Sunday, December 19, 2010
Gayerre Place, Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA
I've been in love with this little vest pocket park since I first saw it when the lady of the house and I ventured to New Orleans last August. We came to the city to see if we would like to move here and we wanted to sample the weather at it's most unbearable. We were sure we could shrug off a Louisiana winter (so far so good) but weren't sure about the deepest doldrums of summer when the temperatures reach one hundred and the humidity is close enough to be a hundred percent that no body bothers to measure anymore.
Gayerre Place is a mystery park. There is no indication why it is there besides the fact that the parcel of land bordered by Esplanade Avenue, Bayou Road and North Tonti Street is too small to house a home or commercial structure, even a snow ball stand.
With it's masonry pedestal and its neo-classical statue, the parklet beggars a descriptive placard. There's a plaque that say's Gayerre Place and that's that. The visitor is left with his or her imagination to fill in the blanks as to why this picturesque monument stands here.
Chales Etienne Arthur Gayerre was known as Louisiana's premiere historian. He as elected to the US Senate in 1835 as a Democrat but immediately resigned for health reasons. After directly traveling to France for a cure (where else would the grandson of New Orleans' first mayor travel?) he researched the documents pertaining to his home state and wrote four volumes on the progress of the Pelican State from founding to his present day.
The statue today is a replica of one that stood during the New Orleans World's Fair in 1884. It is Cleo, The Genius of History, The Goddess of Peace. I'm not clear how these two attributes became conjoined for this Greek Muse who also has a street named after her Uptown, spelled and pronounced differently: Clio (kl-EYE-oh as opposed to the Greek kl-EE-oh).
This gorgeous little triangle of urban green space and civilization is a sort of blank spot on the streetscape. My initial research yields all sorts of conflicting stories that I am interested in getting to the bottom of, sifting the details and weighing the evidence probable and improbable. Much of it is dry as an old dishcloth but, if you are interested as I am, it is interesting stuff. I am going to be passing this site every day and it was my first evidence that New Orleans is a city rich in history outside the Vieux Carre. I am enraptured by Esplanade Avenue, a long neighborhood that bears little resemblance to the surroundings through with it passes. Esplanade Ridge is an interesting slice of New Orleans.
Someone's got to figure it out. I have appointed myself the mission. WK, armchair historian will be at work poring over the records, gleaning the archives, blowing dust off crumpled papers brittle with age, turning the microfiche, and walking the boulevard to query neighbors. Donning a fedora I will be the Indiana Jones of Esplanade Ridge. It's a good thing Whalehead King is a suitably romantic and dramatic moniker for the task ahead. Adventures are sure to follow.
Adventure dogs every step in New Orleans.