Gretna Heritage Fest


As one of Louisiana's largest national historic register districts, Gretna is steeped in history and intrigue. Stroll through Gretna's downtown historic district and discover the unique architecture and landmarks.

Gretna was composed of three settlements in the early 1800's: McDonoghville founded by John McDonogh in 1815, Mechanickham founded by Nicholas Noel Destrehan in 1836 and Gretna developed by the St. Mary's Market Steam Ferry Company in 1838. Gretna became a parish seat in 1884 and was often called the Free State of Jefferson because of the unrestricted gambling that occurred during that time. On August 20, 1913, Governor Luther E. Hall proclaimed these settlements to be the City of Gretna after a group of residents banded together to win a political battle over the parish government of the era. In 1985 Gretna's old town was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visit the nation's oldest volunteer fire company, the David Crockett Firehouse, home of the Louisiana State Fire Museum. The Gretna Green Blacksmith Shop takes you back to the days of early craftsmanship. Tour the "red caboose," the home of the Southern Pacific Freight Depot & the Illinois Central Caboose museum to get a glimpse of railroad memorabilia. The German-American Cultural Center interprets the German immigrant contribution to Louisiana from 1720 to the present. Guides will greet you in period costumes and take you through this newly renovated state museum including the Gretna native Mel Ott exhibit. 

The Kittie Strehle Home (founded in 1845) is part of the Grenta Historical Society Complex. Miss Kittie, the youngest daughter of Claudius Strehle, a German immigrant who came to America in 1832, dedicated her life to teaching and retired after 57 years in 1937. She was the last of the original family to live in the home.

The Gretna Observatory is the largest public observatory in the Greater New Orleans area. It was built to promote a greater interest in astronomy. It was especially designed to be an educational benefit to school age children and young adults from local schools by creating an awareness and interest in astronomy, science, and technology. The Observatory first opened its doors to the public in late October of 2004.

WHERE: The Gretna Observatory is located at # 1 Copernicus Lane behind Gretna Jr. High on Gretna Blvd. between Lafayette St. and Manhattan Blvd. Copernicus Lane also continues across Gretna Blvd. turning into Huey P. Long Ave. It is open to the general public with free admission and parking every Monday and Wednesday evening  except for major holidays and as always weather permitting. Partly cloudy evenings will be determinable by the observatory operator if sky conditions will allow any or limited observing.

WHEN: Operating hours are dusk to 11 p.m. during the Summer and 7 p.m., to 10 p.m. during the Winter. The transition from Summer to Winter hours occurs roughly around the beginning and end of Daylight Savings Time.

WHAT: The observatory offers viewing through a pier mounted GPS/Go-To computer controlled 16 inch Meade LX-200GPS f/10 catadioptric type telescope better known as a Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope or SCT. It is housed under a traditional 16 foot diameter 360 degree rotational aluminum dome. Typical astronomical objects of interest pending on availability in the night sky include our moon, the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, various nebulae, double stars, star clusters, constellations, etc.

Other associated optical equipment include a piggybacked Stellarvue 80mm refractor telescope, Orion 7x50 binoculars, a plain or "white" light solar filter for safely observing the sun through the Meade 16" SCT as well as a Coronado Solar Max 60T hydrogen-alpha telescope for viewing the Sun in its natural "hydrogen-alpha" waves yielding more of the sun's features with greater detail.

WHO: Everyone is welcome!  School groups and Scout groups and any other organizational groups with an interest in using the facility are welcomed and encouraged to schedule special observing sessions and star parties. Contact Councilman Vincent Cox at or Ron Marcella at to schedule events and for any other information about the Gretna Observatory.

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