City Park's first benefactor, the man who
gave the property to the city, is memorialized only with a solitary tree – the McDonogh Oak which was not named for
him until 70 years after his gift was given. Born in Baltimore of Scotch-Irish descent in 1779, McDonogh came to New Orleans
as a young man and began building his fortune trading molasses, sugar, hides, pig iron, and indigo. He then became a planter
and amassed great wealth in cotton and real estate – buying huge tracts of unimproved property. McDonogh was a founding
member of the American Colonization Society which reportedly provided passage for 18,000 slaves to the Liberian Republic.
In 1842 McDonogh oversaw the shipping of 80 slaves who had 'bought' their freedom after work credited to their accounts equaled
their market value.
believer in the value of education, most of McDonogh's assets of approximately $3,000,000 were bequeathed for the building
of schools. His will stipulated “That it be permitted annually to the children of the free schools to plant and water
a few flowers around my grave”. He was buried in his native Baltimore but the children of New Orleans honored him for
many years by bringing flowers to his memorial in Lafayette Square.
From McDonogh's gift of the land to the funding of $1,000,000
in 2005 along with countless donations from modest citizens, the park would not be the place it is today had not generous
New Orleanians opened their hearts and their pocketbooks.