August 22, 2013

Danger in the Cemeteries

Note: this post was moved over from my old site. Demolition of Iberville has been approved, and ironically its destruction is likely to hurt both St. Louis No. 1 and No. 2, old and fragile places. For now, however, the project remains open and occupied.

Iberville Housing project overlooking St. Louis No. 2 Cemetery

 

 

Okay, ya’ll, we gotta talk. This morning I went out early early to get a few pictures and swung into St. Louis No 2.

 

Now, when I saw ‘swung in,’ I mean that literally, as in ‘keeping close to my car, which was parked in the passthrough.’

 

And when I say ‘went out early,’ I mean ‘trying to in n’ out before the thugs and drug dealers get moving.’

 

I had something in particular to do, and figured it would take less than 5 minutes to deal with. That didn’t happen, because much to my amazement tourists kept wandering in, cameras in hand, looking around with no idea of where they were. This has never happened before- I’ve never seen random people in this cemetery, ever, but over the course of under half an hour, 7 people in 4 groups came in.

Each time I approached the people, introduced myself and gave them a little cautionary warning. 3 of the 4 groups were receptive and a little shocked, and I ended up giving an impromptu tour in the 2nd square, explaining the customs and making sure nobody stayed behind afterward.

 

That sucker's 10 feet high- nobody's going to see you if you need help

That sucker’s 10 feet high- nobody’s going to see you if you need help

 

St. Louis No. 2 has a lot of mystery- it’s quite decayed, and there aren’t dozens of tourists wandering around, so if you’re the type that wants to soak up the atmosphere it’s brilliant…but there’s an excellent reason it’s been left alone and the tour guides don’t go there- despite being less than a 5 minute walk from the French Quarter, it’s in one of the most dangerous areas of the city. Sitting between the mazelike Iberville Housing Project and the easy escape of the highway, you’re cut off from the Quarter’s patrolling police and although you are very visible from the high windows of the housing project as you walk around with your expensive camera, wallets and purses, at ground level no one passing by can tell if someone needs help because of the 9ft high brick walls that surround the cemetery.

 

As an alternative, I suggest taking the Canal St streetcar out to the end of the line- you’ll see more cemeteries off the beaten path with no tourists in than you can imagine. If you wanted something with atmosphere, you can walk around the corner to Holt or see if the Odd Fellows gate is open but you’ll be safe

Here’s a list of tips to make your cemetery visit better/safer.

And here’s a list of the safety of each of our cemeteries. (a work in progress.)

 

Although I hasten to add that I’ve never been accosted, and have spoken to many hardworking and kind people who live in the Iberville, the fact remains that there is a lot of violent drug and crime activity there, linked to dozens of murders in the last decade. If I do go, I make sure that somebody knows where I am, that my cell phone is close at hand, that I don’t carry a purse, I make it brief, and do my best to not go alone. I strongly advise tourists to please not go in at all. Please. It’s just not worth it.

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