Today in New Orleans History

November 12

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 Dutch Morial Elected Mayor
November 12, 1977

Mayor Morial with Richard Simmons at French Quarter Festival
New Orleans Public Library photograph by Baquet
New Orleans voters elected their first African-American mayor, Ernest (Dutch) N. Morial, on November 12, 1977. Incumbent mayor Moon Landrieu was term-limited. Morial defeated Joe DiRosa in the run-off election.  The October 1 primary had included Nat Kiefer, DeLesseps "Toni" Morrison, Jr, and Rodney "Gorrila Man" Fertel.  Morial was inaugurated on May 2, 1978. He was elected to a second term in 1982 

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Drummer Robert "Bob" French,  led of The Tuxedo Jazz Band from 1977 until his death on November 12, 2012 at the age of 74. As a child, he took drumming lessons from Louis Barbarin and, in his professional career, performed with  James Booker, Art Neville, Charles Neville, Kidd JordanAlvin Batiste, Earl King, Snooks Eaglin, Fats Domino, and Dave Bartholomew.  Mr. French was also a WWOZ radio host.

Actor Nicholas Cage's property, the LaLaurie house ("Most Haunted House in America") named for former owner Delphine LaLaurie who mistreated her slaves, was foreclosed and sold at auction on November 12, 2009.

On November 12, 1999, HCI Construction and Design submitted plans for renovation of the American Can Multi-Use Building at 3700 Orleans Avenue.

Helvetia "Vet" Boswell, born in Birmingham, Alabama on May 20, 1911, died on November 12, 1988. She was a member of The Boswell Sisters -- nationally popular close harmony 1930 singing group which were considered the model for the Andrews Sisters.  The group included sisters Martha Boswell (June 9, 1905July 2, 1958) and Connie (Connee)  Boswell  (December 3, 1907October 11, 1976).

Act 170 of the 1968 Louisiana Legislature authorized the creation of a Community Improvement Agency in and for the City of New Orleans. Local approval of the Agency came through a City Council resolution on September 5, 1968. Two months later, on November 12, 1968, the CIA held its organizational meeting. It was directed by a seven-member Board, appointed by the Mayor with City Council approval and administered by an Executive Director who supervises a staff of State Civil Service employees.  The Community Improvement Agency was established as the City's urban renewal department. From its inception the CIA sought the rehabilitation of blighted areas rather than massive slum-clearance projects. In pursuit of this goal the Agency encouraged property owners to improve their holdings and assisted them in financing those improvements. Unrepairable structures were demolished and the properties cleared for reuse. The CIA also implemented improvements to streets, lighting, drainage, and open space within the blighted areas. The Lower Ninth Ward became the first project area in 1969. In the following years the Desire/Florida, Gravier, and Central City areas were added along with the special Health Education Authority of Louisiana (HEAL) medical complex. Project Area Committees were formed in each of the four major sections. These bodies served as the means of local citizen participation in project planning and implementation.  In 1973 the CIA became the City's action arm for the Public Improvement Programs in the Irish Channel and Broadmoor neighborhoods. The Core Area Development District, responsible for revitalizing the New Orleans Central Business District, chose the Agency as its planning consultant in 1975. Toward the end of the 1970s the CIA was completing its urban renewal phase and began to act more as a citywide housing improvement body. This role was encouraged by the federal Community Development block grant program, which provided funds for general areas of service rather than for specific projects or sections.  In the mid-1990s, the activities of the Community Improvement Agency were assumed by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority. (From the New Orleans Public Library.)

On November 12, 1959, Bodman & Murrel & Smith submitted plans for St. Joseph Academy at 1453 Crescent Street.

NORD Football photos (01-Sparky Knight; 02-Coach Don Maitland, Kepper Maitland; 03-Action shot; 04,05-Behrman Spartan Squad) from November 12, 1955.  Scroll down to #131.

Gregory Michael Aymond, born in New Orleans on November 12, 1949, became the fourteenth Archbishop of New Orleans on June 12, 2009.

