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.
Maison Blanche Swimsuits 1956 for Memorial Day sale.
Maison Blanche Swimsuits 1956
Swimsuits and other summer wear filled up almost an entire page of the Times-Picayune on 31-May-1956. Cotton swimsuits for $5.50, and in stock after Memorial Day? Whoa. Sixty-four years later, women stress over buying a swimsuit in January.
Summering in the late 1950s
Many New Orleans families packed up and headed to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in June. School’s out, and the heat rolled in. Central air-conditioning wasn’t nearly what it is now. So, Mom and the kids left town. Literally. Dad worked, of course, joining the family Friday night.
Folks who didn’t have the means to buy or rent a summer home, or a fishing camp down the bayou, managed with day trips. The Elysian Fields bus transported generations to Pontchartrain Beach for a day of sun and swim. Others chose the West End bus, for picnics at the park. Black families rode out to Lincoln Beach, on Hayne Blvd., in New Orleans East. Others chose the shelters maintained by the Orleans Parish Levee Board along the lake. Shelter No. 3, by the old Coast Guard station, featured a roped-off swimming area. Lifeguards manned watch stations there, by the entrance of Bayou St. John. Whichever escape the family desired, the right clothes were essential.
By 1956, Maison Blanche operated three stores. The Canal Street store always served as the flagship and corporate headquarters. The buyers chose lots of clothing for deeper discounts as summer approached. The stockrooms on the second floor emptied, filling the displays on the first floor. They buyers sent stock and brand lists to the art department. Messengers delivered ads to the paper.
Those buyers factored in stock levels of certain items for these sales. Not only did they consider shoppers on Canal Street, but folks in Mid-City and Gentilly. MB operated the store at S. Carrollton and Tulane, serving Mid-City and the growing Metairie subdivisions. In Gentilly, the store at Frenchmen and Gentilly Blvd. offered a closer alternative than Canal Street to families out there.
The block-font “Maison Blanche” logo at the bottom of the page served as the “standard” for MB at the time. The top “MB” varied, depending on the artist.
Lakefront Drive-In Theater, in 1940.
“Drive-in Theater” on Canal Blvd, 1940.
Lakefront Drive-In Theater
Last year, I presented a lecture at the National World War II Museum, entitled, Winning the War on the Lakefront. The talk started at West End and the New Canal, then moved along the lakefront to the Industrial Canal. Every time I’ve presented this lecture, folks in attendance asked about a facility in what is now the East Lakeshore subdivision. Turns out, it was a Lakefront Drive-in Theater.
The Army and Navy hospitals.
Aerial photo of Lagarde Army Hospital (bottom), and Naval Hospital New Orleans (top), 1940
The Orleans Levee Board reclaimed a great deal of land along the lakefront in the late 1920s. For reference, around 1910, the Mount Carmel Convent on Robert E. Lee Blvd had a fishing pier out front. It extended into the lake from almost the front door. The OLB reclaimed the area from there, up to where Lakeshore Drive is now.
The WPA made major improvements to the lakefront in 1938-1939. They built the seawall and Lakeshore drive. The reclaimed land belonged to the city. So, when the US Army and US Navy looked to build hospitals in New Orleans, the lakefront area appealed to them. The Army built Lagarde Army Hospital in what is now West Lakeshore. The Navy built Naval Hospital New Orleans on the other side of Canal Blvd. The breeze off Lake Pontchartrain cooled down the area at a time when air-conditioning was not ubiquitous. While the hospitals had different missions, they both benefited from the location.
What’s that thing?
Ad for the “Drive-in Theater,” 1940
I found some good aerial shots of the lakefront in 1940. They show the WPA improvements and the hospitals nicely. They also show a facility with a bunch of arcs, right behind Naval Hospital New Orleans. I dismissed it as maybe some kind of outdoor amphitheater, perhaps for concerts and other entertainment. Folks asked, “What’s that thing?” I replied with the outdoor entertainment answer.
Well, that answer wasn’t exactly wrong! I shared an Infrogmation photo of the bus stand at Canal and Robert E. Lee a couple of days ago. Arthur “Mardi Hardy” Hardy, musician, teacher, and local Carnival expert, replied to that image. Arthur said there was a drive-in movie theater, there on the other side of Canal Blvd, from the bus stand. He shared the ad (above) in the comment thread. The name of the place really was just, “Drive-In Theater.”
DING! That must be the “thing” behind Naval Hospital New Orleans. It makes sense, the quarter-circle pattern of the facility. Everything converges on the point of the right angle. That’s the screen. Public transportation to get out to the hospitals was limited (just the West End Streetcar). So, most folks drove out to there for work. Maybe stop and catch a movie before heading all the way home? Makes a lot of sense.
Movie Theater Project
I know Arthur has a book in progress on local movie theaters. So, I have yet another reason to buy it when it’s done. Thanks, Arthur!