First, do you know when the phrase "City that Care Forgot" originated, and what it originally meant? I like to think it refers to a place where one can forget one's cares for awhile, a carefree place. But I sometimes hear people use the phrase in other ways, such as a place where the virtue "care" has been neglected or a place upon which a personified "care" has forgotten to shine.
I am also interested in learning the origination of some Louisiana place names: Algiers, Angola (the prison) and Congo Square.
New Orleans has many nicknames, but few can be traced to the person who actually coined the expression. In 1938, the Federal Writers' Project of Louisiana produced the New Orleans City Guide, and this is the first time I ever saw the phrase in writing. In the introduction, the authors wrote, "Traditionally the city that care forgot, New Orleans is, perhaps, best known for its liberal attitude toward human frailties, its 'Live and Let Live' policy." But I'd heard folks using the phrase even before that.
The name for Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, is much easier to pin down. In 1869, Maj. Samuel James of the Confederate Army became the man in charge of the Louisiana corrections system for the next 31 years. In 1880, James purchased an 8,000-acre plantation in West Feliciana Parish and began keeping some prisoners there. The plantation was called Angola after the nation in Africa that had been the homeland of many of the former slaves. Maj. James kept the name.
Congo Square is the unofficial name for an open space in the southern corner of Louis Armstrong Memorial Park. In Colonial days, there were five forts protecting the city, and Fort St. Ferdinand was one of them. In 1804 it was demolished, and the land was incorporated into the City Commons. In this area was a square of land called Circus Place, but it also was known as Congo Square, because even before 1800, slaves had gathered there on Sundays to socialize.
By the 1840s, use of the area had declined. Then in 1851, Congo Square became the new Place d'Armes and was used for military drills after the original Place d'Armes was renamed Jackson Square. On March 24, 1893, Congo Square got its present-day official name: Beauregard Square. It was named to honor the recently deceased Civil War hero P.G.T. Beauregard.
Today Congo Square continues to be an important gathering place for brass band parades, protest marches and drum circles, and is appreciated for its historic links with early African-American music.
The naming of Algiers is questionable, and there are many theories from which you can choose. In the 18th century, the land was one of the king's plantations, land granted to Bienville in 1719. As time went by it was given the names of Duverjeburg, Point Antoine, Point Marigny and Slaughter House Point. Around 1830, the name "Algiers" started to show up in legal documents and on maps, and by 1840 just about everyone called it by that name.
It has been suggested that Algiers was named because of the fact that Jean Lafitte and the Barataria pirates spent time there. A connection was made between our Algiers and our local pirates to the pirates on the Barbary Coast in North Africa who terrorized ships on the Mediterranean for 300 years.
Another theory for the naming of Algiers came from the difficult transition in the late 1760s when Spain took over the colony from France. Gen. Don Alexander O'Reilly had been sent by Spain to forcibly take control. In the process, several Frenchmen were hung for attempting to revolt. One of O'Reilly's soldiers had been in Algeria fighting a battle for Spain, and it was he who suggested the name for this point across the river.
Algiers was incorporated as a city in 1840 and became the 15th Ward when it was annexed by the City of New Orleans in 1870. In 1978, Algiers Point was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1994, it was designated a local historic district. It's the only city in America with this name.