The Making of Broadmoor
A 20th-century neighborhood still has charm: family-style.
The intersection of Fontainebleau Drive and South Broad Street circa 1950.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY NEW ORLEANS PUBLIC LIBRARY, TOP
The real estate ad pictured a “Beautiful Raised Bungalow” that had “every modern convenience, hardwood floors, tile bath.” Prospective buyers were instructed to “take the Napoleon Avenue car” to Napoleon Avenue and Broad Street. The date was Jan. 11, 1914, and the house for sale was located in the new Broadmoor subdivision.
New Orleans Realty and Investment Company was marketing the new subdivision which had become available for development after the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans drainage system came into use. The location was ideal, easily accessible to downtown and homeowners were happy to have a new neighborhood of modern houses.
On Jan. 18, 1914, the newspaper announced that “the Broadmoor Improvement Association has been organized by the residents of the new subdivision at the intersection of Napoleon and Broad streets.”
“These people are alive to what is best for their community, and are handling their affairs in an able manner,” read the announcement. Officers listed were R. Maloney, president; A. J. Mutt, vice president; R.W. Ortte, secretary; and Wilkins Roach, treasurer.
By December of 1914, land for Broadmoor Park, “at the turn of Napoleon Avenue and Broad Street,” had been donated to the city by New Orleans Realty. Mayor Martin Behrman quickly appointed a commission with president E. B. Ellis, vice president A.B. Gwin and F. J. Keller, secretary-treasurer.
The Broadmoor area is “back of town,” on the lake side of Claiborne Avenue. In the earliest days of the city, the area had a small lake, according to a 1975 booklet the Broadmoor Improvement Association printed for a home improvement show.
As late as the 1920s there were farms in the area, with the Bertucci Dairy Farm the largest. On Fontainebleau, between Jefferson and Nashville avenues, there was a ball field, called Tokay Tea Park, home to a semi-pro baseball team. The oldest home was a raised wooden house with a stucco ground floor on Jefferson Avenue at South Johnson Street, belonging to Louis Bouligny.
By 2003, Broadmoor had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Boundaries for the area were Napoleon Avenue in the center, South Broad and Fontainebleau streets on the lake side, Milan Street downtown and Octavia Street on the Uptown side. Broadmoor earned inclusion for its wealth of architectural housing styles that “help the city convey its distinctive architecture,” according to Preservation in Print, September 2003.
The best part of Broadmoor, according to resident Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Madeleine Landrieu, is the neighborhood people. “It was a great little neighborhood to grow up in. The neighborhood was just teeming with kids my age.” The relationships lasted. “I am still friends with some of the kids I grew up with.”
“My mother grew up across the street from where we lived. She has great memories of taking the streetcar and the bus places. We were more often on our bikes,” Landrieu adds. Bikes could get her to the Broadmoor Drugstore or to the Time-Saver. She rode her bike to Ursuline Academy for high school, but the Landrieu kids (nine of them) walked to St. Matthias Catholic School for grammar school. One regular outing was to the Carrollton Boosters Park for sports – “We had to get in the car for whoever’s game was first, and we stayed until whoever’s game was last was over.”
Landrieu recalls regular trips to the Calhoun Superette on Calhoun Street. “They had a butcher who knew exactly what we wanted. As a teenager, I went in and made an inventory, where everything was that we needed. I copied the list and we used it for grocery shopping.” One other neighbor she remembers was Magistrate Judge Gerard Hansen – “he had his first campaign office around the corner, and my sister Mary came home from college and went over there to volunteer” – U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu began her political career in Broadmoor.
Large families were usual in Broadmoor. First City Court Judge Angelique Reed had four brothers and sisters. On Halloween, “We would make our own haunted house: we would decorate and everybody would come over,” she remembers. One spot for neighborhood games was a vacant lot on South Claiborne Avenue near Octavia Street. “The boys always played football there.”
St. Matthias Catholic Church (now Holy Trinity) was an important part of Broadmoor life. Reed says that when a priest, who had served there for many years, was made a Monsignor in a recent service at St. Louis Cathedral, “if you wanted to see some old Broadmoor residents, that’s where you had to be.”
Actually, one place to see “old Broadmoor residents” is Broadmoor. Reed remembers that when she walked home from Ursuline Academy she passed a neighborhood street and thought “I want to live right there.” Today, that’s where she lives, and her daughter goes to Ursuline. Madeleine Landrieu also still lives in Broadmoor and her girls are Ursuline students as well.
Another generation of Broadmoor children is riding bikes and making memories today.
The Broadmoor Improvement Association’s post-Hurricane Katrina work continues. According to the website BroadmoorImprovement.com, “The vision for Broadmoor is to fully populate the neighborhood, rebuild the infrastructure and institutions and develop a safer, stronger community that’s committed to providing a better quality of life for all residents.” One successful step: Besides the newly refurbished Rosa Keller Library, the corner of South Broad Street and Washington Avenue will be home to Green Coast Enterprises’ $8 million development, including HUB NOLA, a 10,000-square-foot facility for shared manufacturing and office space for social innovation companies, and three other buildings with retail and office space.
Rhodes Funeral Homes is also developing property in the area.