NEW ORLEANS // HISTORY
NEW ORLEANS: A TIMELINE OF ECONOMIC HISTORY BY RICHARD CAMPANELLA, TULANE UNIVERSITY
rench colonials founded New Orleans mercantilist node after the Louisiana in 1718 as a headquarters for a com- Purchase in 1803, as Americans moved F mercial land-development scheme westward and needed a downriver tran- for their 1682 claim of the Louisiana shipment port to which they could export territory, and as a bulwark against English 1718 their agricultural surpluses, and from NEW ORLEANS and Spanish expansion into the lower FOUNDED which new steamboats could return with Mississippi Valley. The city floundered in by French Colonials imports. Vast sugar and cotton plantations the colonial era but developed into a major near New Orleans, with their insatiable
demand for enslaved labor, made New fields along the lower Mississippi to petro- Orleans the premier slave-trading city in leum processing and chemical industries, the United States, as well as the legal, “ abetted by ocean-going shipping and the financial, and commodities-handling growth of Louisiana’s onshore, nearshore, capital of the South. Throughout the and later off-shore oil-and-gas extraction antebellum era, the port ranked second industry. With manufacturing in decline only to New York in traffic, while the after the war, New Orleans rebounded city’s population doubled roughly every with oil-and-gas related employment. fifteen years, making New Orleans the Technological changes in the shipping largest city in the South and at one industry, meanwhile, replaced thousands point the third-largest in the nation. of dockworkers with containerization But the concurrent development of technology, to which the city responded by manmade waters like the Erie Canal developing its service sector for the leisure (1825), plus a network of railroads and business tourism industry. The city (1830s-1850s) linking the trans-Appala- that came onto the world stage as a river/ chian West directly with the Northeast, The city ocean shipping port specializing in agricul- increasingly gave shippers alternatives tural commodities entered the twenty-first to the Mississippi River route to market. floundered in century resting primarily on the tourism-
While New Orleans’ western commerce the colonial era dominated service sector, port industries, increased in absolute numbers, its relative and the oil and gas sector. share diminished. Coupled with the Civil but developed The deluge triggered by Hurricane
War and the ensuing economic, social, Katrina in 2005 brought great tragedy and and racial upheaval, New Orleans found into a major great change. The postdiluvian city bustled its trajectory of metropolitan ascendency with recovery investments and witnessed reversed by the late 1800s. mercantilist an influx of young, educated creative The city reinvented itself at the turn node after the“ people who have introduced entrepreneur- of the twentieth century by modernizing ial energy to the city, adding to the local its port, investing in municipal improve- Louisiana cultural renaissance. Employment rates ments in drainage, water distribution, have remained consistently well below the transportation, and electrification, and Purchase in national average since 2008, and hous- encouraging the development of a manu- ing values have seen none of the flux of facturing sector. Institutions of higher 1803. markets like California and Florida. The education formed and developed national city’s media and entertainment sector, par- reputations, particularly in the area of ticularly the film industry, has gone from medical research. River traffic revived dur- negligible to national-class in less than a ing World War I, as the nation upgraded decade, earning the region the moniker its inland waterways system and barge “Hollywood South.” With an improved fleet and the Mississippi River enjoyed a public education system and a new hur- rebirth of domestic traffic. New Orleans ricane risk-reduction system complete as of especially boomed during World War II, June 2012, New Orleans finds itself well- when major ship-building and armaments positioned for an economic resurgence. industries brought tens of thousands of The following timeline supplements rural workers into the city and the port the above summary with additional details became the point of embarkation for hun- on the economic history and geography dreds of thousands of troops. The 1940s of New Orleans, from prehistoric times to also saw the conversion of the sugar cane the present.
