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Mid-City is located, as the name indicates, in the middle of New Orleans on what was once the back slope of the Mississippi River‘s natural levee, a gradually declining section of the river’s flood plain. As such, it was not settled as early as adjacent neighborhoods and was called the “back of town” – the city ended at the swamp, unlike today, when the city reaches the lake.
The Esplanade Ridge and the adjoining Metairie Ridge formed a natural spur from the river; but what is now Mid-City, surrounded by these higher-elevated sections, was part of the “back swamp” until development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Mid-City is the home of a number of landmarks. Canal Street, one of the most important thoroughfares of the city, bisects the neighborhood; the streetcar route follows Canal to Carrollton Avenue, another prominent New Orleans street that passes through Mid-City. Tulane Avenue, the terminus of U.S. Route 61, also runs just upriver from Canal Street; before the interstate highway system, this was the primary route into New Orleans from Baton Rouge. An important cross-street isJefferson Davis Parkway, named for the president of the Confederate States of America, who died in New Orleans’s Garden District during an 1889 visit.
The Orleans Parish Criminal Court, the Dixie Brewery, Jesuit High School, Warren Easton High School, and the Falstaff Brewery (now converted to apartments) are physically among the most prominent buildings scattered across Mid-City, in addition to a number of churches and large houses along Canal Street. Tulane Avenue in particular shows some remnants of the area’s industrial past. However, more characteristic of Mid-City today are the many shotgun housesand larger houses that make up most of this primarily residential neighborhood
Mid-City’s boundaries are City Park Avenue, Toulouse Street, North Carrollton/Orleans avenues, Bayou St. John, St. Louis and North Broad streets and the Pontchartrain Expressway. It is a historic district and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The major north-south streets are Franklin Avenue, Elysian Fields Avenue, St. Anthony, St. Bernard, St. Roch, Paris, Wisner, A.P. Tureaud (formerly London) Avenue and Press. The east-west streets are Lakeshore Drive, Leon C. Simon, Robert E. Lee (a section of which was formerly called Hibernia), Prentiss, Harrison, Filmore, Mirabeau, Hayne, Chef Menteur and Gentilly Boulevard.
The first part of Gentilly to be developed was along the Gentilly Ridge, a long stretch of high ground along the former banks of BayouGentilly. A road, originally named Gentilly Road was built on the ridge, and formed a path into today’s French Quarter. The high ground became Gentilly Boulevard and U.S. Highway 90, part of the Old Spanish Trail which stretches from St. Augustine, Florida to Los Angeles, California.
Settlement was originally confined to this long narrow ridge, since most of the ground between the ridge and the lake was swampy. The first residential section adjacent to the ridge, Gentilly Terrace, dating to the early 20th century, was built by excavating and piling up the earth in the shallow swamp to create blocks of terraced land where houses could be built. With the development of improved drainage pumps, land reclamation and higher lakefront levees, the land extending from the ridge to the lake was developed by the mid-20th century, and the entire area popularly came to be known as Gentilly.
Some of the neighborhoods included in Gentilly include Dillard, Filmore, Milneburg, Mirabeau Gardens, Oak Park, Vista Park, Edgewood,Gentilly Terrace, Gentilly Heights, Gentilly Woods, Pontchartrain Park, Lake Terrace/Lake Oaks, Lake Terrace and St. Anthony.
Houses in both of these neighborhoods are offered in a wide range of prices. For example, a three bedroom, two bath home in Pontchartrain Park is $185,000 while a 2,000-square foot duplex in the City Park area is on the market for $569,000.