New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Thursday, November 23, 2017
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West End


1831-1838 New Basin Canal is built

The New Basin Canal, built by Irish Immigrants (many of whom lost their lives in this labor), first connected the city to the West End area.

1831-1838 New Basin Canal is built

1838 New Canal Light is built

1838 New Canal Light is built

1839 - Brunings Restaurant Opens

1839 - Brunings Restaurant Opens

1849 Southern Yacht Club is established

1849 Southern Yacht Club is established

1850s West End & Lakeport development begins

The earliest structures were wooden huts raised on stilts. The canal provided a harbor for fishing boats. The people who lived along the canal and out on the lake were squatters who made their living from fishing, crabbing, hunting and trapping, as well as from the rental of boats, the sale of tackle and bait, and the entertainment of vacationers. Development along this area originally occurred in the mid-19th century with a commercial wharf and resort called Lakeport. Steamboats docked at the entrance to the New Basin Canal (now Pontchartrain Blvd.) and at the terminus of the Jefferson and Lake Pontchartrain Railroad where Bucktown is today. The railroad ran along what is now the Orleans-Jefferson Parish boundary at the 17th Street Canal. Dug as a drainage canal along the upper boundary of the Town of Carrollton, it was originally called the Upperline Canal. The Jefferson and Lake Pontchartrain Railroad, 1853-1864, was an extension of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad (today the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line). At the lake end of the railway were a hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley, dance hall, picnic ground, pleasure garden, and bathing facilities. The place later became a famous amusement park known as West End (of Orleans Parish). Source: Betsy Swanson - at http://www.deanies.com/MM017.ASP?pageno=28 Pictured is the Tug 'Frank' owned by Poitevent-Favre Lumber Company at West End in New Orleans, ca. 1926. Source: http://www.tamnet.com/thenandnow/man16.html#tugfrank

1850s West End & Lakeport development begins

1870 The Lake House is destroyed in a fire

Lake House Hotel and Restaurant Lake House was a popular hotel at Lake End [i.e., West End] from 1838 until it burned on June 30, 1870. Two kitchen employees of Charles J. Hoyt, the manager of the hotel, were arrested for setting the fire, which leveled one of the city's most popular destinations. It "burnt like a tinderbox," the Times-Picayune wrote, and went on to reminisce about its hospitality: Arrived at the Lake House, the finest cuisine in the land, and a bar supplied with every delicacy and refreshment awaited them. Added to these were the bath houses, the pistol gallery, and a garden shadowed by avenues of fine old trees and blooming treasures. . . . It is like wiping out one of the old landmarks with its storied memories and unforgotten pleasures. Source:http://nutrias.org/~nopl/monthly/sept2000/stereo37.htm posted 2002-04-07 posted 2002-04-10

1870 The Lake House is destroyed in a fire

1870 The Smoky Mary begins transporting citizens from the city to the lake

After 1870...the area (Milneburg) evolved into an entertainment district, as the city's passenger train, the Smoky Mary, began carrying more middle-class visitors to the resort. Entertainment included jazz, with Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong and Danny Barker performing. An Excerpt from the 1999 Land Use Plan New Orleans City Planning Commission http://int.new-orleans.la.us/cnoweb/cpc/1999_dist_six.htm Photo Credit:http://www.saveourlake.org/lessons/chpt10/

1870 The Smoky Mary begins transporting citizens from the city to the lake

1871 Land is reclaimed at West End

Beginning about 1871 and fully developed by 1880 the man-made land of West End near the entrance to the Basin, with its park and pathways, bandstand, pavillions and various fun-making features, rivaled the similar recreations of Spanish Fort at the mouth of Bayou St. John.

1871 Land is reclaimed at West End

1874 Mark Twain writes about the Shell Road

in "Life on the Mississippi": Thence, we drove a few miles across a swamp, along a raised shell road, with a canal on one hand and a dense wood on the other; and here and there, in the distance, a ragged and angular-limbed and moss-bearded cypress, top standing out, clear cut against the sky, and as quaint of form as the apple-trees in Japanese pictures--such was our course and the surroundings of it. There was an occasional alligator swimming comfortably along in the canal, and an occasional picturesque...person on the bank, flinging his statue-rigid reflection upon the still water and watching for a bite.

