530 Pelican Avenue on historic Algiers Point
New Orleans, La. 70114

( Taken directly from a church publication )

Mount Olivet Episcopal Church, located at 530 Pelican Avenue on Algiers Point, is the oldest church building in continuous use on the West Bank of New Orleans. Built in 1854, under the authority of then Bishop Leonidas Polk, the building has been in continuous use for almost one hundred fifty years!
The first services for the group that later evolved to become Mount Olivet Church were held in the parlor of the Hughes Hotel in 1846. The hotel stood on the present site of the Belleville School at the corner of Peters (now Pelican) and Belleville Streets, two blocks south of the present building. The congregation was formally organized in 1848.
Patterson Avenue was the center of business in Old Algiers, which was a separate town from New Orleans in those days. Access to New Orleans was obtained via the Third District Ferry. The only remnants of the old ferry building are a retaining wall and the steps used to access the building. The ferry crossed the river and landed at Esplanade Avenue across the street from the Old Mint building. Residents of Algiers regularly used the ferry to shop in the French Market and the many shops in the French Quarter.
The current church building was dedicated as a house of worship in 1854. It is built entirely of cypress and has withstood two fires and several hurricanes. Changing liturgical fashions and use as a Parish Hall for some sixty years have altered the interior of the building, but it remains an entirely charming place.
The building which now faces Pelican Avenue originally faced south onto Olivier Street. A racetrack was located across Olivier Street and the ladies of the church objected to attending services while "a bunch of hooligans" were exercising their horses in front of the church building. Numerous references to this disturbance are noted in the minutes of the Vestry meetings during that time. The ladies did not have to endure this discomfort for long as the track was closed in 1861. The horses were needed as mounts for officers of now General Leonidas Polk's cavalry.
In 1862, Admiral David Farragut led Union Navy ships up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico, past the Confederate guns of Forts Jackson and St. Philip and was prepared to bombard the city when the civic leaders surrendered New Orleans without a fight. General "Spoons" Butler was given change of the military occupation of the city including Algiers. General Butler was alleged to have stolen silverware from the homes of New Orleans citizens and was henceforth known as "Spoons" to the locals.
Under military occupation all public oration, including religious oratory, was required to conform to allegiance to the United States of America. The man in charge of Mount Olivet Church was ordered to cease praying for Jefferson Davis in the prayer of the Whole State of Christ's Church and to pray for Abraham Lincoln instead. This he refused to do and so was arrested and removed to Mobile. He was later sent to New York City where he completed further studies for the ministry. After the war, he was ordained in Mobile and returned to Mount Olivet in 1966. During the war, General Butler closed the church placing it under interdiction and commandeered the Rectory, tow doors to the east of the church on Olivier, for use as a Union hospital.
The church building was painted white at that time, but trimmed in black. The Ten Commandments, rendered in gold leaf, were displayed on either side of the Sanctuary (the area enclosed by the Altar rail). Reflective of the times, the pews were box pews, usually "owned by particular families. They were square with the people sitting facing each other. Such pews nat still be seen in churches such as Old North Church in Boston. St. John's Church in Thibodeaux, LA. was also built by Bishop Polk and is very similar to Mount Olivet though less altered in appearance.
A Queen Anne marble topped table, which served as the Communion Table, may be seen in the Parish Hall. Vestry records indicate that both Union and Confederate soldiers received Communion from this table, as recorded on the brass plaque now affixed to the table.
Following the war, the land on which the racetrack had been located was sold and subdivided into home sites. Many fine homes were constructed and many still stand today. In 1878, the ladies of the church again complained to the vestry and asked that "oyster shells be placed in the driveway, for they were tired of getting their slippers wet".
By the 1880's, Mount Olivet had outgrown the confines of this building and it was de--consecrated and moved to its present location to serve as a parish hall. A fine new brick church structure seating 300 people was built in its place (on the site of the current parish hall). Unfortunately, by 1961, the underpinnings of the brick building were giving way and the structure had to be torn down. The building, upon being re-consecrated, again became the parish church building. Most of the furnishings visible in the building today came from the brick building.
The Altar, Communion Rail, and Gate, Reredos, Lectern, Pulpit and pews all came from the brick building. The high wooden backing behind the reredos are the two sliding doors which used to open to admit the choir and procession from the Parish Hall into the brick structure. You may note that the back and seat of the pews are made from a solid piece of cypress. The pews were several feet longer when they were in the brick building and they had to be cut short to fit the present building.
All of the windows in the building were salvaged from the brick structure. 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 above the front doors had to be cut down and reshaped to fit the much smaller opening in the wooden building. It depicts St. John writing his books.
Numerous plaques on the side wall to the right (as you face the Altar) memorialize various people in whose names this building was renovated. There is also a plaque recognizing the one hundred thirty-fourth year of Mount Olivet Church during the bicentennial year of 1976, along with a copy of the official seal of Mount Olivet Church showing the date of 1851, the year the church was officially received into the Diocese of Louisiana. The flag of our nation stands in the traditional place to the left of the Sanctuary, while the flag of the Episcopal Church is displayed to the right.
In the Sanctuary on your left as you face the Altar, is the Bishop's Throne, or Chair, which has a bas relief depiction of the bishop's miter, or hat. It consists of a front and back piece, curving upward to a point at the top. To your left, on the floor of the building, in front of the Lecturn, is the Baptismal Font, the place of admission to the Church.
Extensive strengthening of the foundations and shoring up of the building's structural elements were required to return this building to use for sacred service. The building is now on firm footing and should last another one hundred fifty years. The Parish Hall is now housed in the building across the garden to your right. It is named for the late David S. Crumley, a long time Rector of Mount Olivet.
NewOrleansChurches.com wishes to thank the congregation of Mount Olivet Episcopal - Anglican Church for providing historical material and an opportunity to photograph this beautiful historic house of worship.