BAUDIER, Joseph Roger, historian, Creole chronicler, journalist, editor, educator, Catholic lay leader. Born, New Orleans, July 30, 1893; son of Jean Alexandre Baudier II and Louise Angela Baudier. Orphaned at age six and reared by Mariana Clementine Lamothe (1817-1908), who filled his childhood with Creole stories and traditions. Education: attended St. Philip's School in French Quarter, 1898-1906; St. Anthony College (seminary), Santa Barbara, Calif., 1909-1913. Elementary teacher at St. Francis Orphanage, Watsonville, Calif., 1913-1918; military service with Eighth Division, U. S. Army, 1918-1919. Clerk for Southern Pacific Railroad in New Orleans, 1919-1927; commercial artist, free lance writer, and trade journal and religious editor, including The Mixer, 1927-1934; associate editor, 1932-1941, and editor, 1941-1949, of Catholic Action of the South; trade journal editor, including The Dough Boy, and first appointed historian of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, 1949-1960. Married Mary Mabel Demarest of New Orleans, April 19, 1922. Children: Mary Mabel; Joseph Roger, Jr.; and Ann Marie. Major books: The Catholic Church in Louisiana (1939); The Eighth National Eucharistic Congress (1941); Anchor and Fleur-de-Lis: Knights of Columbus in Louisiana, 1902-1962 (with Millard Everett, 1965); and many major historical supplements of Catholic Action of the South. Authored more than 50 monographs and innumerable articles on Catholic parishes, organizations, and institutions in Louisiana. Major trade journal series included history of sanitation in New Orleans (The Southern Plumber, 1930-1932) and history of bread-making customs of Indians of the Southwest (The Mixer, 1932). Organizer and first secretary, 1932-1934, of Louisiana State Bakers Association. Authored weekly column, "Historic Old New Orleans,"—a major source of Creole traditions, folklore, and beliefs—in Catholic Action of the South (January 15, 1933, to November 12, 1960). Active in Knights of Columbus, Catholic Committee of the South, Archconfraternity of St. Ann, Associated Catholic Charities, and Holy Name Society. Handled publicity for numerous Catholic events and organizations, 1925-1960. Vigorous proponent of workers' rights and staunch supporter of Archbishop Joseph Rummel (q.v.) in desegregation efforts. Helped design monstrance used in 1938 Eucharistic Congress and exhibited at 1984 Louisiana World Exhibition. Honors: Knight of St. Gregory (1943); France's Palmes Academiques (1949); honorary LL.D. from Notre Dame Seminary (1958). He died in New Orleans on November 12, 1960; interred St. Louis Cemetery III. C.E.N. Sources: Baudier Collections in Archives of the Archldiocese of New Orleans; Baudier Family Papers; personal research notes for biography of Joseph Roger Baudier (in preparation). From

An invitation for a second visit to New Orleans from Mayor Charles Genois was extended to General Andrew Jackson, who had completed his term as President of the United States, on November 12, 1839 at a meeting in the St. Louis Cotton Exchange to commemorate  the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans.   A cornerstone was to be laid, commemorating the general's victories in the battle.  He arrived on board the steamer “Vicksburg,” January 8, 1840 at ten o’clock a.m., landing at the Carrollton wharf, where an immense throng had assembled to welcome “the most distinguished citizen of the country.”  General Jackson laid the cornerstone in the Place d’Armes, on January 9, 1840. It was not until some years later that the monument decided upon was the one of Jackson, designed by Clark Mills, which stands in the center of the ancient parade grounds for the troops. This statue has been called the “center piece of one of the finest architectural sittings in the world.”

Sculptor Edward Virginius Valentine. born on November 12, 1838, completed the  John James Audubon statue which was unveiled in Audubon Park on November 26, 1910.  The statue is placed in front of the zoo.  Valentine died on October 19, 1930.

James Henry Caldwell, a native of Manchester, England, after working as an actor in England and the United States and having managed a theater in Alexandria, Virginian (in 1818) and built a theater at Petersburg, built the Camp Street Theater in New Orleans at cost of $70,000 and although it was still not finished, opened it on May 14, 1823. It was the first important structure in the new Second (American) Municipality.  It formally opened on January 1, 1824. Meanwhile, Caldwell continued to tour eastern theaters during summer until 1825 at which time he began tours of towns in the South and Southwest—called "Pioneer of Drama in the South." Brought competent actors and good plays to the region and became the most important theatrical person there. Built theaters in Cincinnati, Nashville, Mobile, and converted a salt house in St. Louis into a theater. He introduced gas lighting into American Theater in New Orleans and organized a company to supply gas lighting for the city, receiving a charter on March 1, 1833. It began operations in 1834 but Caldwell sold his interest in 1835. He established similar companies in Cincinnati and Mobile and these were his principal sources of wealth in later years. He opened the St. Charles Theater in New Orleans on November 12, 1835; it was the most magnificent theater in the South and one of the largest in the country but it burned in March, 1842. Caldwell retired from theatrical activity on January 14, 1843, and thereafter devoted his time to several official positions in New Orleans.  He was commissioned as captain in Louisiana Militia, Forty-second Regiment of First Brigade on December 7, 1842. He was a member of the Second Municipality Council during the last ten years of its existence and then served as recorder. When New Orleans reverted to one complete city government, he was elected to board of aldermen and served as president of that body from 1855-1856. He served a term in the Louisiana house of representatives (1858-1860) and in 1857, became a principal stockholder in Bank of James Robb.  He had extensive real estate holdings in New Orleans and elsewhere.  Caldwell left New Orleans between February and October, 1862 to live in Cincinnati. In August of 1863 he was living in New York City. In feeble health for some time, he died there on September 11, 1863. Services were held on September 14, at St. Patrick's Cathedral. His remains were then taken back to New Orleans where services were again held on October 11, 1863, at Dead Church [?] on Rampart St. with burial in Fireman's Cemetery.  (From

