Louisiana Division/City Archives   New Orleans Public Library

Image of the Month
January 2009

The ground floor of Lower Pontalba Building at Decatur Street is now home to the River's Edge, a restaurant that appeals to visitors at the epicenter of tourism in the Crescent City. It is quite difficult to imagine the spot as a homeless shelter, but that's more or less what it was just short of a century ago. In 1911 the dynamic Monsignor Peter Wynhoven opened the St. Vincent's Hotel and Free Labor Bureau right there across the street from the Cafe du Monde Coffee Stand. The facility served thousands of needy men at this original location and at several later sites within the French Quarter. Soon, though, Father Wynhoven decided to turn his attention in the direction of helping male adolescents in an effort to head off the problems that had brought so many men to need his care. So, in 1925, he opened Hope Haven, a trade and boarding school, across the river in Marrero. Although St. Vincent's went out of operation around that time it's spirit and intent was revived in the mid-1950s in Ozanam Inn on Camp Street.

This postcard puts a face on the St. Vincent's Hotel and Free Labor Bureau that we know from history. Despite the misspelling of Pontalba (Partalbo) there is no mistaking the location of this early social service facility.

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