Abraham Shushan’s monuments marked Lakefront milestones.
New Basin Canal Lock monument, 1930
Two 1930 photos of lakefront monuments. The late 1920s were a time of major improvements to the lakefront. Lake Pontchartrain seawall improved flood protection. So, the Levee Board* erected monuments to the “New Basin Canal Lock” and the “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall.” Board president Abraham “Abe” Shushan supervised their placement.
Abe Shushan inspects the seawall monument, 1930
The “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall” was the finishing touch of a years-long series of land reclamation projects along the Orleans Parish lakefront. In 1915, the south shore of the lake went right up to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard). The Levee Board planned to drain the swampy ground and create new subdivisions. By 1930, the reclamation projects were completed.
The Levee Board built the finishing touch in 1929. Along with the stepped, concrete wall, they created Lakeshore Drive for access to recreational areas along the lakefront. Previous generations traveled out to the lakefront resorts at West End, Spanish Fort, and Milneburg via train/streetcar. With the completion of Lakeshore Drive, driving along the lake became a pleasant experience.
Both of Shushan’s monuments contain the same text, with the name as the only change:
Constructed During the Administration of
HUEY P. LONG, Governor
Board of Levee Commissioners
Orleans Levee District
The stones then list the members of the board and the various people who worked the projects. While John Riess built the lock, Orleans Dredging Company built the seawall.
Shushan’s Monuments display Abe’s name, as president of the board. Shushan is seen in the seawall photo, inspecting the massive tablet. Abe got his start in his family’s business, Shushan Brothers. Shushan Brothers sold dry goods wholesale. Additionally, they operated retail toy stores. Abe left the business founded by his father and uncle, entering government as a strong supporter of Huey P. Long. He moved up in the Long organization. They arranged his appointment to the Levee Board.. Accordingly, the board named New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NOL) for Shushan. In 1935, the government indicted and tried him for tax fraud. Furthermore, they charged him with money laundering. While Shushan was acquitted, the Longs cut him loose. Although he was cleared, the trial exposed massive corruption. So, his name was removed from just about everything it was visible on, including these monuments.
Harry Batt, Jr., promoted Pontchartrain Beach 1934 in the local paper.
Pontchartrain Beach 1934
A full-page advertisement in the Times-Picayune, 1-July-1934, offered readers prizes at Pontchartrain Beach 1934. Participating stores included White Bros. jewelers, Cary and Helwick Hardware, Oliver H. Van Horn, Arrow Family Outfitters, and The Pants Store.
Pontchartrain Beach on the Bayou
Entrance to Pontchartrain Beach, when it was located along Bayou St. John.
Harry Batt, Jr., opened Pontchartrain Beach in 1929. He placed his amusement park on the east side of Bayou St. John at the lake. The Spanish Fort amusement area occupied the west side of the bayou for decades. Those attractions declined in the 1920s. So, Batt leased the land on the other side and opened a new attraction. Additionally, Batt’s experience selling ice to Spanish Fort attractions gave him knowledge of the area. He promoted the park with ads in the daily newspapers.
The concept of “co-operative” advertising benefits small businesses. On their own, a business may not be able to afford a full-page ad. So, if they pooled their funds with other businesses, the all received better visibility. Notice that the advertisers here don’t really overlap in terms of products. The most common co-op ads were from a manufacturer, who then listed the stores selling their products. Here, Pontchartrain Beach worked with stores to offer prizes for events and contests at the amusement park.
Getting to the Beach
ad for New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated, 1-June-1934
The route to Pontchartrain Beach at this time was the Spanish Fort streetcar line. Initially, folks traveled to the Bayou via rail service. When electric streetcars came on the scene in the 1890s, the amusement area at Spanish Fort was in decline.
That changed in 1911. New Orleans Railway and Light Company, NOPSI’s predecessor, offered electric streetcar service back to the bayou. The line followed the route of the West End line. When it reached Adams Street in Lakeview (now Allen Toussaint Blvd.), the line turned right, ending at the Bayou. When Batt opened his park, all folks had to do was cross the bridge and go ride the rides.
Pontchartrain Beach moved from the bayou to Milneburg in 1939. That’s another story, but Batt continued to promote the park regularly in the newspaper. For more history on Da Beach and Lake Pontchartrain, check out Catherine Campanella’s books on the subject.
Twelve Months New Orleans September, continuing the series by Enrique Alferez
Twelve Months New Orleans August
This image is the ninth in a series of images by Enrique Alferez, published by Michael Higgins as “The Twelve Months of New Orleans.” Higgins published the illustrations in 1940. The image features sailboats racing on Lake Pontchartrain.
