Friday, June 11, 2010

The Walk To The Garden District

While on our way to seek out Lafayette Cemetery yesterday, John and I passed through quite a few New Orleans neighborhoods including the Central Business District, Central City and the Garden District. The Garden District was once home to a number of plantations and was then sold off to affluent Americans who did not want to live in the French Quarter with the Creoles. Legend has it that the Americans surrounded their houses with the large gardens that give the district its name so that the Americans, who were downwind of the Creoles, did not have to smell them. Whether or not this is true, I don't know, but the area was certainly very pretty.

Soon, however, it became apparent that we were crossing into a sketchier part of New Orleans. We had apparently veered into Central City from St. Charles Avenue and, while we felt safe at first, John and I slowly became uneasy. We passed by a number of vacant buildings which we thought were possibly attributed to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. As we pushed further into the neighborhood, things became eerily quiet. There were no children playing, no cars moving, and no air conditioners running. Such extreme silence in a large city is never a good thing. Even the birds had stopped chirping, as if they had sensed some danger and gotten the flock out of there. As it turns out, back in mid-2006, Central City was considered the most dangerous part of New Orleans. However, a large part of Central City was above the flood level which devastated the majority of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This gave greater attention to Central City in plans for post-Katrina redevelopment of New Orleans. So, the neighborhood has been getting better. John and I learned all of this from a friendly AmeriCorps team we encountered about two blocks away from the silent zone.

It's nice to see that a noticeable amount of attention is being paid to restoring parts of the city that were either damaged by the hurricane or fell into disrepair. Though my time in New Orleans has been very short, I have developed an admiration and appreciation for the people of the city and their unique culture. I'm glad New Orleans is making a comeback.

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