New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Thursday, November 23, 2017
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Spanish Fort/Bayou St. John/Old Beach


1700s The French establish Port St. John and a fort

1700s The French establish Port St. John and a fort

1770 (?1779) Spanish Take over the French Fort

1770 (?1779) Spanish Take over the French Fort

1823 - The fort was decommissioned and sold to resort developers in the area. They renamed the area 'Spanish Fort'.

1823 - The fort was decommissioned and sold to resort developers in the area. They renamed the area 'Spanish Fort'.

1803 Congressional Declaration-...the town of Bayoue St. John shall be a port of delivery

In 1803 a canal was dredged from the Bayou toward the City's heart. It was a commercially valuable route until 1838, when Americans built a new canal from Lake Pontchartrain into the city.

1803 Congressional Declaration-...the town of Bayoue St. John shall be a port of delivery

1837 Hurricane Destroys the Bayou St. John Lighthouse

1837 Hurricane Destroys the Bayou St. John Lighthouse

1874 Mark Twain writes about Spanish Fort

in "Life on the Mississippi": There are good clubs in the city now--several of them but recently organized--and inviting modern-style pleasure resorts at West End and Spanish Fort. 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. The Entire Novel from Project Gutenburg

1874 Mark Twain writes about Spanish Fort

1880 - Alligators at Spanish Fort

Stereoview of, “No. 129 Alligator, Spanish fort ~ Mugnier New Orleans, La. ”. Sign on the wall “ Do Not Throw Anything At The Alligators”.

1880 - Alligators at Spanish Fort

1880 - Casino at Spanish Fort

1880 - Casino ca. 1880 Title: Casino Spanish Fort Creator: Mugnier, George Fran?ois, 1855-1936 Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/cdcc7e89857565b0862569f9004f77c3?OpenDocument

1880 - Casino at Spanish Fort

1880s Spanish Fort at Bayou St. John

ca. 1880 Title: Spanish Fort Description: Sailboats moored along side dock. Rowles Stereograph Photographs Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/00d073c818668989862569f9004f7a61?OpenDocument Fort St. John has had several 'lives'. Originally built next to the Lake it now sits 500 yards back--due to land reclamation in the 1930's and 40's. It was built to protect Bayou St. John and to defend New Orleans from attack via Lake Pontchartrain.

1880s Spanish Fort at Bayou St. John

1884 - Concert Hall at Spanish Fort

From a "SOUVENIR OF NEW ORLEANS, LA..COPYRIGHTED 1884 BY WARD BROS. COLUMBUS O.". Original decorative blind-stamped deep red composite cloth, with elaborate gold giltlettering, 5.25 x 3.5 inches, illustrated with twent-four fold-out panels, un-folding to about nine feet. Published by "S. T. Blessing, No. 87 Canal Street, New Orleans--Dealer in Photographic Goods, Frames, Moldings, Picture Albums, etc. Publisher of Stereoscoptic Views of New Orleans and Louisiana Scenery."

1884 - Concert Hall at Spanish Fort

1890s - Spanish Fort Train

We think this may be the famous "Smokey Mary".

1890s - Spanish Fort Train

1890s view of Bayou St. John

With magnification one can see the sign for "Over The Rhine".

1890s view of Bayou St. John

1894 - La Belle Zoraide by Kate Chopin

"The summer night was hot and still; not a ripple of air swept over the marais. Yonder, across Bayou St. John, lights twinkled here and there in the darkness, and in the dark sky above a few stars were blinking. A lugger that had come out of the lake was moving with slow, lazy motion down the bayou. A man in the boat was singing a song." Source: http://www.pbs.org/katechopin/library/zoraide.html Photo of Kate Chopin credit: Source: http://www.pbs.org/katechopin/library/zoraide.html

