| From the "History of New Orleans" by John Kendall, published in 1922: "City Park was once part of the plantation of Louis Allard, having been purchased by his grandfather in the 1770's. Toward the end of his life, Allard's fortunes declined and he was forced to dispose of his land. The last remnant, comprising a part of the present park, was purchased by John McDonogh at sheriff's auction. At his death in 1850, McDonogh left the land to the cities of New Orleans and Baltimore. New Orleans acquired it and decided to devote it to use as a park. By special agreement, Allard was permitted to live out his life on the property and, when he died, he was buried in a quiet spot under a favorite oak tree. The tomb is still to be seen."
More duels were fought in New Orleans than in any other American city and the Allard property was a popular destination of duelists. The location came to be known as the "Dueling Oaks" or the "Old Dueling Ground." Many "affaires d'honneur" were settled under the great oaks (on one day in 1839, ten duels were fought there). Dueling wasn't outlawed until 1890, 36 years after the property was made into a public park.
During the Franklin Roosevelt administration in the late 1930's-early 1940's, the park underwent an expansive improvement program. More than 20,000 people were employed through Works Progress Administration, and $12 million Federal dollars were spent, building bridges, fountains, gardens, a stadium and roads through the park, as well as digging more than 10 miles of lagoons, all the work done by hand.
City Park is one of the oldest public parks in the country. Today, it encompasses over 1,300 acres of land. It's the 6th largest public park in the United States and the 7th most visited. It has the largest collection of mature live oaks in the world. The flooding of 2005 did extensive damage to the park, destroying 1,000 trees and almost all of the plants in the Botanical Garden, but a majority of the 1,000 live oaks survived. Thanks to Herculean efforts by park staff and scores of volunteers, the park is recovering. Buildings and attractions have been repaired and thousands of new plants and trees have been planted. The park's 104-year-old carousel - one of only 100 antique wooden carousels in the United States - was meticulously restored after the flood.
Part of City Park's charm lies in its buildings, bridges and sculptures, ranging between styles of Art Deco, Neo-Classical Revival and Modern. Ten of City Park's bridges are named in a list of "Historic Bridges of the United States."
Every holiday season brings another fantastic display of "Celebration in the Oaks" to City Park, where nearly 1 million lights decorate the ancient oaks.