For years I have been trying to figure out how Old Hammond Highway got its name. Any clues?
Toulouse N. Broad
Well, yes. The clue is in its name. In the days before Interstate 10 and U.S. Hwy. 61 were built, there was a road that ran along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. This road was called Hammond Highway because it went to Hammond. It actually connected with another highway and a ferry over Pass Manchac. There's not much of the old highway left anymore.
I have heard rumors for years that the Superdome was haunted because it was built on top of an old African-American cemetery, perhaps the resting place for slaves. Last night I asked a friend, a local architect, if he knew what they did with the remains and what was the history, etc. He then told me that most remains and artifacts were moved to the Hope Mausoleum on Canal Street. He also said that the cemetery was segregated. My question to you is if the wealthier citizens were moved to Hope with their artifacts and tombs, where were the other citizens moved to?
Yes, there are those who believe that the Superdome is haunted, and some of them even use this as an excuse for the poor performance of the football team. But the legend that the New Orleans Saints' end zone rests atop old grave sites is an urban myth. The Girod Cemetery was actually located closer to the Superdome's parking garage and the New Orleans Centre shopping mall.
When the cemetery was deconsecrated in 1957, 55 white families arranged to have their relatives reinterred in Hope Mausoleum, but the majority of the remains of the African Americans buried in the Girod Street Cemetery were moved to a mass grave in Providence Memorial Park.
The cemetery opened in 1822 when a new Protestant burial ground became necessary. Before this, Protestants were buried in a special section of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. But with the 1820s came epidemics of yellow fever and Asiatic cholera, and so many Protestants died that a new cemetery was created in the Faubourg St. Mary.
In 1822, the city had purchased a tract of land to be used as a burial ground for both Protestants and Catholics, although not exactly side by side. The city eventually sold the Protestant tract to Christ Episcopal Church, but the Catholic section remained city property and was never used for burials.
There were many well-known folks who ended their days in the Girod Street Cemetery. Among them were actress Jane Placide, financier Glendy Burke, and politicians Charles Magill Conrad, George Augustus Waggaman and Henry Adams Bullard. Often, however, in years when the epidemics killed thousands, hundreds of unfortunate victims were interred in mass burials beneath a large earthen mound or in shallow trenches.
As the Civil War came to an end, the cemetery was used for burial of African-American Union troops, and it eventually became the graveyard for African Americans with little means. Grave markers were often hand-lettered.
One notable feature of the Girod Street Cemetery was the number of "society tombs," many owned by slaves. Various benevolent organizations and social groups such as the First African Baptist Association and the Male and Female Lutheran Benevolent Society erected the tombs to provide for a dignified burial for its members, especially those who lacked the wherewithal. The best known of these tombs was that of the white New Lusitanos Benevolent Association, erected in 1859.
The problem from the beginning days of the cemetery was its lack of maintenance. Families were expected to take care of the tombs, but many people buried there had no local relatives, and those who did had their graves neglected when the relatives died or moved away. It seems that the cemetery -- located in a disreputable neighborhood -- was ill-maintained from the beginning and was never one that was visited by tourists.
By the 1950s, the cemetery was in a serious state of neglect. Grave robbers looted, the homeless took up residency in empty crypts and prostitutes conducted business amid the ruins.