1874 Mark Twain writes about the Shell Road

1874 Mark Twain writes about West End

in "Life on the Mississippi": Illustration from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi West End in the chapter titled 'The Metropolis of the South' 1874 And by-and-bye we reached the West End, a collection of hotels of the usual light summer-resort pattern, with broad verandas all around, and the waves of the wide and blue Lake Pontchartrain lapping the thresholds. We had dinner on a ground-veranda over the water--the chief dish the renowned fish called the pompano, delicious as the less criminal forms of sin. Thousands of people come by rail and carriage to West End and to Spanish Fort every evening, and dine, listen to the bands, take strolls in the open air under the electric lights, go sailing on the lake, and entertain themselves in various and sundry other ways. Source: http://www.casayego.com/mtwain/41/41.htm

1874 Mark Twain writes about West End

1880 - Opera House at West End

Before 1900, Spanish Fort was especially famous for its opera house and fine seafood restaurants. Author William Makepeace Thackeray and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant were among the celebrities who dined at Spanish Fort and later bragged about the experience. In the early 1880s, during his great American tour, playwright Oscar Wilde lectured a Spanish Fort audience about household beauty. During its heyday as an amusement park, from the 1880s to the 1920s, Spanish Fort faced stiff competition from its nearby rival, West End. Although Spanish Fort had brief moments of grandeur, sometimes proclaiming itself to be the “Coney Island of the South,” the flood-prone park frequently fell on hard times, while West End prospered. In 1903, streetcar service to the park was discontinued. Ownership passed to the same streetcar company that operated the rival park, but Spanish Fort would never attain West End’s fame or grandeur. Spanish Fort closed in 1926. Source: New Orleans Magazine-Julia Street: Questions and Answers about New Orleans March 2000 - Vol. 34 - Issue 6 - Page - #346 http://publications.neworleans.com/no_magazine/34.6.-JuliaStreet.html Photo ca. 1880 Title: Opera house West End Creator: Mugnier, George Fran?ois, 1855-1936 Description: Two men and a boy standing in front of pavilion. Rowles Stereograph Photographs Source: Louisiana State Museum Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/8e0dd9afbe81fb6d862569f9004f7793?OpenDocument

1880 - Opera House at West End

1880 Fountain West End

ca. 1880 Title: Fountain West End Creator: Mugnier, George Fran?ois, 1855-1936 Description: Three tiered fountain with figure on top. Ducks in the foreground. Rowles Stereograph Photographs Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/f2a9332655d81ef0862569f9004f775d?OpenDocument

1880 Fountain West End

1880 Hotel West End

ca. 1880 Title: Hotel West End Creator: Blessing, S. T. Description: Rows of benches facing the hotel. Rowles Stereograph Photographs Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/bba6bd26beed0877862569f9004f7640?OpenDocument

1880 Hotel West End

1880s - Water Polo at West End

West End at the foot of the New Basin Canal. One of several pleasure resorts on Lake Pontchartrain. At the time of this print, New Orleanians would have travelled to West End by rail, or they would have taken the Shell Road to listen to music, ride the ferris wheel, or to frolic in the lake like these polo (?!) players. Source: New Orleans Public Library--Images of the Month http://www.nutrias.org/~nopl/monthly/mar99/mar9911.htm

1880s - Water Polo at West End

1880s Bird's Eye View- New Basin Canal at West End

ca. 1880 Title: Bird's-eye view West End Creator: Mugnier, George Fran?ois, 1855-1936 Description: The bulkhead of a coastal waterway. Rowles Stereograph Photographs Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/a2086b4732a4ef69862569f9004f7769?OpenDocument

1880s Bird's Eye View- New Basin Canal at West End

1880s Bridge over New Basin Canal at West End

ca. 1880 Title: Bridge West End Description: Men sitting on the railing of a wooden bridge. West End pavilion and hotel in background. Rowles Stereograph Photographs Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/f8c6853c67572b65862569f9004f77b8?OpenDocument

1880s Bridge over New Basin Canal at West End

1880s Pavilion at West End

Title: Pavillion [sic] West End Creator: Mugnier, George Fran?ois, 1855-1936 Description: Table and chairs set up around the pavilion. Rowles Stereograph Photographs Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/cda89f96275f78d1862569f9004f7751?OpenDocument

