The McDonogh Oak is the largest and oldest oak in New Orleans’ City Park. Along with the Anseman Oak and Suicide Oak, it is part of an ancient oak forest that was possibly hundreds of years old in 1718 when brothers Iberville and Bienville first scouted this area for a portage of bayous connecting the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Mississippi River. This natural system of waterways was a deciding factor for the brothers’ choice of this location to create the settlement that became New Orleans.
City Park was once part of the Jean Louis Allard Plantation, originally established in the 1770’s, and later purchased in 1845 by shipping magnate and philanthropist John McDonogh. Upon his death in 1850, McDonogh donated the land to the City of New Orleans and in 1854 a large section was designated as a city park. According to park records, in 1958, the National Park and Recreation Convention met in New Orleans and hosted a breakfast for 1,028 convention attendees under the massive canopy of the McDonogh Oak’s limbs.
In 1981, the ancient oak lost a major branch, causing severe damage. Extensive tree surgery was done and posts were added to help support the remaining main limbs. In 2015, the McDonogh Oak’s circumference was more than 25 feet, and its crown spread more than 150 feet.