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Blake Pontchartrain: The orphanages of St. Charles Avenue 

click to enlarge De La Salle High School occupies a site with a long history of serving orphans and educating children.

Photo by Kandace Power Graves

De La Salle High School occupies a site with a long history of serving orphans and educating children.

Hey Blake,

I have heard that there was an orphanage near where De La Salle High School is Uptown. Do you have any information on that?

Dear reader,

  The 5200-5400 blocks of St. Charles Avenue, where De La Salle High School and the Jewish Community Center have been landmarks for decades, actually were home to several orphanages over the years, as well as two important educational institutions.

  In 1860, the Asylum for Destitute Orphan Boys opened its doors in the 5200 block of St. Charles Avenue. Originally chartered in 1815, the orphanage's first facility was destroyed by fire in 1841. It was rebuilt with funds from the estate of philanthropist John McDonogh.

  Nearby, on the corner of St. Charles and Jefferson avenues (then called Peters Avenue), the Jewish Children's Home opened in 1887. The facility relocated there from Jackson Avenue and Chippewa Street, where it opened in 1855 to care for children left homeless by the yellow fever epidemic. The home closed in 1946, and the present-day Jewish Community Center was built on the site in 1966.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY 
KANDACE POWER GRAVES
  • Photo by Kandace Power Graves

  Two other notable institutions that operated in the 5300 block of St. Charles Avenue were important educational facilities for African-Americans. The first was New Orleans University, the city's first institution of higher learning for emancipated blacks. An affiliated prep school was called Gilbert Academy. The two operated within one building until the university merged with Straight College to form Dillard University in 1930.

  Some of Gilbert's notable alumni include music legend Ellis Marsalis, former United Nations Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Audrey "Mickey" Patterson-Tyler, the first black woman to win an Olympic medal. The school closed in 1949 and the structure was demolished. The land was purchased by the Christian Brothers, who built De La Salle High School there. The campus was dedicated in 1952.

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