7 NEW ORLEANS // HISTORY
PREHISTORY 1793-1795 Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and Etienne Boré’s Prehistoric Indigenous granulation of Louisiana sugar peoples occupy Mississippi help launch Southern planta- delta and discover key tion economy. Both commodi- shortcuts between Gulf of ties enrich New Orleans while Mexico and Mississippi River; entrenching slavery in region. future New Orleans site, lying on one such portage, becomes 1800s trading site and encampment. 1800 Spain secretly retrocedes Louisiana to militarily power- 1600s ful France. 1682 La Salle claims 1803 Slave revolt in Saint- Mississippi Valley and deltaic Domingue, impending war, plain for France; names it and need for money inspires Louisiana in honor of his king. Napoleon to sells entire Louisiana colony to U.S.; New 1699 France colonizes Louisiana for military, impe- Orleans, now in progressive American hands, is foreseen rial, and economic reasons. to become one of richest and most important cities in na- 1700s tion, hemisphere, and world. Canal and Carondelet Streets circa 1860. 1712-1717 French crown cedes 1809 Over 9000 Saint- struggling Louisiana colony Domingue (Haitian) refugees as commercial monopoly arrive to New Orleans via city for lighting and other command of Mississippi Valley to Antoine Crozat and later Cuba. purposes. trade. John Law, who establishes 1812 Louisiana admitted to 1835 New Orleans and 1851 A peak of 52,011 Company of the West, launch- Union as eighteenth state. es international campaign to Carrollton Rail Road installed immigrants arrive to New lure settlers, and resolves to 1812 First Mississippi River on present-day St. Charles Orleans, making city primary establish New Orleans. steamboat arrives; with Avenue, precipitating uptown immigration port in South and hinterland under intensive development. second only to New York for 1718 Bienville establishes New cultivation, new transporta- most years between 1837 and 1836-1838 Municipal Orleans at the present-day tion technology positions New 1860. French Quarter. It becomes Orleans to become principal market system begins steady “Cotton District” forms Louisiana capital and company Southern city. expansion. 1850s around Gravier/Carondelet headquarters in 1722. 1840 New Orleans, by one 1825 Erie Canal connects Great intersection; becomes New measure, ranks as fourth 1719 First large group of Lakes with Hudson River; Orleans’ Wall Street. Africans arrives to New gives New York City access to busiest commercial port in Orleans, commencing four- West, suddenly challenging Western world, exceeded only 1861-1865 Louisiana secedes teen decades of slavery. New Orleans’ monopoly on by London, Liverpool, and from Union. War ends early Mississippi Valley trade. New York. for New Orleans as federal 1762-1769 French and Indian troops occupy city in May Destrehan Canal dug to War costs France most of its 1825-1830 Louisville and 1840s 1862. Region’s slave-based connect Mississippi River with New World colonies; dominion Portland Canal circumvents plantation economy collapses of New Orleans passes to waterfalls on Ohio River; ben- Bayou Barataria and Barataria forever; era of human enslave- Spain. efits New Orleans by providing Bay. ment ends after 143 years. uninterrupted shipping to Market is founded along 1850 New telegraph lines South and Southern agricul- 1791 Pittsburgh. lower-city riverfront; “French speed city’s communication ture is devastated; shipping Market” becomes keystone of 1830s Pontchartrain Railroad links with adjacent cities and commerce to New Orleans extensive municipal food-re- and New Basin Canal give city points downriver. interrupted; federal presence and post-war racial tensions tailing system and birthplace access to lake trade. 1850s New railroads in alter social landscape. of American tropical-fruit 1834 First successful gas Northeast introduce new industry; today serves as node company brings new fuel to competition on New Orleans’ 1860s-1870s Ice manufactur- in tourist economy. ing and refrigerated shipping
8 neworleansnewopportunities abets food industries; wealthy demographic to area. 1905-1910 New home canals, revetments, and other expands list of commodities Loyola University follows in construction commences in devices. transhipped at New Orleans. 1910 recently platted Lakeview sub- 1937-1943 Housing Authority division, drained from marsh 1860s-1870s Railroads con- 1890s-1900s Purification and of New Orleans clears selected only a few years earlier. nect city with Biloxi, Mobile, distribution plant is construct- historic neighborhoods to Pensacola, and points east. ed in Carrollton, bringing city 1910s-1940s Gentilly is construct subsidized housing developed on and near Gentilly projects. 1875-1879 With sedimenta- into modern age of municipal Ridge topographic feature in tion delaying shipping traffic water systems. 