L’Union Française is the oldest of the Franco-Louisiana organizations. After more than a century of service, this organization is dedicated to its mission of promoting the usage and love of the French language in the city of New Orleans.
L’Union Française is a non-profit organization that supports its school on Prytania Street, recognizes outstanding high school French students with the L’Union Française Prix d’Excellence, and sponsors a Grants program applicable to those elementary schools that teach and promote the French language.
It all began in March of 1872 when a group of French citizens and descendants of French citizens created a French society whose Charter was accepted on October 12, 1872. By July of 1881 the Society had bought a large building at 928 N. Rampart. In 1887 a school was opened for girls with special emphasis on the study of the French language.
In 1920, after the closing of a school sponsored by the Société du 14 juillet, the boys who had been attending that school joined the girls at L’Union Française. The school was in operation until 1952 when dwindling enrollment caused the Board of Directors to discontinue the school for boys and girls.
At this time, in keeping with the traditions and ideals of L’Union Française, night classes for adults were begun.
In 1953 the North Rampart building was destroyed by fire and classes were transferred to St. Aloysius High School.
In 1961, after the sale of the lot where the old school stood, the organization was able to purchase its new headquarters at 4522 Prytania, where it continues to offer French classes for adults at a minimal fee.
L’Union Française also offers social and cultural activities to complement its French language school and its grants and awards programs for elementary and secondary schools that offer French. These activities include a social gathering to commemorate Bastille Day (July 14), a Founders’ Day banquet (October 12), an annual meeting (election) banquet in November, and a Fête de Noël (Christmas) celebration in December.
In addition, each year L’Union Française sponsors, for its members and guests, one or more outings to cultural or historical events that are related to the francophone world or to the Southeastern Louisiana area. In recent years these outings have included visits to the New Orleans Museum of Art to view exhibits of French and Louisiana-French painters, a bus trip to the “Treasures of Versailles” exhibit in Jackson, Mississippi, a boat trip to the Chalmette battlefield, a visit to the historic Ursuline Convent to view an exhibit on loan from the Vatican, a tour of the historic Jackson Barracks post-Katrina antebellum building renovations, a special tour of the World War II museum, a tour of the Pitot House followed by a picnic lunch on the veranda, and this year, 2013, a tour of Longue Vue House and Gardens followed by lunch at Chateau du Lac Bistro.