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A Carrollton street by any other name is not the same


Charles Zimpel  was commissioned in 1833 to map the city – so why is the street named for him misspelled?

Everyone has a breaking point. No one can be expected to keep things like this in forever.

On Tuesday evening, WWL’s Eyewitness News reported a couple of DWI arrests; one was a Jefferson Parish deputy who resigned after crashing his patrol car. The other was the son of the mayor, who, at 1:40 a.m. that morning, hit another vehicle and garnered three charges, including DWI, at the corner of “Broadway and Zimple,” according to the station. The photo of the scene includes the street sign.

Broadway and … Zimple.

While the rest of the city talked about a mayor’s son being arrested, I saw only the spelling of the sign and the caption along the bottom of the screen. Zimple.

Sometimes I think I am the only one who cares about this. Maybe I am. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to explain.

Waaaaaaay back, in 1833, as New Orleans was expanding westward along the length of what was then Nyades Street (as opposed to Dryades Street several streets away), a map was commissioned to reflect the new shape of the second municipality as it stood to that point. Included in that map was the new purchase of Macarty’s plantation by several businessmen and the new Carrollton railroad, which was planned to follow the curve of the river to a point where it intersected another road leading from the proposed New Canal. The map would be the first to show what the Crescent City, with proposed streets filled in, would eventually look like. The engineer who surveyed and drew that map was a German immigrant – Charles Zimpel.


Ok, maybe this is not important to someone in Metairie or the Bywater or the Garden District, but it’s important to me, and I feel it’s important for all the right reasons.

Charles Zimpel is one of a number of people involved with the town of Carrollton who have been commemorated in our streets. Samuel Cohn owned a ropewalk, and there is a Cohn Street in Carrollton. Hampson Street was named after Carrollton’s first mayor and the engineer of the railroad that eventually became the St. Charles Avenue streetcar.

At the time Carrollton started to grow, first into a village, then an incorporated town, then into a city and the parish seat of Jefferson Parish, of which it was a part until 1872, the residential blocks were twice as large as they are now and bore numbers: First Street was St. Charles Avenue in Carrollton; what became Maple Street was originally Second Street, etc. Oak was Fourth Street. When they were eventually cut to their present dimensions (300-by-300 feet) the original streets (which didn’t extend much past Spruce) were renamed for trees and some of the new streets crossing Carrollton Avenue near the river were named for those who were associated with the town or well-known at the time: Hampson, Burthe, Freret … and Zimpel.

But somewhere in the 20th century, lack of supervision, carelessness and illiteracy somewhere in the Department of Streets yielded … well, Zimple. The result is that the error has been repeated everywhere, including maps and media references.

Just today I received my sewerage and water bill, which says that I live on Zimple Alley. In the seven blocks from South Carrollton Avenue to Monroe Street, the name Zimpel is consistently spelled correctly. However, in the 11 blocks from Carrollton Avenue to the edge of Tulane University, with both tile and street pole signs, the name is spelled correctly only at Pine Street. Even Tate House, on the Tulane campus, displays its address as Zimple.

More than the misspelling itself, there seems to be a lack of will on anyone’s part to correct or even acknowledge the error. A recent effort by one city employee was rebuffed. It was determined that there were too many places where Zimple (Zimpel!) was recorded with “le,” so that’s how it would remain.

So, to the spirit of poor Herr Zimpel, I apologize. I’ll keep working on the problem. Maybe one day Carrolltonians will reclaim their historical figures and Mister Zimpel will finally get his identity back.

Local author Patrick M. Burke contributes stories about New Orleans to NolaVie.


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