1940 Moisant Airfield is Seventh and Eighth wards. at mouth of Mississippi, 1890s-1900s Steel-frame con- established in Kenner to sup- Capt. James Eads constructs struction and concrete pilings 1917 Xavier University found- plant Lakefront Airport; later parallel jetties at South Pass. are introduced; first genera- ed. Nation’s only black Catholic becomes Louis Armstrong Structures deepen channel tion of high-rises erected in institution of higher learning New Orleans International and allow ocean-going vessels CBD and upper French Quarter reflects New Orleans’ distinct Airport. Creole heritage; consistently to enter river promptly. transforms city’s skyline. 1941-1945 As nation fights Coupled with development of leads nation in production of 1893-1898 Streetcar lines are World War II, New Orleans Mississippi River barges and African-American scientists serves as major ingress and electrified throughout city. and Ph.D.’s. new Southern railroads, Eads’ egress for matériel and troops, jetties help city rebound from 1896-1915 World-class 1918-1923 Dock Board base for ships and aircraft, post-war slump. drainage system is installed to excavates Industrial Canal to and manufacturing center remove runoff and groundwa- 1877 Federal troops withdraw; connect river and lake, provide for Higgins landing craft New Orleans’ turbulent oc- ter in low-lying backswamp; shortcut to gulf, and create and a wide range of other cupation and Reconstruction urban development begins to new private deep-water wharf armaments. spread toward lake. space. Port activity shifts era ends. Postwar attempts 1940s Federal government to Industrial Canal area by toward legislating civil rights 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson estab- encourages development mid-1900s. for emancipated peoples are lishes “separate but equal” of petrochemical refining derailed in favour of white legal precedent, entrenching 1920s Association of capability along River Road. supremacist state and local segregation in South for next Commerce Convention and 1946-1961 Mayor de Lesseps government; Confederacy half-century; public facilities Tourism Bureau promotes “Chep” Morrison oversees essentially loses the war but and accommodations in New New Orleans as tourism post-war modernization of wins the peace. Orleans are legally segregated destination; modern tourist city’s infrastructure, includ- by race. industry comes into form, 1879 Mississippi River ing unification of passenger with new luxury hotels and Commission ends era of 1899-1902 Sicilian-born rail lines into Union Station first night clubs on Bourbon localism in the construction Vaccaro brothers and Russian- and new Duncan Plaza civic Street opening. and maintenance of levees; born Samuel Zemurray complex on Loyola Avenue. commences modern era of independently start importing 1926-1934 Ambitious 1954 Brown v. Board of federal authority over flood Lakefront Project protects bananas from Central America Education Supreme Court de- and navigation control of city from storm surges while through New Orleans, advanc- cision reverses 1896 Plessy v. Mississippi River and major creating high, scenic acreage ing city’s long-time domina- Ferguson ruling on “separate tributaries. for residences, parks, facilities, tion of tropical fruit industry. but equal” public schools. and airport. Project radically 1870s-1910s Remarkable era City and state drag their feet alters city’s geography and of innovation, particularly in 1900s for six years before slowly accelerates population shift electrification, transporta- and reluctantly commencing toward Lake Pontchartrain. tion, and communications, 1900s-1920s Dock Board integration process. transforms New Orleans and modernizes port facilities, 1927 Great Mississippi River 1954-1962 Old River Control other American cities. constructing riverside ware- Flood inundates valley, Structure is built to prevent houses, grain elevators, threatens New Orleans, and 1884-1885 World’s Industrial Mississippi from abandoning canals, and new dock space. inspires controversial (and and Cotton Centennial channel and jumping into Mayor Martin Behrman ultimately unnecessary) Exposition, held at Audubon Atchafalaya, by allocating oversees important civic dynamiting of levee in lower Park, fails financially but suc- flow at government-approved improvements, including new parishes. Disaster transforms ceeds culturally and acceler- 70-to-30 ratio. drainage, sewerage, and water federal river-control policy ates uptown urbanization. systems; expansion of city from “levees-only” to one 1950s-1960s Containerization 1894 Tulane University services and public education; of massively augmented technology radically alters relocates uptown, eventually and creation of Public Belt levees, floodwalls, spillways, port, diminishing labor needs attracting well-educated and Railroad. control structures, reservoirs, and altering riverfront land
9 NEW ORLEANS // HISTORY
use while empowering smaller ports like Mobile and Gulfport to compete with New Orleans. 1955 Pontchartrain Park becomes city’s first modern suburban-style subdivision in which black citizens may purchase homes. 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act commences immense effort to build interstate highway system; New Orleans is even- tually connected to nation via I-10 and I-610 plus nearby I-12, I-55, and I-59. 1958 First downtown Mississippi River Bridge opens. A view of the Central Business District from New Orleans’ industrial canal.
