n New Orleans’ early days, the land where Broadmoor lays was a marshy pasture that connected to Bayou St. John via a popular fishing stream. On rainy days, Broadmoor would become a 12-acre lake.
The area was marked “Vacant Land” on Charles Zimpel’s 1834 Topographical Map of New Orleans. In 1857 – 139 years from the founding of New Orleans – plans were drawn up to drain the area.
The first drainage canal in the area was dug under present-day Claiborne Avenue in 1871, but by 1873, there was only one landowner, listed as Barthelemy, in the Broadmoor area.
Drainage canals were dug in the 1880s, and Pumping Station #1 at South Broad and Melpomene streets was completed in 1902. Drainage remains an issue, with millions of dollars in federal SELA projects underway in the vicinity.
Broadmoor’s biggest construction boom occurred between 1920 and 1924. The earliest homes in Broadmoor were raised with full-story above-ground basements and living quarters on the second floor. The Andrew H. Wilson School at 3617 Gen. Pershing St. opened in 1922, and the Broadmoor Civic Improvement Association was formed in 1930. Streetcar lines along South Claiborne Avenue and Napoleon Avenue linked Broadmoor residents to the central city.
The federal levee failure associated with Hurricane Katrina left Broadmoor flooded with up to 8 feet of water. In January 2006, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission recommended that Broadmoor, as a low-lying area of the city, be designated as a “green dot” on the redevelopment map, best-suited for a drainage park.
Residents rallied in opposition to this notion, with notable success. The Broadmoor Improvement Association’s work became a model for citizen-led recovery efforts. The association set up shop in a doublewide trailer at the Church of the Annunciation and began reaching out to scattered residents, urging them to return.
In the three years following Hurricane Katrina, a remarkable 79 percent of Broadmoor’s flooded properties were restored. The Wilson School reopened in 2010 after a $29 million renovation. The Keller Library reopened in March 2012, with a substantial boost from a $2 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. There has also been support courtesy of the Broadmoor Neighborhood Improvement District, which has the power to levy an annual $100 fee for five years on all neighborhood property for “quality-of- life initiatives and encouraging the beautification and overall benefit” of the area.
Broadmoor’s official borders form a rough triangle, with South Claiborne Avenue at its base, Washington Avenue/Toledano Street on one long side, and Jefferson Davis Parkway/ Nashville Avenue on the other long side.
At the center is the Y-intersection of South Broad Street, Fontainebleau Drive and Napoleon Avenue, where the neighborhoodâ€™s cultural center, the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center, stands at 4300 S. Broad St.
The Arts and Crafts villa that houses the Keller’s community center was one of the first homes in the area. Built in 1918, it served as a residence until being acquired by the city in 1990. After the federal levee failures associated with Hurricane Katrina brought 8 feet of water to the property, the historic building was raised and largely rebuilt, with materials as close to the original as possible. The library portion of the complex was demolished and replaced with a building that is a model of green architecture. The thoughtful union of past and future is an evocative illustration of Broadmoorâ€™s place among New Orleans neighborhoods.