Photography by John DeMajo and Kathleen DeMajo Adams
SAINT JAMES MAJOR CATHOLIC CHURCH
3736 Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, LA.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST. JAMES MAJOR PARISH AND ITS SURROUNDING COMMUNITY
1736: The Capuchin Friars join forces with Joseph Chaney, Sieur Bizoton and Doctor Prat to develop an indigo plantation at Gentilly but the venture soon failed.
1805: Governor Claiborne divided New Orleans into wards and declared the Third Ward as covering the areas of Bayou St.John, Lameterie, Jentilly and Chef Menteur. Evidence of substantial population exists in order from Claiborne that the area should furnish at least one battalion for the militia. The militia was headed by Major Darcantelle who later became one of the first real estate developers of Gentilly.
1832: Construction of the Pontchartrain Railroad, between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain causes the development of the recreational village of Milneburg (in old Pontchartrain Beach area) and also spurs further development of Gentilly.
1834: Subdivisions were laid out in the area of the Darcantel Plantation on what is now Gentilly and Franklin Avenues and in the area of the Sauniac land. Banking companies were established to fund the development of the area.
fishing and recreational village including drinking establishments and a hotel. Through the influence of Darcantel, a railroad station was constructed at the road crossing Elysian Fields and leading to Gentilly.
1860: With the onset of the Civil War, development again slowed. The Fabourg Gentilly became the home of dairymen who established themselves along the road.
1870: After the Civil War, Gentilly was viewed favorably because of its relatively high ground. Efforts were made to engineer drainage for the area and interest in the area was renewed.
1900: With renewed interest in Gentilly, the Gentilly Terrace Land Company emerged under the direction of a group of developers including Lafaye, DeMontluzin, and Baccich. Tracts were purchased and divided into lots and streets. Other owners of the area included Lake Shore Land Company, Gus Seeger, Seabrook Realty Company, Bienville Realty and the New Orleans Industrial Canal Land and Harbor Development Company. Of all these, the Gentilly Terrace and Gentilly Gardens developments were the prime players.
1911: Through the 1800's the development of Gentilly belonged partially to the parishes of St. Maurice, St. Vincent de Paul, Annunciation, Sts. Peter and Paul, and Holy Trinity. In 1911, Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish was founded and most of Gentilly was now placed into that parish.
1914: The Industrial Canal was dug through the Gentilly area bringing with it a large influx of Catholics to the area. Archbishop Blenk, noting the rise in population, begins to assign priests to minister to the area.
1917: Under the direction of Rev. John Prim, pastor of Holy Trinity, plans were laid for a new parish for Gentilly. Prior to that time, priests from the parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Maurice, Holy Rosary and Our Lady Star of the Sea ministered to the people of Gentilly. Later that year, Auxiliary bishop Laval donates ground to Our Lady Star of the Sea parish for use in Gentilly.
1920: A lumber storage shed on the square of land bounded by Spain Street, Lombard, Gentilly Road and St. Roch was designated as the first St. James church. Because there was another St. James church in the diocese, the people asked that the name be changed to St. James Major. The new parish was expansive, bounded by the lake, the Mississippi state line, Florida Avenue and Touro Street.
Reverend Minor H.A. Chauvin was named first pastor of St.James Major parish in February of 1920. He took up residence at 3865 Gentilly Road. Later, Father Chauvin was invited to reside with Mr. Lafaye in his mansion at the corner of Franklin and Gentilly.
In July of 1920, Father Chauvin constructed a two-story building on St. Roch Ave. which had a church on the lower floor and residence above.
1921 Under the direction of Father Chauvin, St. Rita's Chapel is constructed at Milneburg. This chapel would later serve the Naval Air Station and, finally would become the first home of St. Raphael Parish.
1923: With the increase in population of the new parish to 1400, Fr. Chauvin decided that a school was needed and he proceeded to acquire land at Franklin Avenue for erection of a school.
1932: Father Chauvin dies of appendicitis at age of 43. Rev. DeLafuente was appointed temporary administrator. In September, Rev. Thomas Gaffney was named second pastor of St. James Major.
1933 First Assistant pastor was assigned to the parish. Fr. Paul Gauci filled the position.
1934: Father Gaffney expired at the parish residence.
1935: Due to overcrowding of the church, Father Gauci began regular Sunday mass at a private residence near Seabrook. Additionally, Rev. Vernon P. Alleman, a newly ordained priest, was assigned as a second assistant to St. James Major parish. In October of that year, Fr. Gauci was transferred and Father Sidney Skiffington became pastor of St. James Major.
1941: Outbreak of World War II slows development of Gentilly area.
1946: As the troops return home from World War II and the Occupation efforts, a shortage of housing for new families in the New Orleans causes a resurgence of development into the Gentilly Terrace and Lakefront area. Services were held in the church's previous rectory located on the corner of St. Roch Avenue and Gentilly Boulevard.
1953: The new church on Gentilly Boulevard was completed and dedicated. Father Carl Schutten was named pastor. In addition to the new church building, the church's facilities now included a new rectory, the high school and grammar school, which had been expanded onto the original school building, and a convent for the Mount Carmel nuns who operated the school.
Architect: W.C. Burk and Associates, Architects and Engineers.
SPECIFICATIONS FOR M.P. MOLLER OPUS 8422, (1953)
|Diapason 8||Rohr Flote 8||Nacht Horn 8||Diapason 16|
|Harmonic Flute 8||Viol Celeste 8||Unda Maris 8||Bourdon 16|
|Gemshorn 8||Viol de Gambe 8||Dulciana 8||Rohr Bourdon 16|
|Octave 4||Principal 4||Koppel Flote 4||Octave 8|
|Octave Quint 2-2/3||Flute Ouverte 4||Nazard 2-2/3||Bourdon 8|
|Super Octave 2||Cymbel III Rks||Block Flote 2||Rohr Flote 8|
|Great 16||Trompette 8||Oboe 8||Super Octave 4|
|Great 4||Clarion 4||Tremulant||Bourdon 4|
|Great Unison||Tremulant||Choir 16|
|Swell 16||Choir 4|
|Swell 4||Choir Unison|
COUPLERS (Back Rail)
|Great To Pedal|
|Great to Pedal 4|
|Swell to Pedal|
|Swell to Pedal 4|
|Choir to Pedal|
|Choir to Pedal 4|
|Swell to Great 16|
|Swell to Great|
|Swell to Great 4|
|Choir to Great 16|
|Choir to Great|
|Choir to Great 4|
|Swell to Choir 16|
|Swell to Choir|
|Swell to Choir 4|
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