History

The German-American Cultural Center and Museum Adds Some History to Downtown Gretna

As I was wandering through historic downtown Gretna a few months ago, I came across a place I had passed many times but I had never visited- The German-American Cultural Center and Museum. Located at 519 Huey P. Long Avenue in the heart of downtown Gretna, The German-American Cultural Center is the premier German Cultural Center for the state of Louisiana.

I stopped in on a weekday afternoon, and I was greeted by a lovely man who was happy to allow me to go on the self-guided tour. The tour is completely free, but donations are welcome. Here you will learn about how the Germans came to settle in Gretna and build a better future. There are interesting things to see and read and there are also some videos to watch and because the tour doesn’t take a very long time, it’s the perfect thing to do on a mid-afternoon. I learned a lot and I had no idea that Germans had such a big role in building not only Gretna, but New Orleans itself. As a person who has some German ancestors, I found it fascinating to learn about the sacrifices that others made in order to build the city that we enjoy today.

According to the information I learned at the museum, Germans have played an integral role in the development on Louisiana ever since they settled La Cote des Allemands in 1721.  These people emigrated to America with the promise of fertile land to farm, a healthy climate and an abundance of gold and silver to mine. Of the 1600 Germans who boarded the ship to a new world with little more than hope in their pockets, only 300 survived the journey. At first times were hard and many of the original German settlers were absorbed into the French culture of the city, even taking French names. Germans worked many jobs such as bakers, blacksmiths, brew masters, carpenters, doctors, engineers, shoemakers and shopkeepers. Eventually the strong ethic of the German people is what helped shape Louisiana into what we know today. German settlers continued to travel here throughout the 20th century and call Louisiana home.

Another thing I really liked about this center is that they offer a research room where you can research your own German family history and maybe learn something about yourself that you hadn’t known. The German-American Cultural Center provides access to church records, cemetery records, and access to genealogy websites such as ancestry, genealogy bank and family search. If you have some Germans in your family, and you are building your family tree, this is where you should start your journey.

I love that such an interesting and important place is located right in Gretna. It’s important for us to learn and appreciate where we came from, or just learn about the people who built the place that we call home. The German-American Cultural Center and Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10am to 3pm, regularly hosts events throughout the year and memberships are available. For more information, visit www.gac-nola.org or call 363-4202

About the author

Marielle Songy

Marielle Songy was born and raised on the Westbank and currently resides in Gretna. She is a graduate of Archbishop Blenk High School and UNO. A true Louisiana girl, Marielle enjoys creole food, jazz music and the occasional swamp tour.

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