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Monday, December 30, 2013

Chalmette, LA

Chalmette, LA.jpg
View of Chalmette residential area

Chalmette is a census-designated place (CDP) in and the parish seat of St. Bernard Parish, in southeast Louisiana, United States. The 2010 census reported that Chalmette had 16,751 people and is 76 percent white. The 2011 population is listed as 17,119; however, the pre-Katrina population was 32,069 at the 2000 census. The population hence declined by 46 percent between 2000 and 2010. Chalmette is part of the New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner Metropolitan Statistical Area. Chalmette is located east of downtown New Orleans and south of Arabi, Louisiana, towards Lake Borgne.
The community was named after plantation owner Louis-Xavier Martin de Lino de Chalmette (1720-1755), whose surname is, in turn, derived from the French word "chalmette" (meaning "pasture land, fallow land") and has been traced to the Proto-Celtic word "*kalm".


Chalmette was founded by plantation owner Louis-Xavier Martin de Lino de Chalmette (1720-1755), a native of Quebec and grandson of René-Louis Chartier de Lotbinière of Maison Lotbinière. His eldest son, Louis Xavier Martin de Lino de Chalmette (1753-1814) was born there and later married the sister of Antoine Philippe de Marigny, grandfather of Bernard de Marigny.
Chalmette Battlefield, with house and monument along the Mississippi River.
In January 1815, the Battle of New Orleans was fought at Chalmette on the founder's plantation, now owned by his second son, Ignace Martin de Lino de Chalmette (1755-1815), a first cousin of Major-General Pierre Denys de La Ronde (1762-1824), the founder of Versailles, who commanded the Louisiana militia during the battle. The United States forces under Major General Andrew Jackson defeated the British, led by brevet Lieutenant General Sir Edward Pakenham. The battlefield is preserved as a national monument, and the military Chalmette National Cemetery is adjacent.

Hurricane Katrina

On 29 August 2005, the 25-foot (7.6 m) storm surge from Hurricane Katrina overflowed through the Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet Canal (also commonly known as MRGO) - a commercial channel dug by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960's - and flooded most of the town, with waters as high as 14 to 15 feet (4.9 m) in some places. As a result, Chalmette was extensively swamped and nearly destroyed. A majority of the population evacuated shortly before the storm hit, but there was still significant loss of life.
As of 25 October 2005, most of the buildings were deemed unsaveable. Despite findings published by the U.S. EPA, the toxic chemicals in the water from local oil refineries have been postulated to be an ongoing health hazard by several civilian ecological groups. Especially notable was the large oil spill originating in Chalmette's large Murphy Oil facility, where the storm surge knocked over a huge oil tank (see photo below).
Hurricane Katrina: cars in Chalmette, Louisiana post-hurricane.
The parish administrative headquarters served as the site for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer park for numerous civil servants who were laboring in the rebuilding effort. A year later, parish employees were still working shifts around the clock to bring the community back to life.
Another center in the rebuilding effort was centered at the church of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, which served the congregations of the seven other Roman Catholic parishes as well as the main office of Catholic Relief Services. It also served as the only place to hold funerals for the first 12 months after Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina aerial photo of oil spill in Chalmette, Louisiana, showing oil slick on streets (September 2005).
Deputies working for the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff stated in early December 2005 that the oil tank floated in the flood. When the water receded, the tank settled on uneven ground. Its structural integrity was compromised, and then the oil spill occurred. By late November, the Murphy facility was functional, as was a small cluster of businesses around the intersection of Paris Road and St. Bernard Highway, on the least damaged River side of Chalmette. The devastated residential areas further away from the River were open during daylight hours for residents to salvage belongings from their damaged residences. The majority of people staying in Chalmette full-time were living in trailers, that started to be supplied by FEMA or private enterprise on October 12; although many who had been promised FEMA trailer housing were still waiting as late as March 2006, 7 months after the hurricane.
A vacant apartment complex in October 2009, over 4 years after Katrina.
"Camp Premier", renamed "Camp Hope", was established as a base camp for the community rebuilding efforts, facilitating the work of relief organizations, the National Guard and private individuals. As of August 2007, the camp is located to P.G.T. Beauregard Middle School and is operated by Habitat for Humanity to provide for relief volunteers in St. Bernard Parish. Other relief organizations, such as the St. Bernard Project, have also participated in the rebuilding of Chalmette, from distributing supplies, to clearing debris, to preparing damaged houses for homeowners to return.
The Chalmette Battlefield was also partially flooded in low-lying areas, destroying the Visitor's Center, which was removed for rebuilding, and temporarily replaced with a house trailer to attempt re-opening the park for visitors in 2007.

Mardi Gras 2006 in Chalmette: float #10 "The FEMA Ship" (click to enlarge)

Gradual recovery

St. Bernard Parish has celebrated Mardi Gras with parades in Chalmette. In February 2006, the krewe of the Knights of Nemesis held a parade, past many buildings still in ruins, along the streets of Chalmette.
As of early 2008, many businesses have returned to the area, schools have reopened, although the population remains significantly below pre-Katrina levels.
Due to Hurricane Katrina, the St. Bernard Parish School Board succeeded in getting a school open despite considerable difficulties, including telling FEMA that it would not wait for the agency. The parish opened the St. Bernard Unified School as a K-12 school in late 2005.
With the opening of the 2006-2007 school year, the Unified school reverted to Chalmette High School and now houses grades 8-12. The former Andrew Jackson High School has been repaired and now houses grades PK3-5. Trist Middle School houses grades 6 through 7.
The Catholic and private school sector was lost to Katrina. The archdiocese of New Orleans has consolidated all local schools into one, on the Our Lady of Prompt Succor campus. It has grades PK-8.


Chalmette is served by the St. Bernard Parish Public Schools district. As of 2007, Chalmette is served by schools in unincorporated areas:
  • Andrew Jackson Elementary School (in Chalmette)
  • Trist Middle School (in the community of Meraux)
  • Chalmette High School (in Chalmette)
Chalmette High School

Private schools include:
  • Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic School (K-8)
Before Katrina, Chalmette was served by other public schools including:
  • C.F. Rowley Elementary School
  • Joseph J. Davies Elementary School
  • Lacoste Elementary School
  • Lynn Oaks (K-7)
  • Trist Middle School
  • Chalmette Middle School
  • Chalmette Senior High School
  • Andrew Jackson Fundamental Magnet High School (now the site of Andrew Jackson Elementary School, soon to be Andrew Jackson Middle School)
  • St. Bernard High School
  • Carolyn Park Elementary
  • Arabi Elementary
  • Arabi Park Middle
  • Saint Mark Elementary
  • Saint Louise de Marilac Elementary
  • Sebastion Roy Elementary
  • Millaudon Elementary
  • P.G.T Beauregard
Private schools:
  • One In Christ Academy (Pre-K-8)
  • Archbishop Hannan High School
  • Saint Robert Bellarmine Catholic School (Pre-K- 8)

Notable residents

  • Norris Weese, quarterback for Ole Miss and the Denver Broncos
  • Tommy Wiseau, director of the cult classic The Room, often described as one of the worst movies ever made

 External Links

Source: Internet