1894 - La Belle Zoraide by Kate Chopin

1895 - CAPE CHARLES Ferry/Steamboat runs between Spanish Fort & Mandeville

CAPE CHARLES – A sidewheel ferry, 252.5x36x13 feet, built by Harlan & Hollingsworth at Wilmington, Delaware in 1885 for the New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk RR and used on Chesapeake Bay between Cape Charles and Norfolk, Virginia 1886-1887. Sold to the New York & New England RR, used on Long Island Sound between S. Norwalk, Conn. and Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY September 1891-July 1892. Sold to the East Louisiana RR circa 1895 and used on Lake Pontchartrain between New Orleans (Spanish Fort) and Mandeville. Sold to the Gulf & Ship Island RR circa 1897 and rebuilt into a dredge. Source: http://lrs.railspot.com/h/h-ferries.htm Photo credit: http://www.bay-creek.com/graphics/pc13.jpg (this is not the Cape Charles, but a similar steamer.

1895 - CAPE CHARLES Ferry/Steamboat runs between Spanish Fort & Mandeville

1896 - The first movie in New Orleans was shown at the Lake

The first movie in New Orleans The first movie in New Orleans was shown on an outdoor screen on the lakefront June 28, 1896, by Allen B. Blakemore, an electrical engineer for the New Orleans City and Lake Railroad. Blakemore reduced the five-hundred-volt current from the trolley line for his wonderful vitascope machine by way of a water rheostat. Source: http://clarionherald.org/20000316/stall.htm

1896 - The first movie in New Orleans was shown at the Lake

1900s-"An Afternoon at Spanish Fort"

Divided back post card, Published by C. B. Mason, #7. Historical Spanish Fort Lake Resort was operated at this time by the New Orleans Railway & Light Co.

1900s-

1901 Roller Coaster at at Spanish Fort.

Notice how it extends far into the lake. Looks like fun. When Pontchartrain Beach Amuesment Park moved to Milneburg (U.N.O. area) the Zephyr was the most popular ride. The current Jazz Land Park in New Orleans East also has a Zephyr.

1901 Roller Coaster at at Spanish Fort.

1903 Streetcar service to Spanish Fort was discontinued

signalling the beginning of the demise of its popularity. 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

1903 Streetcar service to Spanish Fort was discontinued

1905 - Scene on Bayou St. John

Title: Bayou St. John Photographer: Teunisson, John N. Description: Scene on Bayou St. John, including houses in the background. Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/bd20284a261c591a862569f9004f9aaa?OpenDocument

1905 - Scene on Bayou St. John

1905 Postcard--Bayou St. John

1905 Postcard--Bayou St. John

1907 Postcard. Reads "Old Spanish Fort Erected in 1770 Under Baron De Carondelet. New Orleans, La"

1907 Postcard. Reads

1912 Gold Fish Pond at Spanish Fort

Postacard depicts The Gold Fish Lake at the Spanish Fort, with the Louisiana State Seal in the lower, right corner. Published by J. Scordill, 902 Canal St., New Orleans, LA. Postally used in 1912.

1912 Gold Fish Pond at Spanish Fort

1910 - Railroad Station at Spanish Fort

This postcard, from about 1910, was published by C.B. Mason, of New Orleans, Louisiana. The card pictures the Railroad Station at Spanish Fort in New Orleans. The description on the back reads, "Historical Spanish Fort on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain operated by the New Orleans Railway & Light Co., New Orleans, La."

1910 - Railroad Station at Spanish Fort

1910 postcard - Spanish Fort grave of Sancho Pablo

Grave of Sancho Pablo, New Orleans, La 1910. Unmailed card, circa 1910’s, some wear, Grave of Scanchos Pablo, he was the first commander of Spanish Fort, he was was in love with an Indian girl whose father disliked him and killed him when he discovered them meeting under the trees where he is buried.

1910 postcard - Spanish Fort grave of Sancho Pablo

1910 Spanish Fort postcard

1910 - Postcard Postcard postmarked 1910. F. M. Kirby & Company of New Orleans Louisiana issued this view of the "Old Spanish Fort" in New Orleans.

