City Park owes much of its art and architecture to the 1930s Works Progress Administration (WPA).
This massive federal public works project put millions of people across the country to work building parks and roads, and employed scores of artists in public art projects. Most of the existing brick cottage-style buildings and Art Deco sculptures in the Park were constructed during this time, and the landscape of City Park is dotted with original artwork from the WPA era. Sculptural elements range from bas-reliefs on bridges and surrounding Tad Gormley Stadium to sculptures in the Botanical Garden. Many of these sculptures were created by Enrique Alférez, a Mexican-born sculptor who lived in New Orleans and whose work can be seen on landmarks and buildings around the city.
We invite you to explore City Park beyond its natural elements and soak up a bit of the Park’s history through its art and architecture. We like to think of City Park as a living museum – a place that not only preserves glimpses of the Park’s origins, but one that embraces modern innovation and evolves with the needs of the community.
Please click here if you'd like a printable copy of the WPA Walking Tour in City Park. <coming soon!>
You can see the Anseman Bridge behind the Anseman Oak
A complete list of WPA Bridges in New Orleans City Park:
Location: Palm Drive near Little Lake
One of two WPA bridges depicting hand tools, the bridge is a visual unification of art and construction – Alférez’s bas-relief sculpture is a nod to the WPA work in City Park done by hand, without the use of machinery.
Location: Near NOMA, Christian Brothers School, next to Little Lake
Although two bridges in City Park depict the image of a floating woman as a bas-relief, this bridge is unique in depicting both the floating woman and hand tools (see Bridge #1).
Grandjean Bridge Plaque (Bridge #3)
Location: Behind the New Orleans Museum of Art
This bridge, inscribed “WPA” and “1938,” was constructed in 1938 as a memorial to former Park Commissioner George H. Grandjean, a civil engineer who designed City Park’s original lagoons and developed an improvement plan for the Park in 1894. The bridge is the third at this location – the first bridge was most likely made out of wood, and the second of concrete or iron. The sturdy, concrete WPA bridge has withstood the test of time – no reconstruction work has been required since the bridge was built.
Enrique Alferez Bridge (McFadden) (Bridge #4)
Location: On the right side of the New Orleans Museum of Art, connecting two sections of Big Lake
This bridge is an example of Alferez’s Art Deco streamlined, geometrical style in the mid-1930s. The bridge is sponsored by Douglas J. Allen and Carole T. Allen.
Location: On Diagonal Drive, north of Interstate 610 near NOLA City Bark and the rugby field
The bas-relief sculpture on this bridge is another example of the unification of art and construction. It depicts an ideal working universe with scenes of men using hand tools, which represents the tremendous WPA works in City Park that were completed by hand, without the use of machinery.
Location: Harrison Avenue, near the entrance of Couturie Forest
The City Park Volunteer Center is located between Bridge #6 and Bridge #7. This bridge demonstrates Alferez’s Art Deco streamlined, geometrical style in the mid-1930s.
Location: Harrison Avenue, near Marconi
One of two bridges in the park with the bas-relief Art Deco floating woman, Bridge #7 also features geometrical designs. The City Park Volunteer Center is located between Bridge #6 and Bridge #7.
Location: Harrison Avenue, near Wisner
Built in 1938 and bearing both the year and “WPA” stamp, this bridge shows the streamlined geometrical design of Alferez’s Art Deco work.
Anseman Bridge (Bridge #10)
Location: Crossing Bayou Metairie on Anseman, next to Anseman Oak (that is in the Park’s Old Grove)
The bridge is named in honor of the “Father of City Park,” Victor Anseman (1842-1904. Anseman created the Park’s governing board, served as volunteer manager, and was the first executive committee chairman. The original bridge, which crosses Bayou Metairie, was dedicated in 1928 but was replaced with the current, cement bridge in 1938 during the WPA. The bridge has streamlined, geometrical features and is outfitted with working lights.
Please click here to view photos of each bridge and art on bridges as well as to get information on sponsorships.
Renovations in New Orleans City Park by the WPA during the 1930s:
Built as a platform for dancing, the Peristyle was designed by architect Paul Andry for the price of $15,330 in 1907. The Peristyle, originally called the paristyleum, was renovated in the 1930s in conjunction with other WPA projects. During the WPA improvements a decorative portion was removed from the roof of the Peristyle. There was renovation again in 1989 with a generous donation from Mea and Vincent Saia. The Peristyle and the four lions who guard her underwent another significant renovation in 2012.
Anseman Bridge (Bridge #10)
Location: Crossing Bayou Metairie on Anseman, next to Anseman Oak and the Old Grove
The bridge is named in honor of Victor Anseman (1842-1904), the “Father of City Park.” Anseman created the Park’s governing board, served as volunteer manager, and was the first executive committee chairman. The original bridge, which crosses Bayou Metairie, was dedicated in 1928 but was replaced with the current, cement bridge in 1938 during the WPA. The bridge has streamlined, geometrical features and is outfitted with working lights.
