If you’ve ever watched a movie set in the city of New Orleans and marveled at the beautiful shot of the city across the water that view is from Gretna, Louisiana. The next time you visit New Orleans, head across the river to Gretna not only for that beautiful view but for everything else historic Gretna has to offer. These are only a few of the fantastic things I saw during my very short visit as a guest of the Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
1.) Shotgun Houses
For a northerner like me, stepping into the historic districts of Gretna definitely feels like entering another time and place. The City is serious about both maintaining its historic buildings and ensuring that newer structures fit into their surroundings. One of the most common types of home is the Shotgun House, a narrow rectangular home, usually no more than about 12 feet wide, with all the rooms arranged in a row one after each other and doors on the front and back of the house.
2.) Vintage Businesses
While I think it’s cool to see businesses look like their straight out of a 1950s movie, it’s even more so when they are fully functioning current businesses. Neeb’s Hardware, established in 1917, is one of the oldest continuously operating business in the city of Gretna. While it has been updated with some modern conveniences, it still remains close to what it was in the early days.
3.) Gretna City Hall
History isn’t just in the homes and businesses of the area, but in the public buildings as well. One of the most remarkable is Gretna City Hall. The Renaissance and Baroque style building dates back to 1907. Much of the building, including the courtroom on the upper level, has been going through recent updates to restore it to its former glory.
4.) David Crockett Fire Co.
The David Crockett Fire Co., established in 1841, is the oldest continuously active volunteer fire department in the nation. The company’s 1859 firehouse now houses the Louisiana Fire Museum, displaying artifacts from around the state and an 1876 steam fire pumper that was pulled by men.
5.) Kittie Strehle House and Gretna Green Blacksmith Shop
The Kittie Strehle House is a creole cottage built in the mid 1800s by Claudius Strehle and his wife Catherina. The Gretna Historical Society has renovated it and furnished it to reflect the historical style of the 19th century. Behind the house is the Gretna Green Blacksmith Shop which commemorates all the blacksmith shops that were active in the area in the 1800s.
I may be a little biased about how much I like this stop since my ancestors are German, but it is key to Gretna’s history as the area was settled by German immigrants in the mid-1880s. It features exhibits interpreting their contribution to Luisiana history and offers many educational activities and special events. Don’t miss the murals on the outside of the building!
7.) St. Joseph Church
St. Joseph Church, on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1927 in a Spanish Baroque style. It is actually the third church on this site as the parish originally dates back to 1857. It’s a beautiful building inside and out.
Are you ready to visit Gretna now? I’m ready to go back!