The beautiful statue of Joan of Arc in the French Quarter is one of my favorites. What can you tell me about its history?
The gilded bronze statue of St. Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, has been located near the French Market since 1999, but many will remember its former home at the foot of Canal Street. The equestrian statue of the 15th-century French military heroine weighs 2,700 pounds, stands 13 feet tall and sits on a 7-foot base. It is one of 10 statues from a plaster mold created by French sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet in 1874. The first statue was erected near the Place des Pyramides in Paris, according to a 1958 story in The Times-Picayune.
The campaign to purchase one of the statues for New Orleans began in 1958, but the $35,000 price tag was considered too steep. In 1964, French President Charles de Gaulle gave the statue to the city as a gift with funds contributed by the cities of Orleans, Paris, Rouen and Rheims, France. He underwrote half the cost himself. The gift included two 19th-century bronze cannons to be displayed at the pedestal of the statue. A ceremony to celebrate the donation was held on April 18, 1964. The plan was to erect the statue on Canal Street between the Rivergate convention center and the World Trade Center, but the statue sat in a warehouse for 14 years until it was unveiled at that spot in 1972.
When the Rivergate was demolished to make way for Harrah's New Orleans casino and hotel, the casino company suggested moving the statue upriver to land it owned on Convention Center Boulevard. In 1994, the Louisiana Landmarks Society sued, convincing a federal judge to block the move, but the decision was overturned on appeal. In 1999, Mayor Marc Morial and the French Market Corporation proposed moving Joan of Arc to a pocket park near the intersection of Decatur, North Peters and St. Philip streets. Harrah's paid to move the cannons and statue, which was regilded. Four flagpoles were added to the park for the flags of the United States, France, Louisiana and New Orleans.