1910 Spanish Fort postcard

1910s ? Alligator Ride

A pre-1920 photo view of two boys riding on an alligator named Ponchatrain Bill (look closely at the sign). Probably one of the atttractions at Spanish Fort Amusement Park.

1910s ? Alligator Ride

1910s Men with canon at Spanish Fort

Spanish Fort Ruins Title: Spanish Fort Description: Suited men standing behind a cannon at Spanish Fort. Source: Louisiana State Museum http://appl005.lsu.edu/LSM.nsf/0d6463f4d93cecd68625689c00470f5c/664159a2e80fffbe862569f9004f91b8?OpenDocument

1910s Men with canon at Spanish Fort

1912 Bath House at Spanish Fort

1912 Postcard. Reads "Entrance to Bath House Spanish Fort on Lake Ponchartrain, New Orleans, Louisiana" Copyright 1912 H.J.Harvey

1912 Bath House at Spanish Fort

1912 Social Life in Old New Orleans by Eliza Ripley

'There was a large hotel (there may be still - it is sixty years since I saw it), mostly consisting of spacious verandas, up and down and all around, at the lake end of the shellroad, where parties could have a fish dinner and enjoy the salt breezes, but a dinner at 'Lake End' was an occasion, not a climax to a shopping trip. The old shellroad was a long drive, Bayou St. John on one side, swamps on the other, green with rushes and palmetto, clothed with gay flowers of the swamp flag. The road terminated at Lake Pontchartrain, and there the restful piazza and well-served dinner refreshed the inner woman.' 'There was no coin in circulation of less value than a picayune...we children felt rich when we had one tied in the corner of our handkerchief.' 'We all must have known some 'picayune people.' There was a family living near us who owned and occupied a large, fine home on St. Joseph Street, while we and the Grimshaws and Beins lived in rented houses near by. They had, besides, a summer home 'over the lake' (and none of us had!). Often, on Mondays, a fish, or a quart of shrimp, or something else in the 'over the lake' line, was sent to one of us, for sale. We used to laugh over the littleness of the thing. A quart of shrimp for a picayune was cheap and tempting, but none of us cared to buy of our rich neighbor...' Source: Documenting the American South

1912 Social Life in Old New Orleans by Eliza Ripley

1912 Spanish Fort postcard

A popular resort on the shore of Bayou St. John at the Lake during the 19th and early 20th century. This post card uses a 1912 photograph to advertise some of the delights that awaited anyone who rode the streetcar out to the end of the bayou. All that remains of the resort are the ruins of the colonial fortification that gave its name to the area. The amusement park moved to the end of Elysian Fields Avenue in the 1930s; we remember it well as Pontchartrain Beach. Source: New Orleans Public Library--Crescent City Memory Collection http://www.gnofn.org/~nopl/exhibits/ccmem/4.htm

1912 Spanish Fort postcard

1913 Army Corps Of Engineers chart and report

1913 Army Corps Of Engineers chart and report of a survey of Bayou St. John at the entrance to the lake. The map is dated 1913 and includes Spanish Fort Park, Soundings, A Rollercoaster, Houses, The Spanish Fort Lighthouse, The N.O. Ry. & L. Co. (Electric Railway), a Boat House, a Sunken Dredge, and more. This map was removed from the U.S. Army Chief Of Engineers Report Of 1915 (see sample pages below). The report is 20 pages long and contain statistics of the survey, costs of proposed improvements, some commercial statistics, etc. The map is 17" by 13".

1913 Army Corps Of Engineers chart and report

1913 Army Corps Of Engineers chart description

1913 Army Corps Of Engineers chart description

1915 Casino at Spanish Fort

Postcard postmarked 1915. Published by The Acemegraph Co., Chicago.

