Audubon Park History

Audubon Park History

Filmed by the Louisiana Farm Bureau, Audubon Zoo grounds director Dianne Weber describes how horticulture staff is working to preserve the stately collection of oaks in Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park, the oldest living history in New Orleans. Weber explains how her team cares for the trees, work that includes the careful installation of lightning rods on Audubon’s 150 or so historic oaks, some of which are more than 250 years old.

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.

The Audubon Commission was established by State Act in 1914 to maintain and develop Audubon Park. A flight cage was added to the park in 1916, and its popularity launched the community's call for a full-scale zoo. Today Audubon Park includes the site of Audubon Zoo and many amenities including riding stables, tennis courts, a golf course and clubhouse, jogging trails, lagoons, baseball fields, soccer fields and more than 300 acres of green space for people to enjoy.

Audubon Park does not receive dedicated city funding for operations and is sustained by proceeds generated by Audubon Zoo and other facilities managed by Audubon Nature Institute. To fulfill its responsibility for the improvement and long-term conservation of Audubon Park, Audubon Nature Institute is launching a focused fundraising initiative, Olmsted Renewed. The campaign supports the care and preservation of existing trees; the planting of new trees and other natural landscaping; and the maintenance of existing structures throughout the Park.

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Enjoy the sights and sounds of New Orleans' most prominent rookery. An excellent spot for bird watching.
Join the Audubon Park Conservancy to support the annual cleanliness, safety and operation of Audubon Park.