on May 6, 1904 was
the son of Italian immigrants Andrew Edward and Mary (Pizzati) Schiro. After moving to New Orleans with his parents as
a child, Schiro spent his young adulthood in Honduras and California, where he worked as a movie extra, and co-managed
a Nevada gold mine before returning to New Orleans. He worked briefly as an assistant cameraman for Frank Capra. Having
returned to New Orleans in 1928, Schiro became a radio announcer. In 1932, Schiro married Mary Margaret Gibbes, better known
as Sunny Schiro. Schiro founded his own insurance company and became an active civic leader in the 1940s; he was president
of the Young Men’s Business Club. In 1950, he was elected commissioner of public buildings and parks. Under the
new mayor-council charter of 1954, Schiro was elected councilman-at-large. When DeLesseps S. "Chep" Morrison,
resigned his position as mayor in 1961 to become U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, the City Council
elected Councilman Schiro, then Councilman-At-Large, as interim mayor. Schiro was subsequently elected to two full terms
in 1962 and 1965. Schiro inherited Morrison’s Crescent City Democratic Association, formed as a rival to the Regular
Democratic Organization, but the political machine was deeply divided by the 1962 election, and it declined thereafter.
He served on the City Council until 1970. Schiro held to a simple governing philosophy, stating that "if it’s
good for New Orleans, I’m for it." Mayor Schiro considered the arrival of the New Orleans Saints professional
football team and the beginning of plans to build the Louisiana Superdome to be two of the foremost achievements of his administration.
He died on August 29, 1992.
By ordinance of May 6, 1836, the Second Municipality Council provided by the annual
appointment of a Comptroller.
On May 6, 1770, the Cabildo attorney requested soliciting the establishment of
a body of horse police.
"Parade of Progress"
May 6, 1957
Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison's vision for New Orleans was one of a modernistic 'prgressive' hub of business activity.
He saw other cities grow by leaps and bounds after tearing down the old and bringing in the new and he envisioned the same
for our town. Morrison's administration changed the footprint of New Orleans irrevocably. One example was the demolition
of the Southern Railroad Terminal, also known as the Terminal Station, which was constructed at 1125 Canal at Basin Street
in 1908. The building was designed by Daniel Burnham, the architect for Washington D.C.'s Union Station.
The station served the Southern Railway's subsidiaries, the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad Company
and the New Orleans Terminal Company. In the 1940's, the station's signature train was "The Southerner," which
departed New Orleans daily for the east coast. But in the 1950s, Morrison had plans for a modern new train station,
the Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue, so the railroad abandoned the old Terminal Station. The circa 1920s photo on
the right shows the old station, with Krauss Department Store to the left. Krauss' is now a condominium development.
In 1954, the railroad tracks and the terminal were removed. The caption for the July 20, 1954
photo below reads: Basin St., status of work, old Southern Railway Terminal, toward Municipal Auditorium. Widening of
Basin Street from Iberville to Orleans is underway in connection with the city's program of providing an expressway from
the Union Passenger Terminal to the Municipal Auditorium. The street will be widened 11 feet on each side to provide double
44-foot roadways. The city is preparing to buy the old Southern railway station so that the block from Canal to Iberville
can be similarly widened." [Photograph by "Cole" Coleman, for Public Relations Office, City Hall].
In November 1954, a $1.1 million bond issue allowed for the purchase of the station and the land.
Morrison also sought to expand business relations between New Orleans and Latin American countries.
As component of his city-wide "beautification project" he wanted the city to buy the old station
and replace it with a park-like setting on the neutral ground at Basin and Canal which would include
a 12 foot statue of Latin American hero Simon Bolivar.
While no documentation exists that New Orleans had strong ties
to Bolivar or that he ever visited our city, Morrison was steadfast in his conviction that Bolivar should be honored in the
"Garden of the Americas" -- a location that some have called "The Gateway to
Storyville". On Wednesday, May 18, 1955 at 7:15 p.m., with much ceremony, Morrison flipped the
switch of modernistic mercury vapor lights which shined down on the newly completed Basin Street beautification and widening
project. The New Orleans Police Department band played Basin Street Blues. City Councilman James E. Fitsmorris
was the master of ceremony. City Council president Glen P. Clasen, who was also the supervisor and treasurer of Krauss
Company was there representing both the city and the retail merchants bureau of the Chamber of Commerce. Reverend Joseph F.