Alferez was born in Northern Mexico on May 4, 1901. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1927 to 1929. He came to New Orleans in 1929. Alferez made New Orleans his home. He took advantage of various Works Progress Administration grants in the late 1930s. Alferez created a number of sculptures in the metro area, particularly in New Orleans City Park. Additionally, he designed the large fountain in front of Shushan Airport (now New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
Alferez drew and painted, as well as sculpting. So, he included many New Orleans landmarks in the “Twelve Months” booklet.
The title/cover page of the booklet says:
A set of 12 Romantic
Displaying 60 local subjects
drawn direct on the plate
with pen, brush, and crayon
Printed and published by Michael Higgins
at 303 North Peters St
Summer’s end is the theme of September’s illustrations.
Top Left: Blessing the Cane Crop. September is sugar cane harvest time. If you’ve ever been caught behind a cane truck on Highway 1 in bayou country, believe me, we all feel your pain. Like the blessings of the shrimp boats, blessing the cane fields marked the end of summer.
Top Right: Rice. Like the cane crop, the rice harvest is important to South Louisiana to this day. While most Louisiana rice is grown in Southwest Louisiana, the growers shipped it to New Orleans, where factors bought and re-sold it to shippers and out of town buyers. Additionally, that rice appeared on the dinner tables of New Orleans year-round.
Bottom Left: Football Season! While the New Orleans Saints did not become a part of the city’s athletic landscape until 1967, LSU and Tulane football entertained fans. Both teams were in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 1940.
Bottom Right: Fish Fry! With school back in session, fundraising by the schools picked up. School cafeterias offered the perfect fundraising opportunity: the fish fry. Send the dads out for the catch. Get someone in the business to donate trout, drum, sheepshead. Head to the cafeteria to clean them and fry them up! Additionally, moms cooked potato salad and sides. Some schools and churches offered shrimp as well. Since September is a “month with an ‘R’, oysters often joined the menu.
The central drawing for September features sailboats racing on the Lake Pontchartrain. The caption reads:
On Labor Day,
The Governor’s Yacht Race is held,
or rather, sailed, on
Lake Pontchartrain and down
on the Gulf,
So, the Governor’s Cup race alternated between the two locations. Clearly this was so the rest of South Louisiana didn’t fuss about the City getting all the events.
See you for the tenth image in October.
Southern Yacht Club still stands at the entrance to the New Canal.
Southern Yacht Club
Postcard from the Detroit Publishing Company of the Southern Yacht Club on Lake Pontchartrain. The club stands at the entrance to the New Canal. A local photographer shot this between 1900 and 1909. They sold the photo to the publisher, who colorized it and published it as a postcard.
The New Canal connected Lake Pontchartrain with the Central Business District for over a century. Locals refer to the canal as the “New Basin Canal,” distinguishing it from the Carondelet Canal. Creole businessmen financed the Carondelet Canal. They built it in 1795. While Canal Street was supposed to have a canal running its length, competing business interests changed the plans. The Creoles living in the Vieux Carre weren’t interested in helping the Anglo-Irish in Faubourg Ste. Marie. They built their canal just north of the Vieux Carre.
The Anglo-Irish responded in the 1830s by building the New Canal. Its basin stood on S. Rampart Street. The canal ran from there to the lake. So, by the 1840s, the city had two navigation canals. Eventually, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (Industrial Canal) rendered both of the older canals obsolete.
Southern Yacht Club anchored the West End entertainment district. Roads and railroad service linked West End to the city proper. Beginning in the 1850s, entrepreneurs built hotels and restaurants at West End. While the Southern Yacht Club was the largest sailing club on the lakefront, a number of other sailing and rowing clubs established themselves along the New Canal.
This photo shows the New Canal outlet to the lake. This section of the canal is all that remains. The city filled in the rest of the canal in the late 1940s. So, with the canal gone, the city built the Pontchartrain Expressway. This highway followed the canal’s path, from what is now Veterans Blvd to downtown. This enabled Lakeview residents to easily commute by car into the CBD.
Lake Pontchartrain seawall is the first level of flood protection in Orleans Parish.
Lake Pontchartrain Seawall
John Tibule Mendes photo of the Lake Pontchartrain Seawall, not long after its completion in 1932. The Orleans Levee Board (OLB) began the seawall project in 1930. Construction took about two and a half years.
