NOLA 300: 100 years ago, there was an elk on Elk Place

NEW ORLEANS -- When Basin Street crosses Canal Street by the Joy Theater, it becomes Elk Place for two blocks before it turns into Loyola Avenue.

An old photo from the archives of the Library of Congress helps explain why.

More than 100 years ago, photographers from the Detroit Publishing Company went around New Orleans taking photos of the city. A digital collection of their photos is available for viewing on the Library of Congress website. One of those photographs is of Elk Place the way it looked around 1900.

When comparing photos of Elk Place now and then, the obvious difference is all the trees that line the neutral ground today. But, when you look at the old photo, you can see the reason it is called Elk Place.

To the right of the old photo is the Elks Lodge. And, across from the lodge at the center of the neutral ground, is a prominent statue of an elk. (Hence, Elk Place.)

Also of interest in the old photo is the large, castle-like structure towards the back. It is the former Orleans Parish Criminal Court and Prison. It's gone. And, in its place is the New Orleans Public Library's Main Library.

The elk statue is also gone. But, there is still art on the neutral ground.

A sculpture called "The Source," a large head on its side, is roughly where the elk statue once was. "The Source" was on display at the 1984 World's Fair and had water flowing from its eyes.

And, "Molly Marine" by famous sculptor Enrique Alferez is the new centerpiece of the Elk Place neutral ground.