Introduction to Metairie, Louisiana
Metairie, Louisiana is actually a suburb of New Orleans and its residents have no mayor and no city taxes. Although it is larger than most cities in the entire state, Metairie is not legally a city. The original spelling, Metairie, means "tenant farm" in French. In the early 19th century, the main activity of this area was sharecropping, whereby the landlords were paid with a share of the produce.
Metairie is located in eastern Jefferson Parish and its boundaries include New Orleans to the east, Kenner to the west, Lake Pontchartrain to the north, and Airline Highway to the south. The 17th Street Canal forms the border between Metairie and New Orleans to the east. Interstate Route 10 runs east-west through Metairie. Like its neighbor, New Orleans, Metairie is below sea level. The twin span bridge, The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, is 24 miles long and is the world's longest bridge. It connects Metairie to Covington, Mandeville and Madisonville which are the towns on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
The history of Metairie is interesting and colorful. Metairie was first settled by the French in the late 18th century along an area known as Metairie Ridge, a natural levee formed by a bayou. This became Metairie Road where an electric streetcar was installed running along Metairie Road in the late 1910s, opening the area to greater development. In the 1920s houses were built off the road and this area is now known as "Old Metairie," which is actually the most prestigious area of Metairie today. Most of the rest of Metairie was not developed until after World War II. Much of this growth was a result of white New Orleans residents leaving New Orleans after integration of New Orleans schools during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Louisiana's earlier history, especially in the New Orleans area, was influenced by the huge influx of Canadians when they fled the Canadian government because they refused to renounce their Catholic religion. Most of the survivors ended up in Louisiana after the King of Spain allowed them to settle in South Louisiana and they eventually ended up in the areas around New Orleans. By 1803, Louisiana had become a part of the United States. President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon because of the region's importance to the trade and security of the American mid-west. Much of the produce of the mid-west traveled down the Mississippi River so this area became vital for America. The fertility of the land in this region gave rise to important crops such as cotton and sugar. After the Civil War, sulphur was discovered in 1869 and oil was discovered in 1901. Now Louisiana has become one of the leading producers of oil and natural gas in the country.
Metairie Points of Interest
Today, "Old Metairie" is composed of various shops, professional buildings, and shopping centers which have developed into one of the most picturesque areas of Metairie. One of Louisiana's oldest and largest shopping malls, Lakeside Shopping Center, is located on Causeway Boulevard in the heart of Metairie. Metairie's historical residential base has gradually shifted from a primarily suburban residential community, to various mixed commercial uses including retail malls, shopping centers, office buildings, night clubs and entertainment. Many of Metairie's night clubs are located in "Fat City", which was planned and developed as Metairie's commercial district. "Fat City" has a Mardi Gras similar to New Orleans but slightly more family friendly, and has become a huge attraction. The New Orleans Saints offices and practice fields are in Metairie. The New Orleans Zephyrs AAA baseball team maintains its stadium in Metairie. Cafe Du Monde has its headquarters in Metairie as well as Mercedes Benz and Lexus. Because it is so close to New Orleans, Metairie has become a popular destination for tourists visiting New Orleans and as a result, has been discovered for its own jewels, including great Cajun food, jazz and nightlife. Of course, New Orleans continues to attract thousands of visitors on its own because of its exciting history, ghost tours, jazz clubs and unique cuisine.