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Gretna lies on the west bank of the Mississippi River, just east and across the river from uptown New Orleans. Gretna is the parish seat for Jefferson Parish, which is the major suburban parish of New Orleans.

Founded in the early 1800s as Mechanicsham by Nicholas Noel Destréhan, a plantation owner, it was settled by immigrants of German descent. It grew with a station on the Mississippi River for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, Texas and Pacific Railway, and Southern Pacific Railroad, with a ferry across the River to New Orleans. The famous spice-maker Zatarain’s was founded here in 1889.

Gretna was renamed in the 1880s for Gretna Green, Scotland, because of its reputation for quick weddings (which are still performed there). Once a shipping point for plantations, truck farms, and dairies, it has developed as a residential-industrial suburb of New Orleans. The city’s primary manufactures are cottonseed oil and petroleum products.