Louisiana Division/City Archives   New Orleans Public Library

Images of the Month Gallery
May 2006

The aerial photographs in this month's Gallery show the Lower Ninth Ward in the immediate area of North Claiborne Avenue, from Jackson Barracks moving west to the Industrial Canal. During Katrina, of course, the Industrial Canal was breached in two places above Claiborne Avenue. A tragic number of residents who remained behind lost their lives in the flood; everyone lost their homes.

Because the Lower Ninth is one of the parts of town hardest hit by the storm, the Louisiana Division has received numerous requests for photographs from post-Katrina researchers studying the development of the neighborhood. Although they show only a small portion of the Lower Ninth, these 1949 aerials are some of the best we have. In addition to these shots, the Division holds two other sets of aerials (from 1946 and 1960, both taken from higher altitudes than the 1949 set) as well as a scattering of images, mostly from the 1950s, taken on several Lower Ninth Ward streets. In general, however, historical photographs of the "Lower 9" are hard to come by.

What these photographs show is an area that, in 1949, before the construction of the Judge Seeber ("Claiborne Avenue") Bridge, was sparsely populated. Homes were interspersed with farms or undeveloped squares. Most streets were unpaved, and some of them had not yet been extended very far above St. Claude Avenue. The only major landmark was the McCarty School at the junction of North Claiborne and Caffin Avenues.

There are some in post-Katrina New Orleans who say that the Lower Ninth Ward cannot "come back," that the area will be forced to return to the earlier days of these photograhs, characterized by open space, unoccupied squares, and limited city services. Many of the former residents, however, are determined to return to the Lower Ninth and rebuild their community -- as determined as their forebears, who first claimed the ground from swampland and then reclaimed it once again after Hurricane Betsy tried to drown it.

Read more about the Lower Ninth Ward:
Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Snapshot
Greater New Orleans Community Data Center

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4/30/2006; rev. 12/3/2008