Hyams Fountain (1921)
Location: Inside the Carousel Gardens entrance
Sara Lavinia Hyams bequeathed the sale of her personal jewelry collection – valued at $30,000 in 1914 – to fund the building of fountains in both City Park and Audubon Park. (Hyams also left a sizable collection of paintings to the New Orleans Museum of Art.) The fountain’s plaque reads, “Given to the little children of New Orleans,” with a second inscription reading, “By bequest Mrs. Chapman H. Hyams left her jewels to Audubon and City Parks, the proceeds of which were to build a testimonial of her love for her home city. This fountain was erected March 1921 in a faithful endeavor to realize her wishes. She loved the beautiful and gave that all might enjoy.”
McFadden Girl Scout Cabin
Architect Richard Koch and landscape architect William S. Wiedorn designed the Arts and Crafts style cabin, which was donated to City Park by William McFadden and built in the early 1920s. It was refurbished in1936 during WPA work in the Park.
Satyrs on Poles
Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the New Orleans Botanical Garden
The New Orleans Botanical Garden, New Orleans’ first public classical garden, was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Today, it is one of the few remaining examples of public garden design from the WPA and showcases the Art Deco influences of three renowned talents of the era: architect Richard Koch, landscape architect William Wiedorn, and sculptor Enrique Alférez.
The New Orleans Botanical Garden and City Park owe much of their artistic identity to the work of Mexican-born sculptor Enrique Alférez (1901-1999). When he arrived in New Orleans in 1929, Alférez had already acquired a national reputation for his Art Deco sculptures depicting elements of the natural landscape, created with industrial materials such as concrete and steel.
Beyond the intriguing design and stunning variety of flora throughout the garden, the Botanical Garden is home to several sculptural works by artist Enrique Alférez. These works run from the 1930s to the mid 1990s.
Inside the Botanical Garden, Alférez’s unique sculptures are set along the landscaped paths. Visitors can pick up a guide detailing the location and names of each work in the Botanical Garden inside the gift shop. You’ll spot Alférez’s subtle handiwork scattered across the garden on the cement Art Deco Benches with Figures (1932), which depict animals and insects in relief, and Satyrs on Poles (1932), mythological creatures atop sculptural poles.
The Original WPA Formal Garden is still part of the New Orleans Botanical Garden today. The original garden consisted of four garden rooms, a reflecting pool, and the conservatory. These rooms are now used to display a portion of the garden's collections.
East: Positioned as the northeast quadrant of the original garden, this room is nearest the Pavilion of the Two Sisters. This room contains the newest Enrique Alférez Sculpture, Renascence (1998), set among a mixed border of grasses, perennials, annuals and other plants. The exposure of this border spans from full sun to shade. The 90+ year old Peggy Read Oak is located in this room, named for the first President of the Friends of City Park who was instrumental in saving the garden from destruction. Another bed in this room contains old garden roses and hybrid tea roses.
North: Positioned as the northwest quadrant, this room contains the herbaceous perennial and tropical gardens. The most imposing feature of this room is the impressive 130+ year old Alférez Oak, named for the artist responsible for most of the sculptural elements in the garden. The tropical garden is the showcase of the garden's extensive collection of gingers including Alpinia, Hedychium, Costus, Curcuma, Kaempferia, and other genera from the family Zingiberaceae interspersed with other tropical plants. This room also contains numerous Camellia japonica specimens.
West: Positioned as the southwest quadrant, this room contains the garden's woody ornamental collection featuring a variety of shrubs and woody perennials.
South: Positioned as the southeast quadrant, this is the smallest room, containing a few ornamental grasses, and various bulbs.
Runways: The grass runways serve as the primary axis through the original garden. The primary east-west axis connects the Pavilion of the Two Sisters on the east with the Conservatory on the west. A sundial (1983) created by Enrique Alférez sits at the intersection of this main axis and the easternmost north-south axis. At the corners are four art-deco benches with animals sitting beneath them also created by Alférez (1932). This north-south axis connects the original main entrance, located at the Grass Gates (1982) to the formal rose garden, the Parterre. The secondary east-west axis transverses the Azalea and Camellia Garden through two arbors, the parterre and finally to the Demonstration Garden.
Visitors can also see Alférez’s influence beyond the Garden in bridge ornamentation and various sculptures throughout the Park, most notably in the relief sculptures on bridges, the art on the gates surrounding Tad Gormley Stadium, and on the aquatic centerpiece in Popp Fountain.
The Helis Foundation Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden in the New Orleans Botanical Garden joined the CIty Park family in 2016.
The Helis Foundation Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden is a special place in the New Orleans Botanical Garden. The sculpture garden celebrates the history, influence, and work of Mexican-American New Orleans artist Enrique Alférez (1901-1999).
The garden is 8000 sq. ft. and features 14 sculptures set within sweeping footpaths surrounded by greenery and an oak tree.
The son of a Mexican sculptor, Alférez spent part of his young-‐adult life in the army of Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution before coming to the United States. He studied with the prolific sculptor Lorado Taft in Chicago in the 1920s, then moved to New Orleans in 1929, where he lived until his death in 1999. His sculptures and reliefs adorn many parks, buildings, and landmarks in New Orleans and throughout South Louisiana including the well-‐known façade of Charity Hospital. He created numerous sculptures for New Orleans City Park through the Works Progress Administration, including many iconic bridges that cross City Park’s many waterways. Alférez also sculpted “Molly Marine" at Canal St. and Elk Place, which is the very first statue of a woman in military uniform in the United States.