The St. Roch area, historically called Faubourg Nouvelle Marigny, illustrates the downriver expansion of New Orleans by the Creole population during the first half of the nineteenth century, following the creation of Faubourg Marigny in 1806. Faubourg Nouvelle Marigny, as the name implies, was an enlargement of Faubourg Marigny.
The latter was created when Bernard de Marigny decided to subdivide his plantation to accommodate the rapidly growing city. Faubourg Marigny developed so quickly that Marigny found it necessary to extend the development north of St. Claude Avenue into present day St. Roch. Surveyor Joseph Pilie completed the plan for this enlargement on November 10, 1809.
The western portion of the neighborhood was Faubourg Franklin and it was created in 1826 when Nicholas Destrehan commissioned Joseph Pilie to develop a plan for subdividing property he owned. The faubourg was north of St. Claude from Marigny Street to Almonaster Avenue. The plan featured a major thoroughfare called Washington (now St. Roch), with Independence Place (now St. Roch playground) between Roman and Johnson.
The St. Roch Cemetery
The neighborhood got its current name in 1867 with the dedication of the St. Roch shrine and cemetery. At the height of the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, a German priest named Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis arrived in New Orleans. Faced with the severity of the yellow fever epidemic, he turned to God and invoked the intercession of Saint Roch, the patron saint of good health. He promised that if no one in his parish should die from the fever, he would build a chapel in honor of the Saint. Amazingly, not one member of Holy Trinity died from yellow fever, either in the epidemic of 1867 or 1878.
In thanks, Rev. Thevis’ conviction was to build not only a chapel as a shrine to St. Roch, but also a mortuary chapel in a last resting place for the members of his parish. The cemetery was called the Campo Santo (in Spanish, sacred land, or resting place of the dead). Rev. Thevis traveled to Europe to study the architecture and construction of many beautiful shrines and chapels before building the chapel to St. Roch. The chapel, completed in 1876, was and is considered a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.
The St. Roch Market, facing St. Claude Avenue on the St. Roch neutral ground, has a long history. In 1935, it was a deteriorating public market when the neighborhood residents protested to the city to keep it open. With assistance from the WPA, a federal program, the building was renovated. Refrigerator units, protective glass displays and new plumbing were installed. In 1945 it was leased to a private owner. It is now a fish market that serves some of the best gumbo and seafood po-boys in town.
The boundaries of the FSRIA are St. Claude Avenue, Florida Avenue, Press Street, and Elysian Fields Avenue. The neighborhood is adjacent to the Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater and is a moderate walk to the French Quarter. There are approximately 4,700 households in the neighborhood with 23% of them owner occupied and 19% of them vacant.*