NEW ORLEANS — America’s oldest street railway, the St. Charles Line of green New Orleans streetcars, has been added to the National Historic Landmark list.
It will be the second moving site in the country to make the list. The other is the San Francisco Cable Cars, which date back to 1873 and made the landmark list in 1964.
Camille Strachan, president of the Saint Charles Avenue Association, says the designation is a high honor.
“It connects neighborhoods and is an important component in our city’s history,” Strachan said.
The New Orleans streetcar line opened in 1835 under mule power as the Carrollton Line. It carried passengers some 13 miles from downtown New Orleans, up St. Charles Avenue to what was then the separate municipality of Carrollton. The line was converted to electricity in 1893 and renamed The St. Charles Line.
Today, the line is operated by the Regional Transit Authority, which also manages the newer Canal Street line of red streetcars and city buses. They have a combined annual ridership of more than 18 million people.
Saint Charles association member Laura Claverie said the group worked for 10 years to get the historic landmark designation. She said the streetcars and San Francisco cable cars are both icons and symbolize their cities.
National Historic Landmark recognition is reserved only for those few things in the United States that represent the culture, history, and development of the nation, she said. There are fewer than 2,500 in the U.S. and only 53 in Louisiana, she said.
The transit authority is holding a celebration on Howard Avenue at Lee Circle on Tuesday to commemorate the occasion. Plans call for a decorated streetcar to carry dignitaries to the site, where the National Historic Landmark designation will be officially announced.
The other eight national sites added to the list this year include Brown Bridge in Rutland County, Vermont. It was constructed in 1880 and is one of the longest-surviving examples of a Town lattice truss. It also includes the Duck Creek Aqueduct in Metamora, Indiana, which was built around 1846. It represents a rare surviving component of an American canal system that was a significant mode of transportation in the first half of the 19th century.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis recently announced the designations.
Jarvis said, “From artists and architecture, to the accomplishments of explorers and entrepreneurs, these sites highlight the mosaic of our nation’s historic past.”