Lincoln Beach & the Hayne Blvd. Camps
Lincoln Beach was founded in 1939, when the Orleans Levee Board purchased 2.3 acres near Little Woods to be set aside as a swimming area for blacks...Over the next few years, Lincoln Beach became a vacation destination for blacks. New rides sprang up on the midway; and the park hosted concerts by such popular acts as the Ink Spots and local favorites Fats Domino and Earl King. In April 1957, Lincoln Beach was selected as the site of the annual Negro State Fair, a gathering that highlighted education and culture.
Source: New Orleans Magazine
The quarter-mile stretch of sand along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain known as Lincoln Beach might seem like an insignificant piece of real estate -- especially now, in its overgrown, derelict condition -- but, as with so many places in the city, its place in the history of race relations in New Orleans is noteworthy. Those who grew up under the thumb of segregation and who witnessed the inexorable march of the Civil Rights era remember the beach as one of the few places where black citizens could find relief from the brutal summer heat.
Lincoln Beach was founded in 1939, when the Orleans Levee Board purchased 2.3 acres near Little Woods to be set aside as a swimming area for blacks.
The first pilings were driven in 1953, and Lincoln Beach opened for the season the following year at a total cost of $1 million.
Governor Robert Kennon and Mayor DeLesseps S. Morrison were on hand for the May 8, 1954 dedication, as was Samuel McNeal, whose late brother, Nolan, was honored with a pool dedicated in his name. According to Keith Medley, writing in a 1985 issue of the New Orleans Observer, a now-defunct newspaper, Nolan McNeal was a former slave who became a prominent social worker. In a speech that day, Ernest Wright, director of the People's Defense League and a Roussel ally, recalled summers past, when black children had few options other than water hoses to find relief from the heat, and dubbed the beach 'a step forward in the Negroes' fight for first-class citizenship.'
After a three-week delay caused by problems with the water purification system, Lincoln Beach opened to a throng of 10,000 eager citizens, who spilled onto the elaborately landscaped midway and gathered around the stage where Papa Celestin's jazz band played.
Over the next few years, Lincoln Beach became a vacation destination for blacks. New rides sprang up on the midway, and the park hosted concerts by such popular acts as the Ink Spots and local favorites Fats Domino and Earl King. In April 1957, Lincoln Beach was selected as the site of the annual Negro State Fair, a gathering that highlighted education and culture.
Sixty years after the first load of sand was hauled in, Lincoln Beach's future is looking bright again...In its new incarnation, Lincoln Beach will include reminders of its past and its place in the political and social upheavals that transformed New Orleans and the South. Plans call for a mural and interpretive display documenting the site's importance during the Civil Rights years. 'Lincoln Beach has such historical significance, it's a shame to see it be forgotten,' says Ellen Hazeur-Distance, the City Council member who represents the surrounding area and who serves on the Levee Board. 'Also, it's a beautiful piece of land with a lot of potential.' .
New Orleans Magazine, March 1999 v33 i6 p66(1)
HIGH TIDE. (Lincoln Beach) RUSSELL MCCULLEY.
Abstract: Lincoln Beach is a quarter-mile stretch on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Its place in New Orleans' race relations history is worth noting. It was one of the few places where blacks could visit a beach during the Civil Rights era. It has been officially closed for thirty years and the amusement park rides are closed. Other buildings are decaying. Community activists and city leaders now plan a revival.
Full Text COPYRIGHT 1999 New Orleans Magazine
Lincoln Beach welcomed some great musical performers to its stage, including Ray Charles and Nat King Cole.
The Death of Lincoln Beach, New Orleans Magazine, New Orleans, Aug 1992. Volume 26, Isssue 11
Other musicians who played at Lincoln Beach include Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Papa Celestin, The Neville Brothers, Deacon John, Sam Cooke, &Guitar Slim.
Before the Civil Rights movement integrated public areas and facilities, the Lincoln Beach section of Lake Pontchartrain was one of the few areas of entertainment and recreation for African-Americans.
Lake Pontchartrain has been closed to swimmers since 1962 and Lincoln beach has been closed since 1963. This past spring, hundreds of volunteers along with officers from the NOPD, the Criminal Sheriff's Office, the executive staff of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and All Congregations Together helped in the continued clean-up of Lincoln Beach to get it ready for its scheduled opening this spring.
Operation Beach Clean-Up, under the leadership of Anne Kiefer, executive director of NOEEDF, far exceeded anyone's expectations and gave visible evidence of the support and interest the city, and especially New Orleans East, has in Lincoln Beach. According to Kiefer, the clean-up served two purposes; it showed the State legislature that the beach is a viable project that is moving forward and the $5.1 million allocated for infrastructure will be put to immediate use. Secondly, with the water quality improvements that have been made in anticipation of the beach being opened for swimming next year, a major clean-up of hidden debris underwater 100 yards out from the shore and, of course, the beach area itself needed to be done.
Lincoln Beach has met national requirements for water quality in both 1998 and 1999, and, according to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, it is cleaner today than many of the beaches in California and Florida's east coast which have never closed.
Once the beach is opened for swimming, many of the existing structures will be renovated and other amenities, such as picnic tables and bathrooms, will be added. Plans are underway for several of the existing structures, such as the existing pool areas, to be demolished and filled. Plans include a new pool and clubhouse to be built and possibly charging a nominal fee for entry into the beach area; the money used to pay for a lifeguard. Possible plans also include the building of an amphitheatre which could be a venue for live music and entertainment.
Photo (above) shows Orleans Parish Sheriffs Officers taking a well deserved break during the Lincoln Beach cleanup effort.
The Orleans Levee District commissioned BKI to conduct an evaluation of the existing physical, structural and environmental conditions at the Lincoln Beach site on Lake Pontchartrain and to recommend a plan for improvements for safe public access to the site and lake waters.
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For information about the Hayne Blvd. Camps, see "The Camps" link on the left.