1915 Casino at Spanish Fort

1915 postcard of Spanish Fort & Bayou St. John

1915 postcard of Spanish Fort & Bayou St. John

1918-1928 Armond Piron (with Peter Bocage) as A.J.Piron & his Novelty Orchestra

played at several venues on the Lake 1888-1943 - Armond ( A.J.) Piron Armond ( A.J.) Piron () "...the "society" band. These groups, such as the bands led by A. J. Piron and John Robichaux, worked at prestigious locations like Tranchina's restaurant and gambling rooms on Lake Pontchartrain..." Source: James Lincoln Collier The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988 From 1918-1928 Piron along with Peter Bocage formed the A.J.Piron & his Novelty Orch., and played at Tranchina's Restaurant in Spanish Fort, on Lake Pontchartrain, LA. Source: DIXIELAND JAZZ http://nfo.net/.WWW/JOB.html Piron...played for many years at the New Orleans Country Club on Lake Pontchartrain... http://www.redhotjazz.com/piron.html

1918-1928 Armond Piron (with Peter Bocage) as A.J.Piron & his Novelty Orchestra

1920s - Tranchina's West End Hotel Restaurant

Postcard, date unknown. "Tranchina's West End Hotel Restaurant, LA." Many early Jazz greats have been documented to have played at Tranchina's. 1918 - Society Bands such as the bands led by A. J. Piron and John Robichaux, worked at prestigious locations like Tranchina's From 1918-1928 Piron along with Peter Bocage formed the A.J.Piron & his Novelty Orch., and played at Tranchina's Restaurant in Spanish Fort, on Lake Pontchartrain, LA. Source: DIXIELAND JAZZ http://nfo.net/.WWW/JOB.html Photo shows Tranchina's West End Hotel Restaurant, LA

1920s - Tranchina's West End Hotel Restaurant

1922 Postcard reads "Spanish Fort, the Coney Island of New Olreans

1922 Postcard reads

1924 Johnny Bayersdorffer plays Jazz at Spanish Fort

Tokyo Gardens Ballroom was situated in the resort at Spanish Fort...Among the jazz groups that performed there was a band led by the cornetist Johnny Bayersdorffer...in the summer of 1924. Source: http://www.xrefer.com/entry.jsp?xrefid=628454&secid=.101.- Pictured are Johnny Bayersdorffer and his Jazzola Novelty Orchestra 1922. Left to Right: Chink Martin, Tom Brown, Johnny Bayersdorffer, Leo Adde, Johnny Miller, Steve Loyacano, Nunzio Scaglione.

1924 Johnny Bayersdorffer plays Jazz at Spanish Fort

1924 Spanish Fort postcard

published by C. T. American Art. Postmarked New Orleans, 1924 posted 2002-04-01

1924 Spanish Fort postcard

1928 Pontchartrain Beach opens at Spanish Fort

Pontchartrain Beach amusement park opens where Lake Vista is today. It later moves to Milneburg, at Elysian Fields Avenue. This postcard shows the The Wildcat coaster (pictured distant center) opened in 1928 at Pontchartrain Beach, in New Orleans, LA. This twister style coaster was designed by Fred Church and Harry Traver, a pair known for their radical coaster designs of the 1920's. Unfortunately, the ride only lasted until 1938. Source: http://members.aol.com/somekick/pontchartrain.html

1928 Pontchartrain Beach opens at Spanish Fort

1928 The first Pontchartrain Beach was at Spanish Fort

The first Pontchartrain Beach opened in 1928, across Bayou St. John from the old Spanish Fort on filled land newly reclaimed from the Lake by the Orleans Levee Board. The "Old Beach" featured a boardwalk, a bath house and rides. But the hard times of the Depression hit the new amusement park hard, in spite of improvements (including a seawall to replace the boardwalk and a vehicular bridge over Bayou St. John) made by the Batt family, which took over its operation in 1933. In 1938, when development (with the help of the WPA) of Lake Vista began just next door, the Batts took advantage of the opportunity to move the park farther east along the lakefront to Milneburg, and the "Old Beach" was demolished. This photograph of the entrance to the park was taken on March 7, 1939, shortly before demolition began. Source: http://nutrias.org/~nopl/monthly/july2001/2jul01.htm

1928 The first Pontchartrain Beach was at Spanish Fort