1958-1968 Mississippi mechanizes. Oil industry 1966 Competition with 1983-1984 Worldwide oil crash River-Gulf Outlet Canal brings outside investment Houston inspires widening of hits city; devastates Gulf excavated in St. Bernard and and professionals to New Poydras Street as showcase Coast and other petroleum- Plaquemines parishes. “MR- Orleans; triggers construction corporate corridor. Plan fore- based economies. GO” gives ocean-going traffic of downtown skyscrapers sees need for major traffic- shorter alternate route to 1984 Louisiana World and “Houstonization” of generating anchors at each Exposition fails financially but Port of New Orleans and helps city. Containerized shipping end of Poydras: Rivergate develop Industrial Canal / Gulf helps spark economic develop- technology replaces many Exhibition Hall (1968) at river ment in Warehouse District Intracoastal Waterway as new longshoremen and sailors; end, Superdome (1975) at center of port activity. But and reintroduces citizens to requires less waterfront lake end. riverfront. 75-mile-long waterway also space and frees up riverfront 1966 Simultaneous erection causes coastal erosion and for recreational use. As oil 1985-1986 New Orleans East of International Trade Mart salt-water intrusion, requires industry rises, port-related land development com- and Plaza Tower, city’s first constant dredging, and employment declines. pany, poised to urbanize over provides storm surge pathway modern skyscrapers, symbol- 20,000 acres of marsh, fails to reach populated areas. 1960-1968 Construction of izes rising oil-related wealth amid oil bust; area becomes seven major hotels introduces and new piling technology. Bayou Savauge National 1959 After 107 years at historic 3000 new rooms into French 1967 Saints NFL franchise Wildlife Refuge. Lafayette Square, City Hall Quarter; commences era brings professional football to relocates to new Duncan Plaza of large-scale tourism and Mid 1990s-early 2000s New Orleans, making it a “big complex. nightly pedestrian-mall carni- Tourist and service economy league city.” 1960 New Orleans population val on Bourbon Street. Boom replaces port and oil as lead peaks at 627,525, fifteenth precipitates moratorium on 1970 Jazz and Heritage job producer. Hotel capacity largest American city. any new Quarter hotels, in at- Festival is held at present-day skyrockets to 37,000 rooms, tempt to balance commercial Congo Square; soon grows accommodating ten million 1960-1964 Civil rights move- and residential use. into flagship event in city’s annual visitors. ment, court orders, and Civil cultural economy. Rights Act of 1964 hasten end 1963-1972 Coast-to-coast 2000s of de jure segregation. City I-10 and affiliated interstates 1975 Louisiana Superdome finally passes its own public are constructed through New is completed, transforming 2000 New Orleans population accommodations ordinances Orleans, including Claiborne skyline and breathing new life declines to 484,674, thirty- at end of decade. White Overpass through Faubourg into CBD. first largest city in nation. flight, followed by general Treme. But additional plan for 1976 Promenade “Moonwalk” Federal gov- middle-class flight, sends Riverfront Expressway front- Early 2000s opens on French Quarter riv- ernment’s HOPE program New Orleans population into ing French Quarter is defeated erfront; signifies change from seeks to end concentra- its first decline, which ensues after intense opposition. port activity to recreation, as tion of poverty in isolated for decades to come. 1965 Hurricane Betsy strikes containerization and Industrial public-housing projects by 1960s Oil and gas indus- New Orleans region in early Canal docks relocate shipping replacing them with New try rises; port economy September. facilities off Mississippi. Urbanism-inspired settings,
10 neworleansnewopportunities while integrating poor families a homeowner in Louisiana. demolished and prepared for highly trained existing work- paying subsidized rents with Complex transactions were mixed-income redevelopment. force and good river, canal, modest-income families mostly completed by 2011; to- New developments reflecting and interstate access. paying market rates. St. day, lots that were bought out New Urbanist design sensibili- 2012 Louisiana becomes Thomas Development is first by state and held in Louisiana ties are now nearly complete third most-productive state to undergo experiment. Land Trust (LLT) are being and taking in tenants and for film industry, following transferred to New Orleans 2003 Tourists spend over homeowners, some paying much bigger California and $4B annually in Orleans Redevelopment Authority subsidized rates, others New York, thanks to 2002 Parish, generating over 61,000 (NORA), which is currently market rates. tax credit. Boom movie returning them to citizen jobs. Visitors to New Orleans 2008-Ongoing New Orleans and television filming has ownership through auctions, account for 44 percent of proves remarkably resistant dovetailed into parallel growth Lot Next Door programs, and state’s tourism economy. to nationwide real estate bust of digital media, software, park space. and entertainment sector. 