I was raised in the vicinity of the Stallings Center on St. Claude Avenue. Just who was Stallings?
Not only will I tell you who Stallings was, but I'll throw in a bonus piece of information about who St. Claude was just because it's interesting. The New Orleans Recreations Department's Stallings St. Claude Community Center and playground was named for Olive A. Stallings (1860-1940), who became known as the city's "playground mother" for donating money to finance playgrounds in New Orleans.
The Stallings center was built in 1948 to give residents of the 9th Ward a place to congregate, lift weights, play basketball and other sports, and take classes such as ballet and ceramics. The center also had a swimming pool that was open during the summer.
The main building, which sat on the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Lesseps Street, was demolished earlier this year because of damage it sustained during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The community center was a staging point for rescuers to pick up residents stranded by floods from the floodwall breaks and take them to safety. Last fall, FEMA declared the community center building eligible for demolition and rebuilding. It was torn down earlier this year, and the mayor's office announced it would be replaced and the pool repaired late next year.
As for St. Claude, he may not be able to answer your prayers like a canonized saint, but he was beloved for the mark he left on the city. The area near St. Bernard Avenue and North Rampart Street was once part of the plantation of Claude Treme. According to John Chase's book Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children and Other Streets of New Orleans, the city purchased the land for $40,000, then divided it into squares and lots. There was a practice in New Orleans at the time to attach the saintly prefix to the names of mere mortals when naming things after them. So the major thoroughfare, which was named in honor of Claude Treme, became St. Claude Avenue.