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Remembering the Irish in New Orleans

New Orleans is built upon layer after layer of strata, and its population followed suit.   The current Pontchartrain Expressway, running from Pontchartrain Boulevard to the Union Passenger terminal, located at Loyola Avenue, was built along the route formerly known as New Basin Canal.  In 1831, the New Orleans Canal and Banking Company was formed to begin construction of the canal, which was to connect Lake Pontchartrain through the “swamp” to the Uptown section of New Orleans.  By 1838, after an expense of $1million, the 60-foot wide, three- mile long canal was complete enough to be opened to small vessels.  It took seven years to build, and countless lives of the Irish immigrants who were coming to the city in hordes back then. Yellow fever in New Orleans in the 19th century was a ruthless killer.  Estimates range from 4,000 to 30,000 deaths of immigrant Irish workers digging the canal. Today, the canal has long since been closed   For more information, see www.irishchannelno.org/ New Orleans is as much Irish in its heritage as it is French or Spanish. It’s not just about green beer.  New Orleans grew physically to accommodate new residents, making it the second largest population of Irish immigrants, only to New York City.“The Irish were the catalyst for making New Orleans a metropolitan city,” says Fitzmorris. According to Tulane historian Terrence Fitzmorris, “The city’s vibrant economy based on trade drew immigrants like the Irish.  They were part of the powerful regional and Atlantic economy that made New Orleans a global city.”

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