2004 New Orleans, popula- and ensuing Great Recession; Bountiful office space and tion 462,269, is now home to 2006-Present First wave of local employment rates have infrastructure built during oil 35 percent of seven-parish early-career professionals remained consistently well and gas real estate boom of metro-area population, down move to New Orleans in the below national average, low thousands, to participate 1970s-early 1980s leaves space from 80 percent a century and housing values have in the recovery; so-called for new industries, such as the earlier. seen none of the declines of “brain gain” (or “YURPS”— those markets that boomed old Chevron Building which 2004 Major new containerized young urban rebuilding previously. now hosts the Receivables shipping facility at Napoleon professionals) is replaced Exchange and several start-up Avenue wharf, coupled with around 2008-2009 with 2009-Ongoing Amid years of and emerging tech firms. environmental problems on second wave of newcomers planning and civic debate, site MR-GO and bottleneck lock on in the digital, finance, media, is cleared for new University TO BE CONTINUED Industrial Canal, returns river entertainment, and cultural Medical Center and Veterans to position of prominence in economy, many of whom have Affairs Hospital, appending to local port industry. long-term plans for the city. existing Tulane Avenue medi- cal district. Area promises to RICHARD CAMPANELLA, a August 29, 2005 Hurricane 2007-2012 Army Corps builds become bioinnovation district geographer with the Tulane School Katrina strikes region; surge $15B worth of improvements as well as health-care mecca of Architecture, is the author of ruptures federal levees and to ensure protection from for South. “Bienville’s Dilemma,” “Geographies floodwalls at multiple points, storms with 1-percent chance of New Orleans,” “Lincoln in New leading to catastrophic of occurring in any given 2010 New Orleans Saints’ Orleans,” and other books. The flooding of eighty percent of year. “Hundred-year protec- Super Bowl victory brings only two-time winner of the urbanized East Bank. Over tion plan” entails gating of civic spirit to an apex; public Louisiana Endowment for the 1500 people eventually perish; outfall and navigation canals, exalts in citywide cultural and Humanities Book of the Year Award, nearly entire city population barricading GIWW/MRGO economic renaissance only Campanella has also received the is displaced for weeks and funnel with Netherlands-style five years after catastrophe. Williams Prize for Louisiana History, months, some for years. barrier, raising of existing 2010 U.S. Census enumerates the Tulane Mortar Board Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the City’s population, levee heights to account for 343,892 residents of New 2006-2007 Monroe Fellowship from Tulane’s reduced from about 455,000 rising seas and subsidence, Orleans proper. After adjusting New Orleans Center for the Gulf in July 2005 to a few thousand constructing new levees, for 2011-2012 growth, city now installing new pumping has roughly 100,000 fewer South. He can be reached through after Katrina, climbs back to richcampanella.com. 200,000, then to 300,000 stations, and reinforcing weak people than in July 2005 but range. spots in existing floodwalls nearly double the population and levees. Completed June of July 2006. 2006-2012 Louisiana 2012. “Road Home” Program 2011 Shipbuilding opera- offers $150,000 per flooded 2008 Hurricane Gustav gives tions at Avondale and Space homeowner, minus insur- region first post-Katrina test Shuttle-components ance settlements and FEMA of rebuilt levees, improved manufacturing at NASA grants. Homeowners suffering evacuation system, and Michoud Assembly Facility greater than 50 percent dam- first-responder capabilities, enter conversion phase as old age opt to (1) repair or rebuild and comes out with mostly contracts expire. Both mega- in place; (2) sell to state and successful results. structures, located at opposite purchase another home in 2008-2012 B. W. Cooper, C. ends of metropolis, bring to Louisiana; or (3) sell to state J. Peete, St. Bernard, and bear turn-key opportunities and choose not to remain Lafitte housing projects are for industrial tenants with