Columns » Blake Pontchartrain: New Orleans Trivia

When were the walls built around St. Louis Cemetery No. 1?

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Hey Blake,

When were the walls built around St. Louis Cemetery No. 1? I know the cemetery originally was nearly twice the size it is today. Why was it shrunk?

E. Seleen

Dear E.,

  The Spanish government built St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in 1789, approximately 40 yards behind Charity Hospital, which then was on Rampart Street between Toulouse and St. Peter streets. The cemetery extended to Marais Street. Many burials at the time were underground.

  An 1841 map of the city shows Treme and Conti streets did not run along the side and back of St. Louis No. 1, but stopped at the cemetery. In the 1845 map, Norman's Plan of New Orleans & Environs, Conti and Treme streets had been extended to form the current perimeter of Basin, Treme, St. Louis and Conti streets.

  Most of the Protestant section of the cemetery was removed to extend Treme Street. To compensate, the city offered Protestants a tract in Faubourg Ste. Marie that became the Girod Street Cemetery.

  City development was one reason the cemetery shrank. The area between Liberty and Marais streets today is part of the Iberville public housing development, which was built in the 1940s. The front of the old cemetery is now part of Basin Street.

  Angie Green, executive director of Save Our Cemeteries, says there are about 9,000 bodies buried below ground outside the current walls, and bones were discovered in an archaeological survey conducted in this area within the past year.

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