1880s Pavilion at West End

1888 (Papa) Jack Laine forms his first brass band

1873-1966 - (Papa) Jack Laine Jack Papa Laine is often credited with being the first White Jazz musician. All were part of a broad pool of white ragtime musicians active in New Orleans before 1920; at its social and musical center was the drummer and musical contractor Jack "Papa" Laine. A few among very many: cornetists Johnny Lala, Manuel Mello, Pete Dietrans, Gus Zimmermann, Abbie Brunies, and Emile Christian (who later toured on trombone with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band); brothers George and Henry Brunies on trombones, clarinetists Shields, Nunez, and Nunzio Scaglione, and the Brown brothers, Tom (trombone) and Steve (tuba). His "Reliance" bands were particularly active in the seasonal social life of the Lake Pontchartrain south shore. Laine claimed to have had one of the only two bands in New Orleans to play in the ragtimey, cusp-of-jazz style. Similarly, he was loath to admit that black musicians had had any effect on his music--an attitude paralleling the claims of some black musicians that whites had no influence on them. To suggest that either group worked in isolation from the other contravenes an overwhelming body of scholarly and anecdotal documentation about New Orleans life, musical and social. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/sudhalter-chords.html He was a drummer and saxophonist. He formed his first brass band in 1888. The band to performed Ragtime and marching music. He went on to lead the Reliance Brass Band, which became popular enough for him to have several units playing under that name. Many of the early New Orlean's White Jazz musicians such as, Tom Brown, Johnny Stein, Albert and George Brunies, Tony Parenti, Nick La Rocca and all of the other members of the Original Dixleland Jass Band played in the Reliance Brass Band at one time or the other. In 1917, Laine quit music and worked as a blacksmith, and later managed a garage. He never recorded. Source: http://www.redhotjazz.com/laine.html

1888 (Papa) Jack Laine forms his first brass band

1895 Lumber Schooner, New Basin Canal

George Francois Mugnier New Orleans, c. 1895 Most Irish immigrants who arrived at the port of New Orleans stayed in the city, primarily because they could not afford passage farther inland. Crowding into the city's riverfront neighborhoods, they strained its limited housing, employment, and education. Forced to compete with slaves and free blacks at the bottom of the economy, many New Orleans Irish took low-paying, often dangerous manual jobs, such as digging canals and ditches, building roads, levees, and railroads, and laboring on the docks and in the warehouses. The mortality rate was especially high among canal diggers, who were highly susceptible to yellow fever, malaria, and cholera. Source: http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/cabildo/cab8.htm

1895 Lumber Schooner, New Basin Canal

1897 - A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin

"One afternoon he took her out to the lake end. She had been there once, some years before, but in winter, so the trip was comparatively new and strange to her. The large expanse of water studded with pleasure-boats, the sight of children playing merrily along the grassy palisades, the music, all enchanted her." Source: Documenting the American South http://docsouth.dsi.internet2.edu/chopinnight/chopin.html

1897 - A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin

1900s Bucktown

Bucktown Just across the 17th Street Canal from West End, at Jefferson Parish's East End, the rustic fishing village called Bucktown developed during the late 19th century. By the early 20th century, wooden camps built on stilts with wide galleries covered by shingle or tin roofs lined the canal. There were also stores, a schoolhouse, and a jail, as well as saloons, gambling houses, dance halls and clubhouses for sportsmen. Bucktown's restaurants were notable attractions, serving plentiful seafood from the lake and wildfowl and game from the surrounding swamps and marshes. Source: Betsy Swanson - at http://www.deanies.com/MM017.ASP?pageno=28 Image credit: www.louisianapaintings.com/ html/bucktown.html

1900s Bucktown

1900's ~The steamboat New Camelia

The steamboat New Camelia would leave New Orleans in the evening, tour Lake Pontchartrain, returning in the morning. Postcard published by Raphael Tuck & Sons Oilette, Louisiana Series # 2549. Postmarked Baton Rouge 1907. Printed in England.

1900's ~The steamboat New Camelia

1900 West End at the New Basin Canal

New Basin Canal, ca. 1900. This view, taken from the Lake Pontchartrain entrance to the canal, shows several of the structures that comprised the West End resort. The lighthouse is still standing, but the larger buildings behind and to its right have long since disappeared. Source: http://nutrias.org/monthly/oct98/oct9810.htm

1900 West End at the New Basin Canal

1900s - Mannessier's Pavilion at West End.

