Around Lake Pontchartrain

1. Bayou St. John

Pre History
1699 Exploration
1701 Fort St. John
1703 Trappers on the Bayou
1718 New Orleans is Founded
1732 Native Americans
1735 Native Americans
1759 Map of the Portage
1763 Spanish Rule
1768 Map of the Water Route
1770 Spanish Fort Postcards
1778 Hurricanes
1779 Spanish Rebuild the Fort
1780 Hurricane
1784 Custom House
1795 Carondelet Canal
1803 Madisonville
1808 U.S. Restores the Fort
1811 Bayou St. John Light
1803 Louisiana Purchase
1814 Madisonville
1815 Steamboat Travel Begins
1816 Bayou St. John a Port
1820's Concert Hall & Garden at Spanish Fort
1823 Spanish Fort on the Bayou
1828 Map
1837 Hurricane Destroys the Bayou St. John
1838 New Canal Light
1830 Pontchartrain Railroad
1868 Submarine Find
1868 receipts for the Jewess and Frances
1831 New Basin Canal
1832 Port Ponchartrain/Milneburg Light
1838 Port Ponchartrain Surveyer
1838 New Canal/West End Light
1839 Milneburg
1839 Milneburg
1839 Pontchartrain Railroad
1840 By 1840, New Orleans had become by far the wealthiest and was ranked as the third most populous
1849 Southern Yach Club
1849 Southern Yacht Club
1850 Louisville & Nashville Railroad
1850 West End, Lakeport, Bucktown
1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin
1858 Harper's Magazine
1859 Bruning's
1859 Corpheous
1860's Hurricanes
1861 Most citizens have access to the Lake
1861Bayou St. John's Port, Lake Port (West End), and Port Pontchartrain (Milneburg Port)
1863 Madisonville
1863 Woodcut Civil War engraving
1863 Civil War Military Map
1865 - Civil War Order
1866 - The Little Blue Train
1868 Map
1870 Milneburg Port declines but Jazz flourishes
1870 The Smoky Mary begins
1870 West End
1870 The Lake House is destroyed in a fire
1871 Land is reclaimed at West End
1873 - Plan plan for the redevelopment of the south shore
1873 Spanish Fort
1874 Mark Twain writes about Spanish Fort in Life on the Mississippi
1874 Mark Twain writes about West End in Life on the Mississippi
1875 Rowles Stereograph Photograph titled 'Protection levee Lake Pontchartrain'
1879 Illustration from The Nathanial Bishop book
1880 Smokey Mary
1880 - Alligators at Spanish Fort
1880 - Casino at Spanish Fort
1880 - Opera House at West End
1880 Fountain West End
1880 Hotel West End
1880 West End Pavillion
1880s - Water Polo at West End
1880s Bird's Eye View- New Basin Canal at West End
1880s Bridge over New Basin Canal at West End
1880s Pavilion at West End
1880s Spanish Fort at Bayou St. John
1883 Point-aux-Herbes
1884 - Concert Hall at Spanish Fort
1888 (Papa) Jack Laine forms his first brass band
1890 - 1920 Buddy Bolden's Band plays
1890 Ferdinand (Jelly Roll) Morton is born
1890's West End Garden Amusement Park
1890s - Spanish Fort Train
1890s Ferris Wheel at West End
1890s view of Bayou St. John
1890's Bucktown
Lake Pontchartrain at West End
1891 Painting-the Lake and Milneburg
1892 Map
1893 Woman Lighthouse keeper at Milneburg shelters storm victims
1894 - La Belle Zoraide by Kate Chopin
1895 Lumber Schooner, New Basin Canal
1896 - The first movie in New Orleans was shown at the Lake
1897 - A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin
1897 - Athénaïse by Kate Chopin
1899 - The Goodness of St. Rocque by Alice Dunbar
1895 Cape Charles Car and Passenger Ferry
1900's Milneburg Walk
1910 Bayou St. John Sailor Girl
1919 Spanish Fort Ad
1929 Port Pontchartrain/Milneburg Light decommissioned
1940's Dig
1960s Kiddieland
August 2005
1. Bayou St. John
2. Milneburg/Pontchartain Beach
Military Installments
Shushan Airport
3. Hayne Blvd. and Beyond
Lincoln Beach
Chef Pass/Fort McComb
Fort Pike & The Rigolets
"Pointe Aux Herbes"
4. Northshore -- Fontainbleau, etc.
5. Western Shores -- Pass Manchac
The German Coast
6. Engineering Marvels -- Spillway
7. Bucktown
8. west end
General Area

