Louisiana Division/City Archives   New Orleans Public Library

Image of the Month
December 2009

We recently found seven photographs, all taken on September 14, 1938, showing repair work underway at the Poydras Asylum at the corner of Magazine Street and Jefferson Avenue. The main building dates back to 1857 when the institution moved uptown from its original 1817 location on St. Charles Avenue at Julia Street. For most of its existence the establishment operated as the Poydras Female Orphan Asylum but for the past fifty years it has been dedicated, as the Poydras Home, to serving the elderly.

We don't know the nature or the extent of the repairs that were ongoing when the pictures were taken; this was during the period of the WPA's activity in New Orleans, but none of the usual signs identifying work by that project are evident in the photos. Regardless, the images provide an interesting glimpse of what life was like inside the old Asylum. The upper two stories of the building were removed after 1957 in order for the facility to function safely and effectively as a home for the aged. Also since that time several new wings, and an entirely separate building, have been added to the campus. In addition, the extensive gardens at the rear of the Poydras property have been replaced by the courts of the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club.

This particular photo shows the Jefferson Avenue side of the old building. The area in the foreground is now occupied by a parking lot; the open area in the background remains green, comprising a spacious lawn with a nicely landscaped walkway closer to Magazine Street. The trees in the middle--with the lower part of their trunks painted white as per the style of the day--have been replaced by a covered passenger drop-off and walkway into the building's entrance.

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