By Aaron Cohen
Imagine a New Orleans without its most popular neighborhoods: no Garden District, no Central City, no Carrollton, no Algiers. For most familiar with the city’s geography, the task is nearly unfathomable.
On Monday, November 27, Tulane University geographer Richard Campanella presented a talk titled “Not-So-Friendly Neighbors: The Annexations of New Orleans” in the Freeman Auditorium at the Woldenberg Art Center on the uptown campus.
Following the publication of his most recent book, Cityscapes of New Orleans, Campanella guided his audience through a critical and often overlooked aspect of the city’s history. In this illustrated lecture, Campanella explained the historical and geographical circumstances behind New Orleans’ aggressive municipal expansion of 1852-1874. “It swallowed up three adjacent cities — everything from the Garden District and Central City all the way up to Carrollton and parts of Lakeview — while also consolidating Algiers into city limits," said Campanella.
He continued: “These four annexations tend to get short shrift in our historiography, usually earning only fleeting mention as mere administrative adjustments. In fact, each was complex, hotly debated and perfectly contentious, with ethnic and racial tension, power politics, and greed all playing roles.”
Campanella lecture provided a means to gauge the city’s past in an effort to better understand the present. “New Orleans would be a vastly different city today had decisions been made differently,” he said. “Tulane, for example, would not be in New Orleans, but rather in Jefferson City."
Following the event, the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South hosted a reception in Woodward Way, where Campanella took questions and signed books.