On Lakeshore Dr. at St. Bernard Ave. in New Orleans where the lake meets Bayou St. John is an historical marker which reads:
"Lake Pontchartrain

Traveled on by Iberville, 1699 and named for the French minister of Marine. Indians called it Okwa-ta, wide water. First port of embarkation was at the site where bayou St. John flows from this lake. It was the first water route to the city of New Orleans."

Although historically correct, that marker while crediting Native Americans for having first named Lake Pontchartrain fails to include their contribution to the founding of the city of New Orleans.  It was native tribespeople who showed Europeans their age old route from the lake, down the bayou, along a natural high ridge, and finally to the Mississippi River.

Travelling down the bayou, not far past the beautiful copper dome of Our Lady of the Rosary church one comes upon another marker.  This one describes the ridge and credits the first inhabitants for having revealed it to the French founder of New Orleans:
"The Old Portage

Short trail from Lake Pontchartrain to river shown by Indians to Iberville and Bienville, 1699. Winding trail used by early travelers to city. From Bayou St. John it lead to N. Broad, Bayou Road, Vieux CarrÈ to Mississippi River at site between Dumaine and Gov. Nicholls Streets."

John Chase, in Frenchman, Desire, Good Children (and other streets of New Orleans) tells us that the portage consisted of   Grand Route St. John which merged into Bayou Rd. and then to the river.  In any case, the portage -- a geological build up of above sea level land that elluded the seasonal flooding of the river was an important component in the settling of the city of New Orleans.

Further down the bayou one comes upon another marker, where City Park Ave. becomes W. Moss St. and N. Carrollton turns into Wisner Blvd.  Here we find how the ridge was formed:

"Metairie and Gentilly Ridges

First highway through this city led from lower Kenner to Chef Menteur. Mississippi River, during prehistoric days, overflowed into Lake Pontchartrain. The receding waters created these ridges and their accompanying bayous which connected, at City Park area, with Bayou St. John."

We begin this book where Bayou St. John meets the Lake because it was here that the modern cultural history of the Lake begins; we know relatively little about the Native Americans who first settled in this area but would be remiss not to acknowledge the part they played in helping the first Europeans settle the city of New Orleans.  One might argue that without this help New Orleans as we know it might not exist and that the historical images found in this book might be very different.

