What's with the fountains under the I-10 at Canal Street? It looks like they were built after the highway, which means someone decided that was a good place for fountains. If they were built before the highway, that means someone decided that covering them with a highway was a good idea.
They were built long after the interstate highway that ruined Claiborne Avenue in the 1960s. The idea was in the planning stage in 1976, but the fountains were never built until 1984. As you might guess, they were built to beautify the neutral ground for the New Orleans World's Fair that year. The fountains were supposed to be a landmark to remind visitors they were entering world-renowned Canal Street. The Canal/Claiborne Beautification project cost $1 million.
The state of Louisiana built the fountains — five on each side of Canal Street — and the City of New Orleans promised to maintain them. For a while, the fountains worked and were really attractive. But they attracted homeless people, who began living under the shade of Interstate 10. After a while, plumbing problems and vandalism forced the city to shut down the fountains' pumps.
In 2001, the city decided to restore the fountains, replacing three of the four recycling pumps and cleaning the drains. It was time to beautify the city for another influx of tourists — this time for the 2002 Super Bowl.
And then came Hurricane Katrina.
I've been to concerts in Palmer Park on Carrollton Avenue near South Claiborne Avenue, and I would like to know who the park was named for.
Initially named Hamilton Park, the park at the intersection of Carrollton and South Claiborne avenues was renamed for Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, who died in New Orleans in 1902.
Palmer was born in Charleston, S.C., in 1818. He attended Amherst College, the University of Georgia and the Columbia Theological Seminary. He began preaching in Savannah, Ga., and came to New Orleans in 1856 to become the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, where he remained until his death. In 1902, he was struck by a streetcar and died 20 days later.
Palmer was considered one of the greatest preachers in the South and one of the most influential religious figures of the 19th century. He is most famous for a sermon he delivered on Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, 1860. The sermon was published in newspapers and pamphlets throughout the South. One of his fellow preachers said he sermon "confirmed and strengthened those who were in doubt; it gave directness and energy to public sentiment — so that perhaps no other public utterance during that trying period of anxiety and hesitancy did so much to bring New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana squarely and fully to the side of secession and the Confederacy." In this stirring sermon, Palmer came out strongly in favor of slavery.
In 1891, Palmer spoke out against the Louisiana Lottery, operated by ex-Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. His speech helped end the lottery.
Palmer is remembered here in New Orleans by Palmer Park and Palmer Avenue but not Palmer School. Given Palmer's views on slavery, the school originally named in his honor was renamed to commemorate Lorraine Hansberry, the African-American author of the play A Raisin in the Sun.