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Camp & Quaint

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY THE HISTORIC NEW ORLEANS COLLECTION

Camp Street is seen here at Lafayette Square about 1890. St. Patrick’s Church, built in 1842, still stands in the distance. The large building near the center at the corner of Lafayette Street is St. Patrick’s Hall, which was built in the late 1860s. In 1896 it became the first home of the New Orleans Public Library. It was demolished about 1908, when the library moved to Lee Circle and was replaced by the main Post Office, now home of the Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The granite yard to the left is now the site of the Federal Building and Federal District Court.

Camp Street (see above photograph) is one of many streets that has history at every corner. Union soldiers once stood guard along that path despite a fiery pastor at St. Patrick church (background) who, when accused of refusing to bury Union soldiers, allegedly replied that he would gladly bury the entire Union army. The street runs past Lafayette Square, which faces Gallier Hall from where the city was governed for more than a century. Machine bosses, Carnival kings, rogues, saintly folks and revolutionaries stood on those corners at various times. Such history oozes throughout the city at different times and in different places. Photography and the social order were black-and-white back then as a new city merged – one that grappled with the future but in many ways maintained the best of the past. Time indeed marched on only in New Orleans; from many corners, there was the echo of a distant drum beat.

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