Metairie is the first suburb of New Orleans, one of the oldest cities in the United States. On May 7, 1718, New Orleans was established on the Mississippi River delta as a French colony by the Compagnie du Mississippi. As deposits of sediment and silt built up, the lower Mississippi River has shifted its course to the Gulf of Mexico many times over thousands of years, leaving a high ridge of land where the river’s bank had been previously located known as “Metairie Ridge”. Metairie Ridge was settled by the French in the early1760s before the colony was ceded to the Spain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The land remained under Spanish control through 1801, when it came back under French control once again. Napoleon sold the territory to the United States two years later with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Jefferson Parish was officially established as a governmental unit in 1825.
Parishes (not Counties)
In western Europe and England, counts and earls (the English equivalent) were noblemen who had jurisdiction over territorial units of land which came to be known as “counties.” The Roman Catholic church separated its territorial units into dioceses administered by bishops. Each diocese is further divided into individual communities called “parishes”, which are staffed by priests. As a consequence of the strong influences of the French and Spanish colonization of Louisiana, the culture and civilian laws of Louisiana are largely based upon the Napoleonic code (the Code civil des Français), and the strong influences of the Roman Catholic church, rather than the English common law that was followed in all the other states. Unlike other states, which are subdivided into “counties”, the state of Louisiana is subdivided into 64 “parishes”.
Today, Metairie is one of the largest unincorporated communities in the United States and it is the most populated community in Jefferson Parish. With approximately 450,000 residents, more Louisianians now live in Jefferson Parish than any of Louisiana’s other 63 parishes. Like Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish straddles the Mississippi River and includes towns and cities which are governed by their respective local governments, including the cities of Kenner and Harahan on the east bank, Gretna and Westwego on the west bank, and Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico. Metairie is not a city and it has no mayor or local government of its own. As part of Jefferson Parish, Metairie is governed by the Jefferson Parish Council. Metairie Ridge was once incorporated as a city for approximately 17 years in order to allow the area to obtain gas service. In 1927, its one and only Mayor, C.P. Aicklen, arranged for gas service to Metairie. Metairie Ridge was unincorporated less than 18 months later, and Metairie has existed as an unincorporated area (with gas service) ever since. Over 67,000 friendly families or approximately 160,000 people live in Metairie’s five zip codes (70001, 70002, 70003, 70005 and 70006). Metairie, the heart of Jefferson Parish, forms a part of the Greater New Orleans metropolitan area and is technically an unincorporated part of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.
The History of the Name “METAIRIE”
Some explanations of the meaning of the word “Metairie” simply state that Metairie comes from the French word for farm. Actually, the term Metairie is derived from the French word “Moitie” (one-half), and the French term “moitoire” (used in the 12th century feudal days of Europe to describe a particular type of French farming relationship where a landowner would lease a portion of property to a farmer for 50% of the crops or produce grown by the tenant and no money as rent). Over 200 years ago Louisiana’s French heritage established the practice of describing certain farms located on the land created by alluvial deposits of old Metairie Bayou near New Orleans as “Metairie”. Over the past few hundred years, the word Metairie has had different spelling variations including “Maiterie”, “Meteria” and Maitery”. Many years ago, one particular farm owned by the Chain brothers near Bayou Choupic was known as La Metairie. The road which ran along side of Bayou Choupic was commonly referred to as Metairie Road. Over time, the development of this area greatly expanded and the entire expanded area is now known as Metairie. Metairie Road is still one of the main, traditional (slow-2way traffic) arteries which connects Metairie to the City of New Orleans.
The City of Kenner, one of Louisiana’s largest cities and home of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) establishes the western boundary of Metairie. The City of New Orleans establishes the eastern boundary of Metairie. Metairie businesses often use the name “New Orleans” as part of their name. Businesses and people from Metairie often describe themselves as being from New Orleans. Visitors to the City of New Orleans travel through Metairie on Interstate 10 or Veterans Memorial Boulevard, which has become Metairie’s longest and primary commercial boulevard, extending from New Orleans to and through the City of Kenner. Lakeside Shopping Mall, Clearview Shopping Center, and many other malls, shopping centers, restaurants and other commercial businesses are located on Veterans Boulevard.
Today, the area surrounding Metairie Road is known as “Old Metairie”. Various shops, professional buildings, and shopping centers have developed on Metairie Road, which is one of the most picturesque areas of Metairie. Lakeside Shopping Center, one of Louisiana’s oldest and largest shopping malls, is located on Causeway Boulevard in the heart of Metairie. Metairie’s historical residential base is gradually shifting from a primarily suburban residential community, to various mixed commercial uses including retail malls, shopping centers, office buildings, night clubs and entertainment. Many of Metairie’s night clubs are located in “Fat City“, which was planned and developed as Metairie’s commercial district. The New Orleans Saints offices and practice fields are in Metairie. The New Orleans Zephyrs AAA baseball team maintains its stadium in Metairie. Lexus of New Orleans is in Metairie. Mercedes Benz of New Orleans is located in Metairie. Metairie is similar to New Orleans in many ways, but it is not located in Orleans Parish and it is locally governed by the Council of the Parish of Jefferson, not by a separate city council or police jury.