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New Orleans Trivia

Where was the town of Mechanikham and what does that name mean?

Blake Pontchartrain: The New Orleans N.O. It All


Hey Blake,

I saw an old document that referred to a town of Mechanikham, I think on the West Bank. Where was that and what does that name mean?

Dear Reader,

  When you say you think this oddly named town was somewhere on the West Bank, you're halfway there. Now, if Ol' Blake told you it was an early name for part of what would become the parish seat of Jefferson Parish, would that give you a hint?

  Mechanikham and other small communities on the West Bank became what we now know as the city of Gretna.

  According to historian and author Betsy Swanson's book, Historic Jefferson Parish: From Shore to Shore, the village of Mechanikham was first developed in 1836. Nearly a century before that, the land was owned by the Ursuline nuns, who were given the property by Spanish Gov. Estevan Miro. The property changed hands several times before it ended up with the Destrehan family, according to Swanson.

  The Destrehans hired a surveyor to draw up plans for a Mechanick's Village or Mechanikham. The names hint at both the area's large German population and its early industry, which included a railroad, foundry, sawmills, ferry landing and other business conducted along the nearby Mississippi River. Mechanikham is described as being little more than rows of buildings lining Copernic Street (later Huey P. Long Avenue) and the two streets on either side. In 1838, the town of Gretna developed below and adjacent to Mechanikham, and the Gretna name eventually applied to both villages. Gretna was incorporated as a city in 1913, and just last year celebrated its 100th anniversary.

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