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What is McDonoghville? 

Blake Pontchartrain: The New Orleans N.O. It All

click to enlarge A sign near the levee in Gretna 
denotes McDonoghville, founded in 
the early 19th century by philanthropist John McDonogh.

COURTESY CREATIVE COMMONS/ NOLA.AGENT

A sign near the levee in Gretna denotes McDonoghville, founded in the early 19th century by philanthropist John McDonogh.

Hey Blake,

I saw a notice about Gretna's bicentennial celebration of McDonoghville. What is that?

Teedy Lee

Dear Teedy,

  Established in 1815, McDonoghville is the oldest subdivision in Gretna — and in all of Jefferson Parish, in fact. McDonoghville takes its name from philanthropist and wealthy landowner John McDonogh. He was regarded by many as a miser, but when he died in 1850, his will called for the majority of his fortune to be used for the creation of public schools here and in his native Baltimore.

  In 1813, McDonogh purchased land along the West Bank of the Mississippi River that would become McDonoghville. He himself lived there in the old Monplaisir plantation home. In April 1815, McDonogh had vast acres of land divided into lots for sale and lease. In his book The Legacy of John McDonogh, historian G. Leighton Ciravolo notes that while McDonogh was a slave owner, he "sold some lots to free people of color and provided the poor with long-term leases with low rent, opportunities not easily found in the South in 1815."

  Among the former residents of McDonoghville who spoke at the bicentennial event last month were Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who recalled one neighborhood that was called Freetown, for people of color. According to the City of Gretna website, in the late 19th century, McDonoghville, by then an important railroading center, was also known as Gouldsboro, named for railroad magnate Jay Gould.

  The Orleans section of McDonoghville became part of Algiers in 1870, when the Fifth Municipal District was created. In 1913, the new Village of Gretna annexed most of the Jefferson Parish portion of McDonoghville. In current-day Gretna, the McDonoghville Historic District is roughly bounded by Ocean Avenue and Bringier Street, Hancock Street and the Mississippi River. You can find a map at www.tinyurl.com/McDonoghville.

  Three McDonogh schools were built within McDonoghville, though only one, McDonogh 26, remains. McDonoghville Cemetery, originally established by McDonogh for his slaves, remains a Gretna landmark. McDonogh's original tomb is there, though his remains were moved to Baltimore in 1860.

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