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Moving Joan

The history of Joan of Arc’s statue in New Orleans

Workers resettle Joan of Arc on her pedestal in 1984. The statue was regilded in 1984 by two French government workers, Claude Ducroizet and Jean Maillard, brought to New Orleans specifically for this task. The French city of Orleans helped Mayor Dutch Morial’s administration pay for the work, and Orleans Mayor Jacques Douffiagues came to New Orleans to rededicate the statue on May 11, 1984, attending the opening of the Louisiana World Fair the following day. The statue was repaired and regilded again in 1999 by the Euphrosine Conservation Center before being placed in its current French Quarter home.

Photo provided courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.

In 1958, New Orleans hoped to buy a gilded bronze equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, one of 10 copies made from the original plaster mould sculpted by Frenchmen Emmanuel Fremiet. The statue was shipped to New Orleans on consignment, but the $35,000 price tag was deemed too steep, despite fundraising efforts that included soliciting schoolchildren for change. It was placed in storage, its future uncertain.

In 1964, French President General Charles de Gaulle gifted the statue to the city in recognition of the close ties between New Orleans and France. The cost was shared by de Gaulle and four French cities: Orleans, Paris, Rouen and Rheims.

The statue was formally presented to the city on April 18, 1964. However, Joan remained in storage for an additional eight years until a new CBD plaza, Place de France, was developed between Rivergate and the International Trade Mart. In October 1972, the statue was ceremoniously unveiled, with the United States French Ambassador and Mayor Moon Landrieu present. Two 1813 French cannons accompanied her.

The statue stayed in the Plaza de France for 20 years until Harrah’s built their casino. Their construction plans included demolition of the plaza and relocation of the statue, but federal courts intervened, as the plaza had been built with federal funds. At the end of the lengthy court battle, permission was granted to Harrah’s to relocate Joan of Arc.

The statue was moved to her present French Quarter home in October 1999, at the pocket park at Decatur and North Peters streets. Her accessories were included: the original cannons, plaques from the French cruiser Jeanne d’Arc that had been given to the city as a token of friendship in 1967 and four flag poles, representing the United States, France, Louisiana and New Orleans. 

 

 

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