Laux led the invocation and Reverend George H. Wilson did the benediction. New Orleans Jazz Club president George Blanchin
spoke. The statue wasn't there.
Morrison spoke of
the "ending of one era in our city's history and we think, the beginning of a new one". Fitzmorris noted that
the $1.1 million project was "another milestone in the growth of our city" adding that Basin Street is "perhaps
themost famous street in the world" because it was "the birthplace of jazz". Blanchin contradicted the
"birthplace of jazza' statement but noted that LuLu White's famous house of prostitution had been demolished in 1949
and replaced with Krauss Department Store's parking garage. He said "I hope very soon that our city fathers will
see fit to erect a suitable monument or marker in Basin Street in honor of the jazz musicians who did so much for New Orleans".
On June 20, 1955, Blanchin announced a nation-wide competition
for the design of monument to jazz which would be placed on Basin at Canal Street. He said, "Surely jazz is more
important in the history of New Orleans than a Latin American who never had anything to do with the city". Morrision
had said "A suitable headstone or monument" to jazz would be placed on Basin Street but Blanchin feared that it
would be dwarfed they the Bolivar statue and by others proposed for what was now being called the "Parkway of the Americas"
(in 1965 a statue of Benito Juarez of Mexico was added, as was one of . In 1966 Francisco Morazan of Honduras in 1966).
discussion ensued. On July 12, 1955, Morrison said "We assured the Jazz Foundation [New Orleans Jazz
Club] a few months ago [at the lighting ceremony] there would be a monument to jazz on the street and it is a definite plan
of the city".
L.A. Riley wrote, and his letter was published in the paper on July
17, 1955. He recounted personal memories of Milneburg's long pier stretching from the original shore to the lighthouse
with its walkways to many camps and clubhouses where jazz parties were "all conducted by very respectable people. He
contended that while jazz was played on Basin Street it was born in Milneburg and that that Milenburg Joys (not Basin Street
Blues) should be the "New Orleans anthem". Riley suggested that a monument to jazz placed, not on Basin Street but
"where Milneburg once stood at Pontchartrain Beach between the lighthouse and former shoreline. The same day Riley's
letter appeared so did one from Blanchin which stated that the non-profit New Orleans Jazz Club, formed in 1948, supported
Morrison's Basin Street monument site.
On July 21, 1955, the editor of the Picayune
opined that a panel of jazz historians could best choose the location and wording for a monument and ended with "Take
it easy", regarding the furor the issue had caused. The following day, William Dane's letter appeared (on July
22, 1955) suggesting that, instead of Bolivar, the statue of assassinated police chief David Hennessy should be
transplanted from Metairie Cemetery. August 1, 1955 brought a letter from J.F.O. who claimed he had played music for 35 years,
thought a monument to jazz was a good idea, and stated "I never heard of Simon Bolivar", which was likely the sentiment
of many other New Orleanians.
Despite the hoopla, the name for Basin Street's neutral ground as "Garden of the Americas" was officially adopted
via a city ordinance on April 14, 1957. On Monday, May 6, 1957, a "Parade of Progress"
ambled 22 blocks from the Municipal Auditorium to Basin Street at Canal where ground was broken for the plaza that would contain
Simon Bolivar's giant likeness. The Tulane band played for guests from South and Central America. The first shovel of
dirt was turned by Francisco Pacanins, Consul General of Venezuela, whose country provided $350.00 for the monument.
The parade then proceeded to the New City Hall which officially opened that day. And finally, on Monday November 25,
1957, the seven-ton, 12 foot-tall, granite statue of Simon Bolivar was unveiled. on the Basin Street neutral ground.
The Bolivar statue created by Abel Vallmitjana features five bronze emblems, detailing the five Bolivian
coats of arms. Seven flagpoles, six of which represent the countries Bolivar liberated in the early 1800s stand behind him
Pictured from left to right are Adolfo E. Hegewisch, Chairman
of the Bolivar Monument Committee and president of the Bolivarian Society of Louisiana; Dr. Cesar Gonzalez, Venezuelan ambassador
in the United States; Dr. Pedro Gutierrez-Alfaro, Venezuelan Minister of Health and Welfare; Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison;
and Francisco Pacanins, Consul General of Venezuela in New Orleans.
from the New Orleans Public Library.