Bayougoula, Mougoulacha, Chitimacha, Oumas, Tangipahoa, Colapissa, and Quinipissalive) lived in the area we now know as the Lake Pontchartrain Basin centuries before others arrived.  As the historical marker alluded, the Choctaw Tribe named what we now call Lake Pontchartrain, "Okwa-ta" meaning 'Wide Water". 
Bayou St. John was named Bayouk Choupic (for the "mud fish" which dwelled along its shores) by Native Americans of the Houma (who viewed the crawfish as a sign of bravery), Bayougoula, and Tangipahoa tribes.  As the historical markers point out, Natives used the bayou for transportation and trade and it was Native Americans who discovered that by using this tributary and a natural high ground path (now Bayou Road), they could travel to the Mississippi River.  
Some time between March 26th and March 30th, 1699,  French explorer Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d'Iberville entered what his men had named the d'Iberville River (later renamed Bayou Manchac) and proceeded to what d'Iberville named 'Lake Maurapas'  eventually entering the huge lake which d'Iberville named 'Lake Pontchartrain' after the then current French Minister of Marine.
When the French arrived, they sought a shorter route to the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico. It was the Biloxi tribe who showed them the route the bayou. Travelling from Biloxi, Mississippi on the gulf they proceeded to Lake Borgne, then Lake Catherine, the Rigolets Pass, Lake Pontchartrain, Bayou St. John, down the ancient portage, and to the Mississippi River. 
In 1701, the French built a fort (Fort St. Jean) on the bayou to protect New Orleans from attack by way of Lake Pontchartrain and renamed the waterway Bayou St. Jean.  The fort was approximately fifty feet wide with five gun emplacements.
As early as 1703 (15 years before the founding of New Orleans in 1718), the Bayou was used by French trappers and traders who had settled along its banks as a shipping channel.
The city proper was located on the crescent of the river at what is now the French Quarter.   When the city of New Orleans was established, a landing at the headwaters of the bayou was built and named Port St.  New Orleans became an important port river and lake port city due to the benevolence of Native Americans who shared their knowledge.  It is arguable that New Orleans' very existence is the result of the same.
In 1763, the Spanish government took control of the New Orleans area. An October hurricane reportedly destroyed the Bayou St. John area followed by a massive August, 1779 storm which is said to have leveled much of the city. The Spanish rebuilt the fort on the bayou in 1779, calling it San Juan del Bayou (later known as "Spanish Fort").

1795.  -- Spanish Governor Franciso Luis Hector, Baron de Carondelt, Lake Pontchartrain, Bayou St. John, Carondelet Canal to river ****or to the Basin???

By an Act of Congress in 1807 the Orleans Navigation Company was provided funding to widen and clear the long neglected Carondelet Canal, dredge Bayou St. John, improved the turning basin (current day Basin Street), and dig additional canals from the basin to Canal St. then on the river.  It did all but the latter, leaving Canal St. without a canal.

It is said that Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen performed her "majic" at the mouth of Bayou St. John on Lake Pontchartrain.
1808 -- Americans restore Spanish Fort

In 1811, the Bayou St. John Lighthouse was built on the lake near the entrance of the bayou.  It was one in a series of octoganal wood towered lighthouses built around the lake.  It is said to have been the first lighthouse built in the United States outside the 13 original colonies.  The keepers of this light were Leutenant Sands, Pierre Brousseau, John Clement, A. B. Shelby, and Robert Gage.
It was destroyed by a storm in 1837 and replaced in 1838 with a 48 foot tower which was washed away during a hurricane.  In 1869 another was built -- it was deactivated in 1878.
When reading about places along the New Orleans south shore keep in mind that before the massive land reclamation during the 1920's and 1930's the lakeshore ran approximately along what is now Robert E. Lee Blvd.  Consequently, the lighthouse sat at what would now be a suburban street between the lake and Robert E. Lee Blvd.

1816 - U.S. Congress establishes a port of delivery at the town of Bayou St. John

Bayou St. John's value as a commercial navigational route ended in 1838 when the New Basin Canal was built (see the West End chapter). It is currently open only to canoes and skiffs. 

In 1823 the fort was decommissioned and sold by (yet another Act of Congress) to Harvey Elkins who developed it as a resort area he called "Spanish Fort".  By the 1870s and early 1880s, the Pontchartrain Hotel was built as well as a large pavilion, casino, theater, restaurants, gardens, an alligator pond, water pole matches, and bathing piers.  It was called "The Coney Island of the South" but it attracted luminaries such as Mark Twain ???????????????????????????

During the early 1923, the WPA land reclamation project signalled the end of Spanish Fort as an amusement haven.  Originally at Spanish Fort, Pontchartrain Beach moved to the what is now the University of New Orleans Technology Center at Elysian Fields and the lake in 1928.

1770 Spanish Fort is Established


1863  Woodcut Civil War engraving

1850s West End & Lakeport development begins

The Lake