When I was a kid, there was an old soldiers' home on Bayou St. John across from City Park. Was this from the Civil War or earlier?
Signal Mountain, Tenn.
The Confederate Soldiers' Home at 1700 Moss St. was built for veterans of the Civil War and was named Camp Nicholls to honor local Civil War Brig. Gen. Francis T. Nicholls, who later was a two-term governor of Louisiana.
In March 1866, shortly after the end of the war, the Louisiana Legislature decided to provide for local veterans, and the result was the Confederate Soldiers' Home for Louisiana. The original home operated in Mandeville until the Reconstruction government stopped funding it. Reconstruction ended in 1877, but it wasn't until 1882 that a reorganized board of commissioners purchased land on Bayou St. John to build a residence for the soldiers.
The new home was dedicated with a ceremony on May 16, 1884. Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's wife made a flag of Louisiana with "Camp Nicholls" embroidered on it, and this flag was raised to the top of a 70-foot pole.
As a special surprise, the Washington Artillery loaned a mounted brass howitzer named "Redemption" for the ceremony and hid it behind a grove of trees. When the canon was fired, folks were startled.
The property where the soldiers' home was built measured 325-by-350 feet and had several buildings already on the grounds, but more buildings were added for living quarters. The property also had amenities such as live oak and magnolia trees, a stocked pond for fishing and vegetable gardens. Years later, several old cannons taken from Spanish Fort were placed at the home, and in 1908, a submarine torpedo boat constructed during the Civil War resided at the grounds until it was moved again in 1942.
Camp Nicholls filled an urgent need for housing among indigent and disabled Civil War veterans, and 25 men became its first residents. By 1901, 117 veterans were living there. During its 60 years of operation, it was home to more than 300 Civil War veterans. After World War II the National Guard established a camp that operated there into the 1970s. Before Hurricane Katrina, the property was occupied by the New Orleans Police Department's 3rd District, special operations division and EMS.
All the buildings on the property were razed in 2009. It is the future home of Deutsches Haus, which moved to Metairie after the building it had occupied for 82 years was demolished in 2011 as part of the University Medical Center/VA hospital complex. Deutsches Haus President Keith Oldendorf says his group will begin clearing the property in January 2013. He says plans are to begin construction in the fall and open in 2014.