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Gentilly - A New Orleans Neighborhood Profile

Little California, the Fair Grounds, UNO, Dillard, the Lake and More


Gentilly is the large New Orleans neighborhood on the northwest side of the New Orleans that includes many unique sub-neighborhoods. Much of it was developed as the modern neighborhood, a model of suburban life akin to California living. Yet it has a long history and is also important for its historic architecture. Gentilly was hard hit by Katrina and the post hurricane flood. The London Street Canal Floodwall breaks caused devastating damage


Gentilly's boundaries are formally Lake Pontchartrain, the London Avenue Canal, I-610 (or sometimes Peoples Ave.) and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (or sometimes City Park. Like some other New Orleans neighborhoods, defining the limits of Gentilly can vary by person and time period. Sometimes the Upper 9th Ward (On the New Orleans side of the Industrial Canal) is included in descriptions of Gentilly. It's neighboring neighborhoods include Mid-City and Lakeview


Much of what is now Gentilly was once rather swampy land, but Gentilly Ridge, one of the highest areas of New Orleans, has a human past that goes back to native Indians and French colonials in the history of the New Orleans area.

Settlement in the area started on that long skinny ridge. Later, the low swampy area became the site of new neighborhoods thanks to land fill and drainage pumps.

Gentilly Boulevard on that high ridge was originally an Indian trail and part of the Old SPanish Trail which went from coast to coast literally = Florida to California. it was the route from the French Quarter to the city outskirts and beyond, and eventually became Highway 90.

Gentilly was the name given to the plantation in the area established in 1727 by the Dreux brothers, Mathurin and Pierre, French colonistgs who named it after their commune back in France. By the way, according to one dictionary definition, Gentilly means "in a gentle or noble manner; frankly, and was a term used by Chaucer. For a long time the Gentilly area was rural with a small village just a few miles from the French Quarter

For a long time, the only development beyond the narrow Gentilly Ridge was out by the lake on Milneberg, a recreation and resort area built on piers. In 1830, the Smokey Mary train began taking happy "recreating" New Orleanians down Elysian Fields from New Orleans proper to Milneburg for fun and relaxation at Lake Pontchartrain. Milneburg's name came from Alexander Milne, a Scottish New Orleanian who bought up much of the Lakeshore with the correct belief that New Orleans would grow to the north.

Since about 1900, streetcars have traveled to Gentilly.
St. Roch and Franklin Ave., as well as Gentilly Blvd., of course, are among the main streets in Gentilly.


Smaller neighborhoods within Gentilly include Gentilly Terrace, Milneberg (alas, no longer with a recreation center or resort), Filmore, Lake Terrace, Lake Oaks, St. Anthony, Gentilly Woods, DIllard, and Pontchartrain Park, which was one of the very first African American residential development in the United States.

Gentilly Terrace was the first neighborhood development in Gentilly. Plans began in 1909 by owners who promoted the suburb as "Little California" in at least one flyer. Gentilly Terrace is ont he National Historic Register, mainly due to its unique archetecture, especially the approximately 40 percent of homes which are in California Craftsmen Cottages. Homes were built in this neighborhood through about 1940, especially during the thirties, creating a perfect mid-century period piece atmosphere.

The archetecture in Gentilly Terrace and beyond includes those California bungalows in the Art and Craft style, cute English cottages, Swiss chalet look-a-likes, Mediterranean Revivals, and Spanish style homes,as well as modern brick ranch houses and traditional New Orleans shotgun homes. And even at least one Norwegian style home.

This neighbhorhood and much of Gentilly has wider streets and actual driveways, unlike most of New Orleans which was built up before the automobile age. There are often palm trees among the o more typical New Orleans neighborhood trees

There's a rather old-school California vibe with a look much different from other areas of New Orleans. It's cute! And you may even see a parrot in some of the trees.


Gentilly is home many New Orleans schools including three colleges - University of New Orleans (U.N.O.) is a state University which recently celebrated its 50th birthday, Southern University is a branch of the historically black state University based in Baton Rouge. Dillard University, a historically black private University, is the oldest institution of higher learning in Gentilly. It as established in 1930.

Among the other schools is the best New Orleans public school, a long-time magnet school with a national reputation, Benjamin Franklin, which relocated from its original site in Carrollton to the UNO Campus.

The historic Fair Grounds Racetrack, home of the Louisiana Derby, is within the Gentilly border. That's the site of the New Orleans Jazz Fest (officially The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) so that famous annual musical happening is actually a Gentilly production.

There's lots of green space in Gentilly. For instance, Pontchartrain Park is built around the Joseph M Bartholome Golf Course.

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