New Orleans Public Library
|Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans|
Charles J. Leeds (1823-1898)
Charles J. Leeds, the thirty-third Mayor of New Orleans was born in Stonington, Connecticut in 1823. His parents were Jedediah Leeds and Mary Stanton who moved to New Orleans from Connecticut in the early part of the 19th century.|
Upon his father’s death in 1844, he became partner in the Leeds Foundry which was established in 1824, at the corner of Delord and Constance Streets. It was in this foundry that the principal piece of artillery was made that was used by the White League in their battle with the Metropolitan Police. Some years later this foundry changed hands and Mr. Leeds accepted a position as Secretary of the Carondelet Canal and Navigation Company. He was a man of means and position and respected for his ability and public spirit.
When he became Mayor he found the city in a deplorable state. He said in his inaugural address: “The Community, once so prosperous, has by years of mismanagement been brought to the verge of bankruptcy. Real estate is almost without marketable value, commerce is declining, manufacturing and other industrial interests are paralyzed, all classes are sighing under the burden of public debt, and the current expenses for the support of the government now is more than the people can pay.”
He succeeded in having an act passed by the Legislature empowering the city to take over the work of drainage and to acquire the rights and property of the Mississippi, Mexican Gulf and Ship Island Canal Company.
His administration, on the whole, was successful and would have been even more so if it had not been for causes over which he had not control. During his administration some progress was made with the work of draining the city. A drainage canal on Nashville Avenue which served to drain the low area between St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River, was one of the works carried out at this time. The street railways were extended and “dummies,” as the small steam locomotives were called, were introduced on the line running out to the Lake Pontchartrain Summer Resort. A shell road was built on St. Charles Avenue from Joseph Street to Toledano Street. Steps were taken in June 1875 to establish the Fink Home. The city owed large sums for repairs and was put to desperate straits to pay for this urgent work. With the few exceptions listed above, public works were at a standstill during his administration. Mr. Leeds never cared for any sort of publicity, his modesty being the excuse.
On May 21, 1856, he married Mary Josephine Rawle, a daughter of Judge Edward Rawle. There were eight children from this union. He died July 6, 1898 at the age of 75 at his residence, 1439 Seventh Street and lies buried in Cypress Grove (Fireman’s Cemetery).
|Members of the Leeds Administration|
November 30, 1874-December 19, 1876
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