1900 Mannessier's Pavilion, West End, ca. 1900. The New Basin Canal reached the Lake at West End, a resort area that flourished from the 1880s to around 1920. New Orleanians rode steam and later electrified trains or took the Shell Road to the site, where there were restaurants, amusement rides, musical entertainment, and movies shown outdoors. Mannessier's, at right, was a branch of Mannessier's Confectionery, a famous coffee, ice cream and pastry shop on Royal Street. The pavilion operated at West End from about 1899-1911. [Louisiana Photograph Collection. C. Milo Williams Collection] Source: http://www.nutrias.org/~nopl/photos/williams/williams47.htm

1900s - Mannessier's Pavilion at West End.

1900s montage of West End attractions

1900s montage of West End attractions

1900s Shell Road at West End Postcard

Divided back (1907 to 1915) postcard captioned "Shell Road and Canal, New Orleans, La." Shows the New Basin Canal with a boat visible along the dock. Published by The Acmegraph Co., Chicago, Illinois.

1900s Shell Road at West End Postcard

1901 - Hotel, West End.

From the George Francois Mugnier Photograph Collection-- New Orleans Public Library. Source: http://nutrias.org/~nopl/photos/mugnier/canals/gfmca.htm

1901 - Hotel, West End.

1901 Postcard-Southern Yacht Club

1901 Postcard-Southern Yacht Club

1902 - Bayou view, West End.

From the George Francois Mugnier Photograph Collection-- New Orleans Public Library. Source: http://nutrias.org/~nopl/photos/mugnier/canals/gfmca.htm

1902 - Bayou view, West End.

1903 Woman Lighthouse keeper at West End shelters storm victims

Margaret Norvell served at the Head of Passes Light from 1891 to 1896, the Port Pontchartrain Light from 1896 to 1924 as the head keeper and then finished her career at the West End Light where she served from 1924 to 1932. She rescued numerous shipwrecked persons during her career and assisted many others in distress. On one occassion in 1903 when a storm swept away every building in the community except the lighthouse she cared for over 200 people who had been left homeless. Source: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/faqs/vip.html

1903 Woman Lighthouse keeper at West End shelters storm victims

1906 Shell Road & New Basin Canal

1906 A postcard illustrating the shell road and canal (New Basin Canal) described in Mark Twain's 'Life on the Mississipi' (1874). Reads 'Shell Road Toll Gate, New Orleans, La.' Publisher: 'Phostint' By Detroit Publishing Company, #10285 At top, In Pencil -Notes: Toll House At Left - Unpaved Road - Canal At Right, With Small Steamer And Other Boats, Barges - Copyright 1906 By The Detroit Publishing Company -Blue Title. Source:thepostcard.com http://www.thepostcard.com/

1906 Shell Road & New Basin Canal

1907 - Southern Yacht Club Postcard

1907 - Southern Yacht Club Postcard

1909 West End Postcard

1909 West End Postcard

1910 - The New Canal Light is moved

The New Canal Light, was one of a series of octagonal wooden lighthouses built in 1838, that surrounded Lake Pontchartrain. It was built on pilings then relocated to its present site in 1910.

1910 - The New Canal Light is moved

1910 West End postcard

"Scordill" postcard of West End summer & Winter Resort, New Orleans, LA. Attractions include amusement rides, Thoms Gate, & the Macki Saloon.

1910 West End postcard

1910s Southern Yacht Club postcard

Raphael Tuck & Sons Postcard view of the West End of the Southern Yacht Club. Believed to be pre-1915.

1910s Southern Yacht Club postcard

1911 Postcard - Sailing on Lake Pontchartrain

Tucks oilette postcard titled "Yachts at west end of Lake Pontchartrain, La."

1911 Postcard - Sailing on Lake Pontchartrain

1914 West End before World War I

Three well-dressed New Orleansians take their leisure at Lake Pontchartrain on a sultry Sunday afternoon just prior to the outbreak of World War I. In the background is the Southern Yacht Club, second oldest in the United States, having been founded in 1849. The buxom lass in the foreground probably made a pretty good crew member in a small sailboat in a stiff breeze - provided, of course, she didn't sit on the wrong side. The joli chapeau could be used to bail water. Photograph provided by J. Gilbert Scheib, SYC. Collection of Frank Gordon & Son New Orleans, Louisiana USA Source: http://www.bergeronstudio.com/fg01/p58.html

