Tinette Lichtenstein: Defender of the Status Quo in Palmer Park

Palmer Park in the first half of the 20th century was used primarily as an official public space, with an emphasis on formal and public gatherings. The park was the site of events like a 1911 “patriotic” Mother’s Day program, featuring speeches by the mayor and an army general, and a performance by a navy band; a formal review of Boy Scout troops as part of the national committee meeting in the city in 1918; meetings of the 17th Ward Civic League; and performances of classical music and marching bands. Proposed changes and use of the park for non-formal activities, especially sports, were opposed by many local residents, led by Tinette Lichtenstein. Born in 1884, Lichtenstein was an active participant in various civic organizations; she became the first woman in the city to run for elected office when she ran for the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1923. Lichtenstein was also a frequent contributor to the Times Picayune, having her own column entitled “Sunshine News and Notes” in the 1910’s.

Despite the refined "sunshine" in her column, Lichtenstein was usually the voice of opposition to change in Palmer Park, writing numerous letters to the editor in the Times Picayune over several decades. She wrote against the proposed wading pool in 1937 because the park was “used mostly by nurses attending babies or accompanied by small children, by recuperating invalids, pupils, by adults, and by persons waiting for buses. Encouraging children to gather in Palmer Park would endanger their lives, because of traffic hazards,” a refrain used repeatedly in her written responses to new measures for the park. In 1938, she opposed a proposed bus shelter and community house in the park, arguing there was already plenty of seating in the park with the iron benches. She also argued that the primary purpose of the park was light recreation, and that the house would obstruct views and thus be a safety issue. In 1941, she opposed the addition of an auditorium because it would “deprive the underprivileged children of the breathtaking space” for which Palmer Park was dedicated. In 1943, she argued against a proposed public toilet, calling it an “indecent outrage” to add the toilet to a park located in a neighborhood that was “well built with far better than average homes.” She noted a bus waiting room recently built nearby had been plagued by “unsanitary conditions, wrong usage, immorality, and danger to neighborhood and passersby.” She signed the letter:

“Yours in Constructive, not destructive measures,
Tinette Lichtenstein
Zoning Consultant and Authoritative Representative of Property Owners in Vicinity of Palmer Park”

Her efforts were largely successful as nearly all changes she opposed were defeated. Her string of success ended in one of her last efforts, her opposition to the World War II Monument. Lichtenstein argued it was “little short of criminal, in my opinion, to make a memorial park of Palmer Park." She argued the funding and the material needed for the monument should have gone to support the war effort; after it was built, but before its dedication, she argued the funding should have been used to support living veterans and it should be installed in the Carrollton Cemetery instead. She believed the monument would turn the space into a memorial park, which would “sadden little children and adults, expectant mothers, shell-shocked veterans, etc.” Despite her efforts, the memorial was installed in May 1945.

Lichtenstein died in 1955, after again defeating an effort to have swimming pools placed in Palmer Park, but her legacy lived on. A 1963 article entitled “A History of ‘Those Things’ in Palmer Park Is Cited” argued that Lichtenstein was responsible for the concrete blocks, installed in the 1910’s throughout the park in an effort to prevent football and baseball from being played in the park. An article five years later revealed the blocks had been created to beautify the park; urns with flowers were supposed to be placed on top but the urn maker died before the project was completed. The blocks, without any inscription to indicate their purpose, were attributed to the efforts of Lichtenstein to prevent sports in the park. Her status as the defender of the status quo in Palmer Park was firmly entrenched.



Audio recording of the above narrative "Tinette Lichtenstein."
Source: Audio recording courtesy of Kevin McQueeney. ~ Creator: Kevin McQueeney ~ Date: 2013
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Palmer Park, New Orleans, LA