O.C. Haley Community Partners Breathe Life Into Central City
Transforming a neighborhood through culture and commerce
Central City New Orleans has seen its streets flourish and decline throughout its history. Today, however, thanks to a host of organizations, a community-focused renewal is marked with the spirit and vitality upon which this neighborhood’s foundation is based.
At the heart of this transformation is Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, renamed from Dryades Street in honor of civil rights activist Oretha Castle Haley. In line with the zeal of this prominent local figure, O.C. Haley Boulevard, as it’s known locally, is the backbone of the Central City neighborhood, a parcel of New Orleans that is rich in history, culture and promise.
History of Central City
Founded in 1806, Central City was invigorated by the opening of the Dryades Street Market in 1849.footnote1 The neighborhood served as a hub for both African-American and Jewish businesses at the turn of the 20th century.footnote2 By the 1930s, Dryades Street evolved into a less racially-divided alternative to the highly segregated Canal Street shopping and entertainment districts footnote3 and was home to several pioneers of early jazz, commerce, and civil rights.
The YMCA on Dryades Street, which has offered area residents prospects for education, employment and recreation since 1905, was an anchor for the civil rights movement.footnote4 By the 1980s, however, with the population of New Orleans in decline, Central City had become overwhelmed with crime, blight and the loss of opportunities for neighborhood residents.footnote5
1806 - Barthelemy Lafon lays out area now known as Lower Garden District, including Central City close to present St. Charles Ave.
1960 - Dryades Street boycott protests absence of African-American employees in Central City shops
1989 - Dryades Street renamed Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. after civil rights leader
1999 - Lower Saint Charles corridor designated a “Save America’s Treasures” neighborhood