Gap Bridge in Bucktown 1915 #WatercolorWednesday

Gap Bridge in Bucktown 1915 #WatercolorWednesday

Gap Bridge was also known as the Bucktown Bridge.

gap bridge

“The Gap Bridge” by Jeanette Boutall Ouest, via THNOC

West End from Bucktown

The “Gap Bridge,” captured in a watercolor painting by Jeanette Boutall Woest, 17-November-1968. Here’s the record entry from THNOC

View of the wooden Gap Bridge in about 1915 bordered by Bruning’s (labeled John C. Bruning above sign) on the left, Martin’s Green House in the background on the right, and the White House (labeled Theodore Bruning above sign) in the foreground on the right.

By the time I was a kid in the 1960s, the Gap Bridge was known colloquially as the “Bucktown Bridge” It was the path of access to the West End restaurant/entertainment area from the East Jefferson side. Coming from Orleans Parish, one went up the start of Lakeshore Drive to Lake Marina Drive to W. Roadway.

Lakefront escapes

West End offered an escape from the heat of the city for over a century. Beginning in the 1860s, locals and visitors alike headed out to Lake Pontchartrain. There were three main entertainment districts along the lake: Milneburg (at the end of the Pontchartrain Railroad), Spanish Fort (at the mouth of Bayou St. John), and West End (at the end of the New Canal). Hotels, restaurants, casinos, and music venues opened in all three locations. They were great overnight/weekend getaway possibilities.

Getting to West End

The New Orleans City Railroad Company (operators of the mule-drawn incarnations of the Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue streetcar lines) provided steam train service from Canal and Rampart Streets out to West End. When streetcars switched to electric operation in the 1890s, so did the West End line.

As “Bucktown” in Jefferson Parish grew, the parish constructed the bridge to cover the “gap” between West End and Bucktown. While the present “gap” is the 17th Street Canal, things were different in the early 1900s. The “Metairie Pumping Station,” also known as Station 6, stood near Metairie Road. The canal extended north from there, but it fizzled out into swampy land from there. So, the “gap” was more marsh than a real waterway. The bridge crossed that marsh. Later, as the parish and USACE modernized the lake end of the canal, the bridge still connected the parish.

The restaurants

Three restaurants are visible in Ouest’s painting. On the left stands Bruning’s, operated by John C. Bruning. On the right are the Green House and White House. The restaurants on the right were long gone by the 1960s, but Bruning’s remained until the 1990s.

Fate of the Gap Bridge

The USACE demolished the bridge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

 

Bucktown 1900

Bucktown 1900

Bucktown 1900 was a fishermen’s village at the end of the 17th Street Canal.

bucktown 1900

Bucktown 1900

Photo of shacks along both sides of the 17th Street Canal in Bucktown 1900. Source is the New Orleans Jazz Club. While the photographer is unidentified, the note at the bottom is similar to a number of images in Doc Souchon’s collection. The photographer stands several blocks back from the entrance of the canal at Lake Pontchartrain. The plant growth in the foreground is foliage from the swampy ground in the area. The fishermen kept the canal clear for their boats from here to the lake.

The 17th Street Canal

The canal gets its name from 17th Street, in the “uptown backatown” part of New Orleans. While the city changed the street’s name to Palmetto Street in 1894, the old name stuck for the canal. Rainwater from uptown collected in smaller canals, eventually draining into this one. Since land was higher closer to the river, gravity did most of the work for decades. Water flowed into the canal, which in turn flowed out to the lake. There was little development along the 17th Street Canal in the 19th Century. So, by the time the canal reached the lake, the water dissipated into swampy ground. The city built a pumping station across the canal, near Metairie Road. Station #6 opened in 1899, using pumps designed by A. Baldwin Wood.

Bucktown

Connecting the canal to the lake offered an opportunity to fishermen. Even though the New Canal wasn’t that far away, that waterway was navigable. With luggers, tugs, barges, and other vessels traversed it daily. That presented challenges for the fishermen. Moving over to the outfall canal enabled the fishermen to come and go into the lake at their leisure. By the 1890s, fishermen built shacks with small piers for their boats, moving into this, the “East End” of Jefferson Parish. As the area grew, commercial buildings popped up. That lead to restaurants and nightclubs. Those businesses meant gambling and jazz, but that’s another story.