I just got back from New Orleans. I visited the Union Passenger Terminal and was sad to see the statue had been replaced. I was on vacation in 1954 when I was about 10 years old and had my picture taken in front of it. Do you know who was honored with this statue and what was done with it? Also, do you know any history about Pirates' Alley? I took a tour, and the tour guide didn't know anything about it.
The statue you remember was created in honor of Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the man who founded New Orleans in 1718. However, your memory may be a little hazy as the statue was placed in front of the terminal in April 1955.
The bronze statue, 26 feet high and weighing two tons, was created by sculptor Angela Gregory. Along with Bienville is Father Athanase, the priest who accompanied him and an American Indian who we would like to believe welcomed Bienville with open arms when he arrived.
I am truly sorry you didn't notice that Bienville and company have been given a new home in the French Quarter, where he can survey the city he founded. He is now located on a small, triangular piece of ground surrounded by Decatur, Conti, and North Peters streets. It is believed that Bienville's statue now stands within a few blocks of his actual landing place.
The little corner lot, occupied by businesses in the 19th century and later a gas station and a parking lot, was considered for a park as early as 1968. But not until 1988 did the Vieux Carre Commission give its approval to the idea of a park for the 3,000-square-foot site which would include benches, trees, and a monument. However, there was no plan at that time to move Bienville, and the park would be called Conti Park.
When the park finally materialized, the decision was made to move Bienville from Union Passenger Terminal and call the park Bienville Place. Several factors were influential in this decision, including cost -- moving the existing monument would be cheaper than creating a new one -- and the fact that more people would be able to see the magnificent statue at the new location. So in 1996, it was removed from the front of the terminal, and in 1997 Bienville took up residence in the French Quarter.
The next time you return to our city, please go pay Bienville a visit. I'm sure he'll be happy to pose for another picture.
And while you're in the city, pay another visit to Pirates' -- sometimes spelled Pirate's or Pirates -- Alley. As you probably remember, it is located on one side of the St. Louis Cathedral. However, that is not its real name.
When the city was laid out, Orleans Street ended behind the cathedral, the third church on this spot. In 1831, Orleans Street stopped at Royal Street and the cathedral garden was created. Then, two passageways were created on each side of the cathedral and named North Orleans and South Orleans streets. Today, the streets have been renamed Pere Antoine Alley and Orleans Alley, also know as Pirates' Alley.
The Pere Antoine for whom one of the alleys is known is Antonio de Sedella, a Capuchin priest who arrived in New Orleans in 1779 when Miro was the Spanish governor. For a time, Sedella was appointed Commissioner of the Holy Inquisition in New Orleans, a job he didn't want. Miro was not too pleased either, and one evening Sedella was put aboard a ship back to Spain. He eventually returned to New Orleans where he was made rector of the St. Louis Cathedral. At this job he was successful and beloved by one and all, even the French, who called him Pere Antoine.
The other alley, Pirates' Alley, is romantically connected to Jean Lafitte and his Baratarians. It makes for a good story to tell the tourists, but one completely without merit.
More importantly, Pirates' Alley was the home of Nobel laureate William Faulkner, who lived at #624 while writing his first novel in 1925. Today, the Faulkner House is a national literary landmark.