More Than A School
More Than A School
An exposition about three students' experiences at a monumental French Quarter school.
A story about one of the oldest schools in New Orleans, located in the heart of the French Quarter. Three students take a trip down memory lane and explain what this now closed school meant to them.
More than a school, My Nola, My Story via YouTube.
November 24-December 4 2017
Owner-Leland Johnson/My Nola, My Story
My Nola, My Story Fall 2017
It references St. Louis Cathedral's history and the affect it had on three students who attended the school.
On the week of Thanksgiving, I sat in front of a large barrage of photo albums. I finally had free time after a whelp of exams and decided to stroll on through each photo album. One by one I went through them until I finally found one that startled my interest. It was a picture of me so many years ago, but not just any old photo. I was with friends all wearing the same uniform. We were so happy we were home at St. Louis Cathedral Academy. Suddenly, I felt a rush of nostalgia as long as I held the photos in my hands. The great moments and times that I had at that school started to come back to me. I wanted to relive those times and decided to go and seek out some old friends so that we can put together something and show you why St. Louis Cathedral was so important to us. So, like all things we have to start at the beginning. St. Louis cathedral academy was founded in 1914 by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and can still be seen today on 820 Dauphine street in the heart of the French Quarter only residing 3 blocks from the momentous St. Louis cathedral church. The institution was originally a boarding school where only a small number of students, grades pre-k to 4th grade, actually attended the school due to its size as seen in this photo of the 2nd grade in 1926. The status of the school is actually older than the school itself being built past the 1870’s. The school was initially a full convent space for practicing nuns in New Orleans. This living space conflicted with the need for space for students which resulted in the second building located adjacent to the schoolyard becoming an area mainly used for the middle school students while the elementary students would use the main building. The principal and higher arching nuns would stay in the remaining areas of the school, but the others would stay within convent spaces located near the famous St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square itself. This partnership of the Cathedral and the school was the unique factor of the school itself. The school was founded due to a need for schools within the French Quarter area of New Orleans as its local residents in the early 1900’s had no educational avenue for their children within the confines of the quarter. The Archdiocese seeking a feeder school for their other private institutions such as Ursuline Academy founded in 1727 and Jesuit founded in 1847, responded to these calls by opening the school with the help of the sisters of Ursuline. The school would become the representative school for the famous cathedral of New Orleans. There it would have its school mass, celebrations, and retreats. There was simply no school as unique as the academy being private and connected to one of the most famous churches in the world. The school would stand the test of time as one of the only schools in the city to have nuns as teachers and principals even into the 2000’s when many attendees of the school were not Catholic. The school would change some adding grades 5-7 in its later years of existence and allotting for lay faculty to be allowed within the teaching body. This bought the school into the new age and would seem to go on for generations until 2005 when the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina hit. Many schools were devastated amongst the city and received heavy instances of flooding. The cathedral itself even was hit by the storm symbolizing the plight of the city. This bombardment of sorrow would continue until late October when residents of New Orleans would begin to move back into the city. Ironically, there were a lack of schools open within the east bank of the city. Cathedral Academy, similarly to its beginnings, was the first school open in the greater New Orleans area after Katrina. This was significant and a glimmer of hope for a city that needed it badly. This opening was so big that it attracted people even larger than life such as Prince Charles of Wales who donated money to the school and also Polarizing Magician David Blane. The school was hope to many including myself who needed a place to call home after losing one after the storm. These feelings reside in many such as by Dominique Williams a graduate of Cathedral Academy. Within the walls of the school itself, you could see how different this school was in comparison to other schools. Looking outside the windows wasn’t like looking at busy highways with street signs and cars, but instead you would see the architecture and withering vines that covered the many establishments of the quarter. The French Quarter was our playground be it for our annual events like the reign deer runs, trick or trucks, and mardi gras parades down Dauphine street. Even the everyday events like football during recess or having lunch in the cafeteria were special because of this phenomenon. We were players in history we could see it every time we came in through those old brick walls of the school. Another late graduate of the school shares this experience in Michael Keys… I remember my final day at the school on graduation day. I was asked by a parent where I would be attending 8th grade the following year. I paused initially as was startled by the question. It made me think back to the many experiences I had at the academy, meeting lifelong friends, learning so much about my city, and being put into situations so unique they are hard to describe. I did not want to leave as it was my home and I associated so many memories with it to this day. The school closed in 2014 due to a lack of students in regards to the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ school enrollment criteria. This sparked a huge backlash by alumni and students alike to prevent this from happening. Fundraisers and social media campaigns were started to save this wonderful school, but just like its opening as the first school after open after Katrina, it was the first school closed In a plan by the archdiocese to push students to other schools such as St. Stephen Catholic school. The school lays vacant now with its future use being undisclosed leaving a shell of what was. I occasionally see the academy when visiting the quarter. Every time I do remember the great memories that made me who I am today and I shed a tear to know that I was and will always be a part of the great history of St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of New Orleans.
- Date Added
- December 5, 2017
- Nola Community
- Item Type
- Moving Image
- French Quarter, More than a School, My Nola My Story, New Orleans, Nola, Prince Charles, Xavier University of Louisiana, XULA
- Leland Johnson, “More Than A School,” MY NOLA, MY STORY , accessed June 5, 2023, https://xulamasscomm.omeka.net/items/show/32.