The Carrollton Courthouse is the central iconic symbol of Carrollton, an area of the City of New Orleans that was once a separate city. The Courthouse was built over 160 years ago and is one of the most historically significant buildings in New Orleans outside of the French Quarter. In its long history it has served as the seat of government for Jefferson Parish, 120 plus years as a New Orleans public school, and as an informal community center for the Carrollton area.
On March 10, 1845. the City of Carrollton was incorporated in Jefferson Parish, the jurisdiction neighboring the City of New Orleans which had its seat of government in the town of Lafayette (now the Garden District in New Orleans). In 1855, after the expanding City of New Orleans annexed the town of Lafayette, the City of Carrollton became the seat of government for Jefferson Parish.
In accordance with its new status, the City of Carrollton needed a courthouse and jail. The site chosen was the square in which Andrew Jackson had given a speech in 1840 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. During the War of 1812, the Carrollton area had served as a marshaling area, training facility, and Jackson's rear headquarters during his defense of the Gulf and the Battle of New Orleans.
The famous New Orleans architect, Henry Howard, designed the Carrollton Courthouse. Howard is well known as the architect who designed, among many other homes and buildings, Madewood and Nottoway Plantations. The Courthouse was completed in late 1855, although not all of Howard's architectural details were incorporated into the completed building.
Carrollton remained the seat of government for Jefferson Parish until 1874 when it, too, was annexed by the City of New Orleans. During those 19 years, the Carrollton Court House was the scene of many interesting criminal and civil cases.
Upon the dissolution of the City of Carrollton in 1874, title to the building passed to Jefferson Parish. In 1888 Jefferson Parish transferred title to the City of New Orleans. In 1889, the City in turn transferred title to the McDonogh Trust, a trust set up by philanthropist John McDonogh to establish public schools in Baltimore and New Orleans. The building became one of the public schools funded by the Trust, McDonogh No. 23, until it closed in 1950.
Following the closure of McDonough 23, the A&P grocery chain approached the Orleans Parish School Board with a proposal to raze the Courthouse for a grocery store and parking lot. A coalition of Carrollton residents led by Carrollton businessman, Charles Meynier, and the newly-formed Louisiana Landmark Society opposed the demolition. The demolition proposal was eventually defeated. During this period the Courthouse informally served as a “community-recreation center.”
With the aid of a federal “sputnik school grant,” the building was renovated and became the site of Benjamin Franklin High School in 1957. Franklin High School was the City's first public college preparatory school. In the fall of 1963, Franklin became the first New Orleans public high school to integrate. The Courthouse served as the location of the school until March 1990 when Franklin moved to its present location on the campus of the University of New Orleans.
Following Franklin's departure, two Orleans Parish secondary schools used the building and surrounding campus. Lusher Middle School used the building from 1990 until it moved to the former Fortier site in 2006. Audubon Charter School used the site from 2006 until 2013. Since 2013, the building and surrounding site have been vacant.