1914 West End before World War I

1915 New Canal Light damaged by hurricane

September 29th, 1915: A violent hurricane reached New Orleans. The then 10 foot high levee protecting the city began to be questioned as not being high enough after the passage of this storm (Orleans Levee District). The pressure fell to 28.01" on a ship in the New Orleans harbor...New Orleans saw as high as 98 m.p.h.. Franklin had 14.43" of rain during the storm, while New Orleans saw over 8"...The New Canal lighthouse was heavily damaged as winds of 130 mph raged, and the pressure fell to 28.11"....which at the time set a record for the lowest pressure measured on land in the United States...Thirteen million dollars of damage, $5 million in New Orleans alone, were caused and 275 people died. Many of those who perished refused to leave low lying areas in advance of the storm, despite ample warning. Image is of a Circa 1915 postcard reads "Ligthouse at West End, New Orleans, La."

1915 New Canal Light damaged by hurricane

1915 Panoramic View

1915 Panoramic View

1919 The Picayune Sails

Leonard Nicholson's gaff-rigged sloop, "Picayune," beats to windward on a choppy Lake Pontchartrain in the summer of 1919. An active member of the Southern Yacht Club, Mr. Nicholson was the publisher and president of the Times-Picayune from 1922 until his death in 1951. (Photograph provided by J. Gilbert Scheib, SYC) Collection of Frank Gordon & Son New Orleans, Louisiana USA Source: http://www.bergeronstudio.com/fg01/p57.html

1919 The Picayune Sails

1926 William Faulkner write about the lake

1920's & 30's - Mosquitoes and Pylon by William Faulkner Quotes from a Gambit Weekly article (Rising Star, by W. Kenneth Holditch) about William Faulkner's life in New Orleans: 'In the next few months (1926), Faulkner wrote much of his second novel, Mosquitoes, which was a satiric look at the life of the artists and writers in the Quarter. The story grew out of a yacht cruise on Lake Pontchartrain attended by several members of the creative community the year before. Although the humor is hardly cruel, Anderson was not amused, and many of the others portrayed were still angry 50 years later, feeling that the writer they had befriended had betrayed their trust. Source: Gambit Weekly http://weeklywire.com/ww/09-22-97/gambit_covs.html

1926 William Faulkner write about the lake

1926 - New Orleans Owls record West End Romp

The New Orleans Owls played regularly at hotels in New Orleans between 1922 and 1929. They were one of only a handful of bands that were recorded in the city of New Orleans in the 1920s (1924-"Sailing on Lake Pontchartrain, 1926-"West End Romp"). The band decended from The Invincibles String Band which had been playing around New Orleans since 1912. For a time Irvine (Pinky) Vidocovich played with the Owls

1926 - New Orleans Owls record West End Romp

1926 hurricane damages New Canal Light

August 25-27th, 1926: The New Canal lighthouse was again damaged, causing it to be raised three feet after the storm.

1926 hurricane damages New Canal Light

1928 Louis Armstrong Records West End Blues

1900-1971 - Louis Armstrong "It was a lakeside summer spot in New Orleans that inspired the song that would become one of the world's great Jazz masterpieces." The song was Armstrong's recording of "West End Blues" As part of the NPR (National Public Radio) 100 Review of the 20th Century's most important American musical works, NPR's John Burnet traveled to New Orleans in search of the source of Jazz genius..." Excerpt from National Public Radio's 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century Photo Credit: http://www.redhotjazz.com/louie.html Source: National Public Radio's 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century.

1928 Louis Armstrong Records West End Blues

1929 New Basin Canal

Well into the 20th century schooners brought lumber, watermelons, charcoal, sand, and bricks from across Lake Pontchartrain into the heart of New Orleans by way of the New Basin Canal. Dug by hand, between 1831 and 1835, through the swamps that lay back of the city, the canal was sixty feet wide and six feet deep and almost seven miles long. Now filled and part of the Interstate Highway I-10, less than half a mile remains uncovered at the lake end, where a Coast Guard station stands on one side and Southern Yacht Club on the other. In this 1929 photograph provided by Albert McClsokey Browne, the schooners are lined up at the head of the canal, not far from the present day Union Station. Collection of Frank Gordon & Son New Orleans, Louisiana USA Source: http://www.bergeronstudio.com/fg01/p44.html

1929 New Basin Canal