Sts. Peter and Paul is still very much alive in the multitude of people who remember attending talent shows in the school, getting married in the church or or playing basketball in the back alley. See some of their stories below.
A portrait series
In 1850, the Faubourg Marigny was a working-class neighborhood heavily populated by immigrants and free people of color, many of whom worked on the docks of the nearby Mississippi River. There were churches serving the French-speaking and German-speaking Catholics downtown, but none serving the English speakers, most of whom were Irish.
Henry Howard designed the soft red brick building with a remarkable 177-foot bell tower, later shortened after it caught fire and began to lean demonstrably. The rectory, also designed by Henry Howard, was built c. 1875, and the school, built by Diboll & Owen, followed in 1900. The small convent, originally built in 1890 as a private residence, housed about 10 nuns (adjacent homes were demolished in the 1950s to make way for the parking lot).
In 1960, it had 530 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, but changing demographic trends like suburban flight, smaller families and secularization led to declining enrollments, and it closed in 1993. Similarly, in the 1950s, average Sunday mass attendance at the church was 1,400, but by 1990, activity had dropped to 7 baptisms, and the church ceased operating in 2001.
The Faubourg Marigny, too, has changed over the years. What began as Bernard de Marigny’s plantation was parceled up in 1806 to pay off gambling debts. He named the streets of his new subdivision imaginatively: Poets, Piety, Goodchildren, Frenchmen, Music, Desire, Hope, Love, Pleasure and Craps. As the English language dominated commerce and trade in New Orleans, the Marigny and other majority-French-speaking areas were left behind. Street lighting, garbage pickup and sidewalks were less forthcoming than in the American sections until well into the twentieth century. The advent of indoor plumbing around 1914 made newly built homes connected to the municipal sewer system more attractive than older homes that lacked it, and the Marigny became home to many Italian and Spanish immigrants seeking inexpensive rentals. Post-war white flight led many families to the suburbs, and the neighborhood’s population declined. In the 1970s and 1980s, young bohemians and professionals charmed by the intact and inexpensive 19th-century streetscape began rehabilitating the old homes. Today, the Marigny continues to evolve as a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood.