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Friday, October 22, 2010

A Quick Trip to the Westbank

My activity has been picking up as expected, and today I made a trip to Gretna, just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans - an area known as the Westbank (even though some areas are east of areas of the "Eastbank" - Louisiana geography is not an exact science). To get to Gretna from Baton Rouge (or New Orleans, for that matter), you take the delightfully named Crescent City Connection over the river. I had never done this before, and discovered that there is seemingly no charge to go over to the Westbank, but there is a $1.00 toll on the way back. Interesting.

If Gretna and the Crescent City Connection sound familiar, it may be because it was the scene of one of the most controversial stories in the aftermath of Katrina. Evacuees from New Orleans attempted to cross the Crescent City Connection on foot, into Gretna, which is in Jefferson Parish. The Gretna Police Department, along with Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Deputies and the Crescent City Connection Police, blocked their passage across the river. It is also alleged that officers fired weapons over the heads of the evacuees. You can read more about the incident in this New York Times piece.

The location of my appointment was not far from the bridge, so I can't say that I explored much of Gretna, but I did stop to take a few photos.

The first photo shows a few homes that are fairly representative of the area I was in. It was clear to me that it wasn't a high income area. There were plentiful vacant lots, and many of the homes were in disrepair. However, there was evidence of what I might have called urban pioneering - a neatly painted and decorated shotgun house tucked in amongst several that had seen better days, and a few unusual storefronts.

gretna homes

This one appeared well-kept from a distance but is showing some distress close-up. By the way, if you weren't aware, the term "shotgun" house (a distinctly New Orleans type of architecture) refers to the fact that one could fire a shotgun in the front door and have it go clean out the back door.


The Crescent City Connection looms over these two.

ccc over shotgun homes

The Wikipedia entry on Gretna indicates that the town's development was tied to the railroad. In this photo you can see the New Orleans skyline in the background, with a couple trains taking a break under the bridge.

crescent city connection

In retrospect, I'm not sure if this is bad photography or a house with a failing foundation. You make the call. Either way, this was another cute shotgun house.


This place was remarkably busy.

palace of bingo

A shotgun church?

second mt. calvary baptist church

Finally, a quick shot snapped on my way back over the bridge.

nola skyline from crescent city connection

I have appointments next week in Lafayette and Houma, so I'll do my best to do some more exploring.