Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Orleans 1885: Legacy of the Exposition.....

After the closing of the North, Central and South American Exposition, Upper City Park was rapidly cleared of the exposition structures. A public auction, on May 17th, 1886, disposed of the numerous buildings; and within a short period of time the only structure remaining was Horticultural Hall, which was to be a permanent feature of the park. On July 19th, Upper City Park was officially renamed Audubon Park, in honor of the famed artist & naturalist John James Audubon. Basic landscaping of the park soon began, under the direction of the newly formed park commission. Trees and shrubs were planted in various areas, and walks and roadways laid-out. By the early 1890's, Horticultural Hall was displaying premature signs of deterioration; which ultimately required replacement of the foundations, and construction of a new central tower. In 1897, landscape architect John C. Olmsted was hired to design a master-plan for the park. Over the next two decades, many of the ideas proposed in Mr. Olmsted's plan were carried out, including extensive landscaping and construction of a lake. In 1909, Horticultural Hall suffered major damage during a violent storm, which collapsed the entire southern-half of the structure. Six years later, in September of 1915, a severe hurricane struck New Orleans. The storm's excessive winds completely destroyed Horticultural Hall and caused extensive damage to much of the city. During the 1920's many recreational facilities were added to the park, in addition to several animal exhibits, an aquarium, and a sea-lion pool; all of which eventually became part of the Audubon Zoo. During the past several decades, numerous changes and improvements have been made to Audubon Park. Today the park contains a golf course, bicycle and jogging paths, tennis courts, ball-fields, picnic areas, and the Audubon Zoo. The zoo occupies acreage in the portion of the park where Horticultural Hall, Lake Brilliant, and the Mexican National Headquarters were once located; and several of the zoo's large oaks are remnants of the pre-Civil War Foucher Plantation. The sea-lion pool, a decorative fountain, and the reptile exhibits now occupy the former site of Horticultural Hall. On the north side of the zoo, Live Oak Avenue remains and stretches toward the Newman Bandstand. The golf course covers much of the area where the Main Building, Government & States Building, and Lake Rubio were formerly located. A large iron-ore boulder, situated on the golf course, was once part of Alabama's mineral display, and left behind after the second exposition closed. Audubon Park itself remains as a permanent legacy of both the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, and the North, Central and South American Exposition.

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