New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, July 15, 2024
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There were several excursion boats in operation by the late 1870s...

Dear Julia,
Some years ago, there was a ferryboat that made regularly scheduled trips across Lake Pontchartrain from the New Orleans West End to the north side of the lake. It may have been named the Sesquehana. It carried pedestrians and vehicles.

Can you tell me the correct name of the vessel or vessels and the names of the north-side ports to which it sailed? I would appreciate receiving any information that you can supply me on this boat and its trips.
James S. Janssen

There were several excursion boats in operation by the late 1870s; however, the vessel most identified with what was once a booming sightseeing business was the New Camelia. Built somewhere on the East Coast during the Civil War, it had originally been christened the Zephyr. It would be rebuilt and renamed in later years, first serving as the Camelia and then as the New Camelia. It is somewhat coincidental that Milneburg, the vessel’s southshore home, would eventually become Pontchartrain Beach, a main attraction of which was the Zephyr roller coaster. From 1878 to the time of the first World War, the New Camelia carried travelers from Milneburg to Northshore communities, including Mandeville and Covington. The New Camelia sank at its moorings at Madisonville in 1920. Although I have heard about vehicular ferries operating on the Northshore, I have not uncovered any details about them.

In the years following the Civil War, as the economy improved, excursion boats began crossing the lake for leisure as well as trade. It is important to note that the trips took about two hours each way and people had to wait several hours before they could board a vessel returning home. For this reason, it is quite unlikely that the majority of these vessels were commuter ferries. They were, instead, intended for day trips to the country. Once automobiles became affordable to the average family and the east end of the lake had been spanned by a vehicular bridge, excursion boats fell out of favor.

New Orleans Magazine
January 1999 - Vol. 33 - Issue 4 - Page - #334