top of page

History of Mount Olivet Church

Mount Olivet Episcopal Church is the oldest church building in continuous use on the Westbank of New Orleans and the oldest surviving structure in Algiers. Built in 1854, this Country Gothic church has been in continuous use for 170 years!

The congregation that would later become Mount Olivet first held services in 1846 in the parlor of the Hughes Hotel, which was situated at the corner of Peters (now Pelican) and Belleville Streets, two blocks south of the present location at Pelican and Olivier. The congregation was formally organized in 1848 and was admitted to the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana in 1851.

The current church building was first dedicated as a house of worship in 1854. The church, built entirely of cypress, originally faced Olivier Street, but by the 1880s, Mount Olivet had outgrown this building. When a new brick church was constructed in the 1890s, the original building was deconsecrated and moved across the courtyard to its present location on Pelican Street to serve as a parish hall.


sketch of Mount Olivet church

In 1960, the brick structure on Oliver was deconsecrated and demolished, but most of the furnishings in the church today come from the brick building. The altar, communion rail and gate, reredos, lectern, pulpit, and stained-glass windows were all salvaged and transported to the reconsecrated building on Pelican.

The pews from the brick building are made from a solid piece of cypress and had to be cut down to fit the present building. The tall, wooden panels behind the reredos are the sliding doors that used to admit the choir and procession. The bishop's throne, which has a bas relief depiction of the bishop's miter, sits to the left. The “throne,” or chair, consists of a front and back piece, curving upward to a point at the top. The baptismal font sits near the entrance to the church.

The stained-glass windows depict principle turning points in the life of our Lord Jesus. The Annunciation, the Incarnation, teaching his Apostles, and the Crucifixion. The "Rose" window depicting St. John writing had to be reshaped to fit the much smaller opening above the front doors of the wooden building.

Numerous plaques on the wall to the right of the entrance memorialize those in whose names the building was renovated in the 1960s. There is also a plaque recognizing the 134th anniversary of Mount Olivet occurring during the U.S. Bicentennial and a copy of the official seal of Mount Olivet Episcopal Church showing the date of 1851, the year the church was received into the Diocese of Louisiana. 

Meade Hall, the current parish hall, sits at the original site of the church at the corner of Pelican and Olivier Streets, across the courtyard from the church.

History of Algiers Point

Patterson Avenue was the center of business in Algiers, which was a separate entity until annexation by New Orleans in 1870. Three ferries provided access between Algiers Point and the Eastbank of New Orleans: the Canal Street/Algiers Ferry, connecting Algiers to the foot of Canal Street beginning in 1827; the Delaronde Ferry, added in 1834 and landing at St. Louis Street and later Canal Street; and the Third District Ferry, starting in 1858 and running between Verret Street and Esplanade Avenue.

Residents of Algiers regularly used the ferry to shop in the French Market and the many shops in the French Quarter. However, the ferry remained racially segregated into the 1960s. The only remnants of the old ferry landing are a retaining wall and the steps used to access the building.

In 1862, New Orleans surrendered to Union Admiral David Farragut. Under military occupation, all public oration, including religious oratory, was required to conform to allegiance to the United States of America. The head of Mount Olivet was ordered to cease praying for Jefferson Davis and begin praying for President Lincoln. He refused and was subsequently arrested. He was removed to Mobile, AL, before returning after the war. General Benjamin Franklin Butler closed the church and commandeered the rectory two doors to the east of the church on Olivier Street for use as a Union hospital.

A Queen Anne marble-topped table that once served as the church's Communion table now sits in the parish hall. Vestry records indicate that Union and Confederate soldiers received Communion there, recorded on the brass plaque now affixed to the table.

bottom of page