“That note you hold, narrowing and rising, shakes Like New Orleans reflected on the water”
With Halloween this weekend, I thought I’d take a look at some of New Orleans’s finest, ghostliest locations. These sites and buildings were once something that they are no longer. They are shells, they are ponderous, and they are many. As you read, enjoy these blues from Sidney Bechet, and don’t forget to click the names to find out where these places are. You may just want to visit.
While Louisiana on the whole has experienced widespread land loss due to drilling and canal dredging since 1932, there are few places within city limits to see the effects of such practices so strikingly as the Ghost Swamp off of Florida Ave. The once verdant and mucky swamp that played host to scores of alligators, nutria, pelicans, and cypress trees has all but disappeared since the Mississippi River—Gulf Outlet Canal was completed in 1965. Constructed to facilitate easier travel for deep hulled vessels between the river and the Gulf of Mexico, the canal also disrupted the natural silt deposit and barrier island creating flow of the river, invited saltwater into freshwater marshes, and provided a direct path to the city for Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. In attempt to stave off future damage, the MRGO was closed in 2009, but the ghosts yet remain. Bare cypress skeletons and the water’s whisper await you, dreamy traveler.
This long defunct power station has been in the eyes of developers since it first powered down in 1973, but no plan big or small has yet taken hold. Built in 1905 to supply power to the surrounding Warehouse and Garden Districts, the plant rose to prominence in 1922, when a City Commission mandate called for a reordering of the then cluttered and inefficient power industry. Replacing over 200 gas, electric, and streetcar suppliers that had competed for market shares since 1800, the city founded New Orleans Public Service Inc. as a single entity service, and the Market St. plant became the principal supplier for the entire city. Since its heyday, however, and a bad hand dealt during Katrina, the plant has remained in a decaying state. In early 2007, Entergy New Orleans sold the property for $10 million to Market St. Properties LLC, who had plans to turn the old plant into a luxury hotel, but a lack of funds eventually caused the Miami based developers to foreclose. As of today, the building stands as a fantastic industrial era ornament on the riverfront, staring down the hungry tide with its sturdy brick face and proud smokestacks.
Gone are the days of the Mega Zeph and the Zydeco Scream, gone too is any trace of former glee and dizzied excitement in this abandoned amusement park. Leased for 75 years by the Six Flags Corporation in 2002, Jazzland became Six Flags New Orleans and lit the New Orleans East skyline until it closed before Hurricane Katrina. Wrecked and flooded in the wake of the storm, the park sat for years while Six Flags tried to collect on insurance and Mayor Nagin tried to hold them in their lease. But, the bill couldn’t hold, and plans for redevelopment flopped in 2009 when the city fined Six Flags $3 million dollars and forced them to vacate the ambitious lease. Abandoned to nature, the 224 acre park awaits the next great plan. Weeds, however, do not wait, finding as they do any available pavement crack. Hollywood is eager, too. Get in before they build a better fence.
Constructed during World War I and closed in 2011, this 1.5 million square foot site and five story parking garage in the Bywater is a big, overgrown question posed by the City of New Orleans. First used as a quartermaster’s depot and later as an office complex in 1966, when Congressman F. Edward Hebert played an instrumental role in filling it with Navy and Marine Corps Commands and their staff; the buildings belong to the city as of 2013. Looking through the fence on Poland Ave. or walking the levee that borders the backside of the buildings and the Industrial Canal may afford you views of the Cape Kennedy and Cape Knox, two Maritime Administration military cargo ships currently docked at Poland Ave. In the years to come, the site may provide housing or a center for disaster relief. But for now, now the basketball court is tall with grass, and a puddle reflects the underside of a parking awning. Reflect, reflect, reflect.
Charity Hospital used to be the oldest running hospital in the country. Erected in 1736, Charity Hospital was the hospital you went to if you were poor or middle class. While this service was much needed and appreciated, it also led to sub-standard medical practices. Charity Hospital stood proudly in the middle of downtown New Orleans until three weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Even though the hospital had been cleaned for re-opening, the doors were locked and employees were left on their own for new work. Almost 10 years later, Charity remains desolate and abandoned in the middle of the city. Lindy Boggs Center in Mid-City is another very popular abandoned place for urban explorers. Check out some of these amazing photos from urban explorer Devin Derbes to see what remains.
WARNING: RED BEANS AND LIFE DOES NOT PROMOTE UNSAFE OR ILLEGAL TRESPASSING. IF YOU GET CAUGHT, IT AIN’T OUR FAULT.