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Blakeview: FDR visits New Orleans 

The president arrived by train on April 29, 1937

click to enlarge maestri.jpg

This week marks the 80th anniversary of a presidential visit to New Orleans that led to one of the most beloved quotes by a mayor of this city. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his son Elliott arrived in New Orleans by train April 29, 1937. According to diaries kept by the FDR Presidential Library, they visited Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi earlier in the morning. Among the president's first stops at New Orleans was Antoine's Restaurant for lunch. Joining FDR and other dignitaries at the table were Gov. Richard Leche and Mayor Robert Maestri. Maestri, a native New Orleanian with the 9th Ward "yat" accent to match, was urged to say as little as possible to the president. Legend has it that Maestri couldn't resist, however, when FDR was served oysters Rockefeller. The mayor famously asked, "How ya like dem ersters?" After lunch, FDR traveled to City Park to dedicate the Roosevelt Mall, which was named in his honor and built by the Works Progress Administration he established. He also toured the Bonnet Carre Spillway, which recently had been completed. FDR spent the night in New Orleans aboard the U.S.S. Moffett, then departed for Texas and a fishing cruise.

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