Columns » Blake Pontchartrain: New Orleans Trivia

Where exactly in City Park are the Dueling Oaks and the Suicide Oak?

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Hey Blake,

Where exactly in City Park are the Dueling Oaks and the Suicide Oak?

Greg

Dear Greg,

  The live oak trees of New Orleans City Park are among its finest features, which is saying something when you consider the multitude of attractions, both natural and man-made, within the 1,300-acre park.

  The two oaks you ask about have been a part of City Park lore for more than a century. The Dueling Oaks take their name from the fact that men would sometimes meet under them to settle disputes with a duel.

  "They served as a favorite spot at which affairs of honor were settled by sword or pistol in the days when satisfaction for an insult was obtained by spilling blood," explains the 1938 WPA Guide to New Orleans. Dueling in the park was outlawed in 1890, but stories of what happened under those trees remain. The oaks, well over 100 years old, were located near what is now the New Orleans Museum of Art. One of them was destroyed by a hurricane in 1949, but the other still stands. You'll find it where the aptly named Dueling Oaks Drive meets Dreyfous Drive near the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden and New Orleans Museum of Art.

  Located on Victory Avenue near Marconi Drive, Suicide Oak was said to be the spot where the depressed and despondent went to end their lives. The tree itself has had some dark days: It lost two giant limbs in the 1980s, one of which still dangles beneath the tree.

  Although City Park lost approximately 2,000 trees after Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches, its comeback has been remarkable. Planting new trees — alongside centuries-old ones like the Dueling Oak, Suicide Oak and even older trees — is a constant process and takes lots of donations of money and time.

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