“Perhaps the highest return on investment ever earned on a few thousand federal dollars came in the form of a pile of dirt in a rather forlorn park at the depth of the Depression. The agency behind it was the Civil Works Administration, the park was Audubon, and the dirt is now known as Monkey Hill.
Contrary to popular belief, the Works Progress Administration did not build Monkey Hill; the mound was nearly complete before the WPA came into existence with the 1935 Emergency Relief Appropriation Act.
Nor was the hill a primary goal of the project, much less a designed landscape feature with a name and purpose.
Rather, the CWA aimed to drain a wet thicket on the batture by digging a 1,200-foot-long lagoon and expanding the parkland around it, forming what are now the water bodies of the Audubon Zoo’s Louisiana Swamp, Jaguar Jungle and South American Pampas exhibits. Workers then used the spoil from the excavations to form a hill a few hundred feet inland…
By late March 1934, the lagoon and hill were nearly complete, having cost $59,000 in labor and $3,800 materials…
The project was one of many metro-area undertakings of the CWA, which used state-administered federal dollars to put otherwise unemployed people to work on civic improvements…
When the WPA took over from the CWA, Howard oversaw $400,000 worth of construction projects throughout the park and zoo (which were both free and not separated as they are today), creating stately brick buildings and landscaping the hill and its surroundings.” (https://www.nola.com)
Monkey Hill remained a popular spot for children for many years, before eventually falling into disuse in the 1970s. It was renovated in the 1980s and again around 2000, and today it remains a popular spot for New Orleans children.
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