Bayou Treme Center for Arts and Education

Tremé and Bayou Road

Tremé was the transition town between Bayou St. John to the north and the Mississippi River to the south, a concrete fixture of African-American culture and a microcosm for the future of mixed race American social dynamics. The swampy community first started as plantations sprinkled along Bayou Road, the high ground that stretched from Bayou Saint John to the Mississippi River, a portion of it lining up with Esplanade Ridge. Even before the city officially was established, Native Americans used Esplanade Ridge as a portage trail to travel between the two bodies of water. This connection was one of the main reasons why settlers were confident about the location of New Orleans. Water traffic and trade surrounded the French Quarter and what would become Tremé sat in the middle of it all. [1] Directly north of the French Quarter was a meeting ground for the people of Tremé, a safe zone called Congo Square where African-Americans and Creoles would practice their ancient traditions of song and dance on Sundays. Some of these traditions have continued on today, yet taking a slightly different form.

St. Rose de Lima Church

On Bayou Road near Broad Street there is a church called St. Rose de Lima. A building used by many generations of Tremé residents and a symbol of communal involvement, this church has been a vital component of the neighborhood since it was established in 1857 (it moved to Bayou Road in 1880). The church has been a constant throughout its existence, no matter the racial standards of the time. Before its integration during the Civil War, the church serviced the people of Caucasian or mixed African-European descent. People realized the tension caused by its exclusivity, including Father Claude Pascal Maistre. To spearhead integration, he paraded the funeral party of an African-American soldier who died in the Civil War through the streets of Tremé and ended the procession at the church. [2] After this event, the church took on a new meaning and it became a major emotional center for the converging districts of the area. In the early 20th century, the church even catered to the Italian immigrant presence in the area, offering them a center where they could feel welcome. Up until its closing before Hurricane Katrina due to decades of suburban migration from the community and a dwindling congregation, the church remained a unified front along the commercial corridor of Bayou Road. [3]

Bayou Tremé Center for Arts and Education

Since just after Hurricane Katrina, three non-profit organizations have collaborated to “renovate four properties on the former St. Rose of Lima campus into a variety of mixed-use spaces.” [4] The former church will become a performance venue and two old schoolhouses will be revamped as a home for a charter school and as office space and studios for businesses and graphic artists. The church itself is to be repurposed into what is being called the Bayou Tremé Center for Arts and Education. The purpose of this collaboration is to rekindle the sentiment of community ownership that was lost in the church’s closing. Hal Brown, a local of Tremé and now the Managing Member and Board President for the Center, feels that he can expand the reach of this emotional center in the community to include a broader audience. The Center sits on the border of seven different neighborhoods and he hopes to cross these mental barriers and provide a variety of “education incubators” and “arts spaces” to the people of these neighborhoods. [5] The building is a deconsecrated church that will house incubators in a space that is already associated with teaching. Hal is pushing the limits of the space, a space transitioning from sacred to community center, secular to non-secular. It seems that there is an air of excitement within the community with the deep roots of the church on the verge of coming to the surface once more.

In Their Own Words

Hal Brown, Managing Member and Board President of the Bayou Treme Center for Arts and Education, said, “When I was kid, I always thought of this church as a landmark where you could find Picou’s bakery. They had great doughnuts. There was just a lot of activity then, it was a strong commercial area….”

Brown said, “On the corner of Dorgenois and Bell street there was also one of the farmer’s market type buildings that was set up, that was before supermarkets. It was the neighborhood market and another focal point for the area. So it really was a thriving commercial area…”

Brown said, “A number of the people in the Mayor’s office said their moms were married here or so and so was christened here and there a lot of those ties to this community. There are a lot of ties here that go back and as I say there’s the 19th, the 20th, and the 21st century history of this area. We hope to tie it up with a nice little bow and give it back to the community.”

Works Cited

  • Toldedano, Roulhac and Christovich, Mary Louise. 2003. New Orleans Architecture: Faubourg Tremé and Bayou Road. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company.
  • Baudier, Roger. 1957. Centennial St. Rose of Lima Parish. New Orleans: Archdiocese of New Orleans.
  • Personal interview with Hal Brown, Board President of Bayou Treme Center for Arts and Eduction, 1 Oct 2012.
  • The Bayou Treme Center. October 16, 2012. “About”. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  • Personal interview with Hal Brown, Board President of Bayou Treme Center for Arts and Eduction, 1 Oct 2012.

This page was last modified on 28 November 2012, at 04:37


Bayou Treme Cultural Center

2545 Bayou Road