Beginning in the 1920s, the OLB embarked on major land reclamation projects, from West End to the Industrial Canal. These projects resulted in the Lakeshore, Lake Vista, Lake Terrace, and Lake Oaks residential neighborhoods.
A great illustration of these reclamation projects is the Port Pontchartrain lighthouse at the end of Elysian Fields Avenue. The Pontchartrain Beach amusement park, built on reclaimed land, surrounded the lighthouse. Before the 1920s, that lighthouse stood in the lake, guiding ships and boats into the port.
To build the Lake Pontchartrain Seawall. the OLB pushed the lake back from the shore line. Workers poured the eight-foot concrete wall. After the concrete set and cured, the water was released. This process continued until it reached the Industrial Canal.
Levees along the lake
While the Lake Pontchartrain Seawall was the first line of flood protection, OLB built levees behind it. The first levee began in 1930, as part of the seawall project. The levee/seawall design offered a good bit of lake shore recreation space. Shell roads became the fully-paved Lakeshore Drive we know now, in 1940. Since Lakeshore Drive lacked a flood protection purpose, that construction didn’t happen until the Great Depression and the WPA.
The 1930 levee serviced the lakefront for thirty-five years. Hurricane Betsy topped that levee on August 27, 1965. OLB dramatically increased the size of the levee in the storm’s aftermath. They continued raising the levee into the 2000s. While Hurricane Katrina in 2005 didn’t top the levee, that storm focused OLB work on the outfall canals.
Mendes caught a section of the Lake Pontchartrain Seawall in its in-between phase. While the seawall is complete, the water hasn’t yet been released to its edge.
Benjamin Franklin High 1987 transitioned from Uptown to Lakefront.
Benjamin Franklin High 1987.
Dr. Everett C. Williams poses with OPSB member Mr. John Robbert and students of Benjamin Franklin High 1987. They stand behind an architectural model of the planned campus for the school, located on the University of New Orleans Lakefront Campus. (Students are unidentified; please comment if you know anybody!)
The city’s public school for gifted students, Benjamin Franklin High 1987 opened its doors for the first time for the 1957 school year. The Old Carrollton Courthouse (S. Carrollton Avenue, between Hampson and Maple Streets, Uptown), housed the school for just over thirty years. While Benjamin Franklin 1987 was originally segregated, it became the first Orleans Parish public school to desegrate, in 1963.
The original requirement for admission to this select school was an IQ of 120. Now, Franklin requires a more-formal admissions test of prospective students.
Alumni of note of Benjamin Franklin High 1987:
- Barry W. Ashe: Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
- David “Dee-1” Augustine: rapper
- Lolis Eric Elie: former columnist at The Times-Picayune, TV writer for Treme and Hell on Wheels, author, award-winning documentary filmmaker, author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country (ISBN 1-58008-660-8)
- Ted Frank: Director of the AEI Legal Center for the Public Interest
- Jalila Jefferson-Bullock: Louisiana State Legislature – Representative, District 91: 2003-2007
- Anya Kamenetz: freelance writer & columnist, author of Generation Debt (ISBN 978-1-59448-907-5)
- David Kinch: chef and owner of Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, California
- Delfeayo Marsalis: jazz trombonist – attended Ben Franklin/NOCCA
- Wynton Marsalis: Pulitzer Prize, nine-time Grammy Award winning musician – attended Ben Franklin/NOCCA
- Jeffery Miller: jazz trombonist – attended Ben Franklin/NOCCA
- James Nolan: poet, fiction writer, essayist, and translator
- Wendell Pierce: actor, star of the HBO dramas The Wire and Treme
- Wade Rathke: co-founder of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)
- Cedric Richmond: U.S. Representative, Louisiana’s 2nd district: 2011-current; Louisiana State Representative, District 101: 1999-2010
- Clint Smith: author and poet, known for his work in education, incarceration, and inequality
- Richard (Dick) Talens, Entrepreneur, Celebrity Trainer, and Co-Founder Fitocracy
- Rosie Tran: Stand Up Comedian, Actress, Model, and podcast host.
- Walter Williams: Saturday Night Live writer, creator of Mr. Bill
Move to Lakefront
The Orleans Parish School Board determined that the Old Carrollton Courthouse was no longer suitable for Franklin’s campus. They negotiated with the University of New Orleans and leased land for Franklin on the university’s Lakefront/Gentilly campus. Benjamin Franklin High moved to the new campus in the 1989-1990 school year.
This photo is part of the Orleans Parish School Board collection at UNO. If you know anyone in this photo, please let us know, so we can improve the description.