Can you tell me why there is a school in City Park?
There is a school in City Park because the grand house once owned by William Harding McFadden was taken over in 1949 by Samuel Barthe, who ran a school for young boys in grades one through six. Barthe taught the boys self-reliance as he emphasized athletics and the fundamentals. In the summers, Barthe operated a coeducational day camp that included lots of competitive swimming.
In 1959, Sam Barthe gave up his lease. Then for a year the building sat vacant while folks tossed around ideas for its use. Then the board of directors agreed to the Christian Brothers proposal to continue using the home for a school. So in September 1960 they began their school for boys in grades five through seven.
But you must also want to know why there was a private residence in the park in the first place. So I'll tell you.
In the 1920s, City Park was growing as it acquired new land. In the vicinity where the school is was a bit of property that the park did not own. On the lot was a house originally built by Fred Bertrand in 1909 who sold the small, five-bedroom residence and its land to McFadden in 1919. McFadden was an oil millionaire from Fort Worth, Texas, and he planned to set up a branch of his business in New Orleans.
Of course, a wealthy man like McFadden couldn't live in a shack, so he rebuilt the house. His mansion now included seven bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a ballroom, trophy room, drawing rooms and a giant indoor swimming pool lined with marble. And the mansion had to be surrounded by beautiful gardens, so McFadden got himself a Danish groundskeeper, Wilhelm Pedersen, who put a sunken garden on one side of the house and an Oriental garden on the other. Then McFadden arranged for a lovers' lane to the garden, complete with an iron arbor, bamboo canes, roses and wisteria vines.
McFadden, a self-made millionaire of humble beginnings, had estates in Ft. Worth, Oklahoma, and Colorado as well, but he and his wife liked to come to New Orleans for the racing season, Mardi Gras and Sugar Bowl games. He was a great sportsman, and once during the 1941 New Orleans Open Golf Tournament in City Park, he opened the mansion to 50 golfers who were invited to a breakfast and served pheasant under glass.
McFadden maintained friendly relations with the City Park Board that eventually made him an honorary member. He paid for many improvements to the park; one in particular was a Girl Scout cabin.
Eventually, McFadden gave up trying to maintain his mansion as it became difficult to keep private a residence in a major public park. So in December 1943, he sold his estate to the park. In exchange for $40,000 to be paid to McFadden over four years, the park got the mansion, four acres of land, three houses and a greenhouse.
For about a year, the park looked for suitable tenants. They finally leased it to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Louisiana Southern Forest Experiment Station, and for the next six years, the grounds were covered with sugar cane and other specialty crops.
And this brings us to 1949, and the answer to your question.
What area is included in "Greater New Orleans"? My knowledge of it is Orleans, Jefferson, Tammany and St. Bernard parishes. Am I correct?
You are almost correct. While the term "Greater New Orleans" is not an official designation, you will hear it used and frequently defined by the media differently from time to time. There is, however, an official United States census designation called a "Metropolitan Area." For the 2000 census, the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes.
You can't get much "Greater" than that!