Labor Day has come and gone, and New Orleans’ school students are back in class and hard at work. The education landscape has changed dramatically in our post-Hurricane Katrina city, but there are still a number of older schools with a rich history and strong traditions.
1. St. Augustine High School
Founded by the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites) in 1951, the mission of St. Augustine High is to educate young black men of New Orleans. Even after schools in the city were desegregated, St. Augustine continued its mission. The school, located in Gentilly on A. P. Tureaud Boulevard, is known for its “Marching 100” band, and their perennially powerful athletics programs give the school national recognition. Notable alumni include actor Carl Weathers, former New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, and numerous athletes who have had success in both the NFL and the NBA.
2. Isidore Newman School
Isidore Newman, a German immigrant to the United States, became one of New Orleans’ most successful investment bankers in the post-Civil War period. Newman strongly believed in giving back to the community, so he funded the Isidore Newman Manual Training School, as a vocational-technical school, in 1903. The school’s mission evolved over time into a college preparatory school; the name was changed to its current form in 1931. Notable alumni/alumnae of Newman include Leslie Jacobs, business executive and philanthropist; John Minor Wisdom, Judge, US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Jonathan Pretus; and current New York Giants players Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
3. Warren Easton Charter High School
Located at 3019 Canal St. (next to NORTA’s A. Philip Randolph bus facility and the Canal Streetcar barn), the school was originally part of the “Boys High School System,” which dates back to 1843. The city purchased the Canal Street property and built the current Easton campus in 1911, and classes began there in 1913. Notable alumni include former Louisiana Attorney Charles Foti; Percy Miller, better known as “Master P”; and the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald.
After Hurricane Katrina, Warren Easton became a charter school. On the school’s advisory board are Carnival expert, former band director, and Warren Easton alum Arthur Hardy. The school has found a very visible and very generous benefactor in actress Sandra Bullock, who also advises the school’s management.
4. Holy Cross School
The Congregation of the Holy Cross (the same order that founded Notre Dame University in South Bend, IN) came to New Orleans in 1849. In 1871, they acquired a farm in what is now the 2900 block of Dauphine Street in the Lower 9th Ward, and built a school. The school opened its doors in 1879 as St. Isidore’s College. It receive a formal charter from the state in 1890, and the order renamed it Holy Cross College. In addition to serving the 9th Ward and St. Bernard students (as well as others from all over the metro area, as families moved out of the original neighborhood), the school offered a boarding program, with as many as 150 student residents, until 1973.
The floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina inflicted a great deal of damage to Holy Cross’ campus. The school’s board decided they could not re-open in the 9th Ward, and acquired property in Gentilly from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The school re-opened in 2010, on the site of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and Redeemer-Seton High School on Paris Avenue.
5. P.G.T. Beauregard Junior High / St. Anthony of Padua
If you continue heading up Canal Street from Warren Easton, you’ll find another interesting old school building from the turn of the 19th Century. The school was originally named for P.G.T. Beauregard, who was an American Army officer, then a Confederate General, and later an influential private citizen of New Orleans. In the 1990s, the Orleans Parish School Board began a program to rename a number of its schools, to make those names more meaningful to the overwhelmingly African-American student population. Beauregard Middle School (as it had become) was renamed for US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Since Katrina, the building is now home to two charter schools, Pierre Capdeau Early College High School, and Langston Hughes Academy. Marshall Middle re-located uptown.
Across the street from the Beauregard/Marshall campus is St. Anthony of Padua Church and School. Typical of many neighborhoods in New Orleans, the public school and the Catholic school are nearby, both serving a particular neighborhood. St. Anthony’s Parish was originally founded at what is now Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on N. Rampart Street in Faubourg Treme. That church serviced the growing Italian immigrant population in the Quarter, Treme, and Marigny. After the turn of the century, the Italian community had grown so large, the Dominican Friars who ran the parish asked for permission to relocate to Mid City. St. Anthony’s school is now merging with Christian Brothers School, a boys’ school offering grades 5-7 in City Park. The combined schools will better service Mid City, offering pre-K to 7th grade for boys and girls.
6. McDonogh No. 11
Our last school is no longer a school, but its story is a tale of the importance of preservation. Named after New Orleans schools’ greatest benefactor, John McDonogh, McDonongh #11 (yes, there were that many schools named after them, they had to number them) was originally located on Prieur and Palmyra streets in Mid City. Unfortunately, this location put the school building in the footprint for the massive medical center being constructed in that area. The state expropriated the land and the building, and planned to raze McDonogh #11. Local preservationists and historians protested; the building was designed by well-known 19th-century architect William Freret, and has been in almost continuous operation since the 1870s. The state agreed to move the entire building to a new location. After two moves, the city and state have agreed on a location, on S. Claiborne Avenue, near the edge of the medical center campus.
Edward Branley is the author of New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, and Maison Blanche Department Stores, in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. He is also author of Legendary Locals of New Orleans. Branley’s latest book, New Orleans Jazz, is now available in bookstores and online. Edward is also the NOLA History Guy, online and on Twitter (@NOLAHistoryGuy).