The House of Representatives of the Territory of Orleans was established by Act of Congress and proclaimed by Gov. Claiborne on or about October 9, 1804.  The first session was held on November 12, 1804.

At a November 12, 1773 meeting of the Cabildo, payment was authorized for three Negroes, the property of Don Antonio Tomassin, Don Santiago Beauregard and Don Zacarias Foussier. At the next meeting, the assessment of each citizen to contribute their prorata for the payment of these Negroes was acted upon, and collection ordered.

Plans Submitted for the Rivergate
November 12, 1964
During the "revitalization" efforts of 1950s, the intersection of Canal Street at the river was considered a prime site.  A decade later, on November 12, 1964, C.H. Leavell & Co. submitted plans for "Rivergate" at number 4 Canal Street.
The Municipal Auditorium, dedicated on May 30, 1930, had become obsolete for convention-exhibition purposes. The modern center for such activities was to face the Mississippi River, relate to the recently completed International Trade Mart Tower, and tie these two elements together by means of a spacious pedestrian plaza.  The designated site, six city blocks, was bounded by Canal, Poydras, South Peters Street, and what is now Convention Center Boulevard. The 1964 photo on the right shows the streetcar turn at the foot of Canal Street, the Liberty Monument, and the three and four-story buildings dating from mid nineteenth-century which would be demolished to make way for the Rivergate.  Left of center is a partially demolished warehouse dating from c. 1905. (Photo by Rolland Golden; printed by Robert S. Brantley, Historic New Orleans Collection.)
The Rivergate was originally called the International Exhibition Facility. It was to be a key element with International House, the International Trade Mart, and the hotels in downtown New Orleans as the necessary units required to qualify the City as a World Trade Center. The concept of the World Trade Center was conceived at the International House by Dr. Paul Fabry and was the first such institution in what has now become a great worldwide organization.  
The proposed construction of an elevated expressway along the riverfront threatened to thwart the site plan of the Rivergate and would have separated the building from the river and from the International Trade Mart office building. The decision was made to funnel this section of the expressway into an underground tunnel at an estimated additional cost of $1.5 million.  Meanwhile, the plans for the Rivergate were being seriously delayed, awaiting a final decision regarding the actual construction of the expressway.  At this time the idea for the great covered porch materialized. The sheltered driveway not only made good sense as a way to deal with the possibility of tropical downpours during Rivergate events, but it also left open the option of constructing the tunnel at a later date while allowing construction of the building to proceed on schedule. In time the tunnel, 6 lanes wide and 30 feet high, was authorized, designed into the plan, and constructed. The Riverfront Expressway, however, was eventually defeated, and the tunnel remained, unused, during the life of the Rivergate.

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/RivergatePostcard.gifThe Rivergate was designed by the local firm Curtis and Davis (Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis Jr. (1917–1997) and Arthur Quentin Davis (1920–2011)  who had also designed the Thomy Lafon School (1954) and the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (1956) and would later design the Superdome.  The undulating forms of the Rivergate's thin barrel vaults were not whimsical but are the precise shape necessary to manage the unusually long spans required for the roof over the column free space below. The cantilevers all around contribute to the stability of the roof structure. The selection of six temple like bays utilized to the limit the spans between columns; the columns themselves are slender and graceful, suited to the task of support.  The Rivergate, while it stood in New Orleans, was looked upon by many as a significant example of outstanding national and international contemporary architecture and was compared to the recognized masterpieces of its period.  The most distinguishing feature of the Rivergate was the roof. The 95,500-sq. foot South Hall was covered by a swooping and sweeping dual curved roof. This reinforced concrete barrel-arched roof design was symbolic of the rolling Mississippi River which flows about 500 feet from the building. Engineering News Record referred to these "humpbacked" 1-1/2 catenary curve barrel arches 453 ft. long as having the profile of a whale. The Rivergate roof was perhaps the longest thin shell concrete roof span that had been constructed at that time. The 34,500-sq. foot North Hall, later called Penn Hall, in honor of its distinguished and successful manager, Herman Penn, was spanned by steel trusses 6' deep and covered with a flat roof.  

