The Audubon Story

One Family, One Legacy

Picture Audubon Nature Institute as a single family tree with many far-reaching branches. From seeds sown more than a century ago, it has grown into an unrivaled family of facilities that Celebrates the Wonders of Nature. The tree is nurtured by a unique culture which owes its beginning—and its ongoing development—to dynamic vision and leadership, enduring entrepreneurial spirit, intense commitment to innovation and passionate community support. This culture has been a catalyst for success that sets Audubon Nature Institute apart.

Rooted in Innovation

The Audubon family began in Audubon Park—once home to Native Americans, and later, to New Orleans' first mayor, Etienne de Boré. He founded the nation's first commercial sugar plantation here and developed its first granulated sugar through a process invented by Norbert Rillieux, a local free man of color. The land would not fall into public hands until 1850, when a philanthropist willed it to the city. During the Civil War, the location alternately hosted a Confederate camp and a Union hospital. In 1866, it was the activation site for the 9th Calvary, the "Buffalo Soldiers" whose defense of our country's western frontier made an indelible mark on America's African-American heritage.

Site improvements made for The World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884 (Louisiana's first world's fair) laid the foundation for an urban park. The city had acquired the land for this purpose in 1871 and in 1886, city planners changed the park's name from Upper City Park to Audubon Park. This was in tribute to artist/naturalist John James Audubon who painted many of his famed "Birds of America" in Louisiana.

A governing board was appointed by the city in 1894 to find the best way to develop the land and by the turn of the century, the development had been entrusted to landscape architect John Charles Olmsted. Olmsted's family firm had risen to prominence for its design of New York's Central Park, and New Orleanians soon watched their own scenic retreat materialize from Louisiana swamplands.