he land that would become City Park was formerly the Allard Planation, which ran along the banks of Bayou Metairie, which fronted then-Metairie Road/present-day City Park Ave. In 1850 the plantation was willed to the city of New Orleans, and not long after the land was established as City Park. Until 1958, the park was a segregated space that banned African American families and individuals.
Many of the features that we associate with modern City Park were added in the early 20th century, including Peristyle (pictured above), the Popp Bandstand, Lelong Drive and the Issac Delgado Museum of Art, the forerunner of the New Orleans Museum of Art. But it was two disasters, the Great Depression and Hurricane Katrina, which ironically spurred much of the park’s growth.
The federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) stepped in following the Depression to create much of the park’s infrastructure and landscaping. This legacy is recalled in Couterie Forest, which was planted by the WPA; the art deco details and accouterments that can be found on many park bridges and the gates of Tad Gormley Stadium; and the rose garden that would later become the New Orleans Botanical Garden.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed over 2,000 trees and inundated almost the entirety of the park in at least a foot of water; at the time, the future of the park seemed in the balance. But the park not only recovered – it entered an enormous rebuilding phase. Notable improvements made in the wake of the storm include replanting some 6500 trees, the Goldring/Woldenberg Great Lawn, finished in 2010; the walking path (Zemurray Trail) that surrounds the Big Lake; and three dedicated bikeways: one between Wisner Blvd and Bayou St John, another between Bayou St. John and Marconi Drive, and a third that runs along Harrison Avenue.