It was under construction from 1964 to 1968,  at a cost of $25 million. By 1994, this building was estimated to be worth $300 million.  The Rivergate had pedestrian entrances on Canal and Poydras Streets and Convention Center Boulevard. The South Peters Street elevation was dedicated to entrance and exit openings for the two-level subsurface 800-automobile parking garage, a long loading dock with two access doors 20' x 20' to the first floor, and freight elevators.

The caption for the postcard (above) reads: The RIVERGATE, which covers six city squares, located where famed Canal Street meets the Mississippi River, is one of the most uniquely constructed convention-exhibition halls in the country. Boasting 130,000 square feet of clear, unobstructed space, with no posts or pillars; it is capable of seating more than 16,000 persons for an assembly or meeting with 733 - 10' x 10' exhibit spaces, or a combination of both. This 13 1/2 million dollar ($13,500,000) structure will be one of the nation's newest and finest facilities". 

Ground breaking ceremonies on December 4, 1964 were followed by the driving of piles and a deep excavation to provide space for the parking garage, mechanical and electrical equipment, stairs and escalators to move people from subsurface levels up to the first floor, and the tunnel 60' x 750' ($1.3 million).

Although the Rivergate was conceived and designed as a convention-exhibition facility, it was also used as the venue for Mardi Gras balls, high school graduations, and the lying in state of New Orleans native Mahalia Jackson in 1972).  But like the Municipal Auditorium, the Rivergate became obsolete in its usefulness as a convention and exhibition center.  The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was being planned  in 1978.  As of 2006, it has about 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space, covering almost 11 blocks, and over 3 million square feet of total space.  It is the 5th-largest facility of its kind in the United States and would dwarf the old Rivergate.

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/RivergateResuseCasino.gifIn June 1992, Louisiana House Bill 2010 (Act 384 of the 1992 Regular Session) authorized a land-based casino in New Orleans.  The legislation specifically defined the location of the land-based casino -- the Rivergate site at the foot of Canal Street. The law did not require the Rivergate to be torn down, and it did not require a new casino to be built.

The City of New Orleans then altered the zoning ordinances to allow construction of a casino at the Rivergate site.  The city issued a call for casino proposals due on August 14, 1992 which required a $50,000 payment for the privilege of submitting a proposal, half of which was refundable to unsuccessful bidders.

On November 5, 1992, Mayor Sidney Barthelemy and the City Council picked Christopher Hemmeter-Caesar's Palace (known as the Grand Palais group) to lease the city-owned Rivergate site for development of a casino.  The lease was signed on April 27, 1993.

Subsequently, the Casino Board awarded the casino operator's license to Harrah's Jazz, a partnership of Harrah's and the Jazzville group (all local investors).

On April 15, 1993, Mayor Barthelemy and the City Council finalized the selection of Hemmeter as the "developer" -- he later teamed with Caesar's World of Las Vegas to operate the casino in a renovated Rivergate but soon the Hemmeter-Caesar's group proposed its demolishion to make way for a new building called Grand Palais.  This plan would include a twenty-two-inch deep pond, called Celebration Lake which would run across the foot of Canal Street, ending at One Canal Place.  And there would be a sound and laser-light show and much more including a recreation of Bernard the colonnaded arcades at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  In the end, the only elements of the Grand Palais scheme that were constructed were the  "Casino Support Facility" -- a ten-leve, 2 1/2 block long parking garage) which replaced a group of nineteenth-century buildings at the corner of Poydras and South Peters Streets and the tunnel linking it to the casino.  But everything else fell through.

The official "wall-breaking" ceremony took place on Friday, January 13, 1995. On this occasion, a back hoe equipped with a claw toothed bucket and a "Harrah's" banner draped on its back climbed up the steps at the Canal-South Peters Streets entrance and began wrecking the underside of the cement plaster entrance canopy.

Much of the concrete debris was hauled to West End at Lake Pontchartrain to be used as fill for enlargement of a park off Breakwater Drive. Although only reinforced concrete was supposed to be dumped there, other debris was included. The nature of the debris stirred environmentalists and their protests stopped the dumping at the West End site.

On October 28, 1999, Harrah's Casino was completed at the foot of Canal Street, three years behind schedule. 

From THE RIVERGATE (1968 - 1995) Architecture And Politics -- No Strangers In Pair-A-Dice

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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).

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