From attractions, to authentic restaurant, historic Gretna offers a true German cultural experience

11/19/2010  | 
cultural field trip

The City of Gretna, settled in 1836 by German immigrants, attracts tourists every day. It is a charming city with a small town atmosphere and a large National Historic Register District. There are hundreds of contributing structures to the designation that highlights the unique architecture.

Group tours are available offering the local German cultural experience. Included are three attractions, plus lunch, at a local restaurant with German décor. The German-American experience in the Mississippi Delta region is presented from its beginning in 1720 at the German-American Cultural Center of Louisiana. The comprehensive exhibits, along with personal history accounts are superb. All this can be found at 519 Huey P. Long Avenue housed in an historic 1910 building.

Among the other attractions is a cottage built by German immigrants in 1840. Claudius Strehle raised a family of nine in this cottage that has four rooms, no hallway, and an outside stairway to the attic. The furnishings date from the late 1800s through 1939. In the same museum complex there is a fire museum with its historic steam pumper, a working blacksmith shop, and another cottage that heralds the city’s history. It is a most charming setting.

The Gretna Heritage Festival attracting over 130,00 visitors is held the first full weekend in October.

Historic City Hall has a wonderful photograph exhibit of early life in Gretna. The Visitor Center is located in a 1906 Southern Pacific Freight Depot and accompanying 1951 Illinois Central Caboose. Railroad memorabilia can be found in both.

St. Joseph Church and Garden is exquisite. It was built in the Spanish Baroque style with a nearby historic cemetery. Many Germans buried in the Hook and Ladder Cemetery died of Yellow Fever after immigrating here in the 1800s. The tombstones document the German heritage.

In 2009, a bronze statue of the most famous person from Gretna was dedicated and placed in front of the Visitor Center of native son, MEL OTT. He leaped to fame in 1926 by leaving high school baseball at age 16 and joining the New York Giants, making him the youngest ever to become a major leaguer.

In 1941, he was named to baseball’s “Hall of Fame” in Cooperstown, NY, for his many past accomplishments. He is best known for his unusual batting stance and 511 home runs, a National League record when he retired. He had a .304 lifetime batting average and played in 11 All Star Games and in three World Series.

Gretna is near New Orleans, which can be experienced by crossing the Mississippi River on the free ferry. Other unique areas are Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Iberia and Houma.

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Visitors always comment on their pleasure and delight in finding a community that is preserving its past.

Hook and Ladder cemetery

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  3/14/2013 3:28:13 PM

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