Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Android |
Podcast #3 – Day trips out to West End and Spanish Fort, by train or streetcar. Beating the summer heat is an ongoing challenge in New Orleans!
“The Coney Island of the South” – Spanish Fort
Welcome to NOLA History Guy Podcast! We’re back, talking about our hot New Orleans summers with an edition we call Beating the Summer Heat in Old New Orleans
Hot summers in New Orleans are certainly not a new phenomenon. Staying cool in the Summer months has been a challenge since the French and Spanish explorers came Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. These days, we run from our air-conditioned homes to our air-conditioned cars to our air-conditioned offices, then back again in the evening.
Now, think about doing that at a time when there was no air-conditioning! Every work day, riding the streetcar or a bus to the office, and home again. Older homes were designed to maximize air flow, and electrification provided power for fans in any rooms in the house. Still, it got hot. You know how that goes, when the a/c is broken and you have to rely on ceiling fans!
The men who went off to work had to deal with the same heat and humidity as the women, but they were on the move more. Mom was stuck at home with the kids. Day in, day out, doing the housework, cooking the meals, supervising the kids, Mom needed an escape!
The easiest escape route for mom and the kids, sometimes even dad, if he could take a day off, was on the streetcar, heading out to the Lakefront. There were two popular escape destinations, West End and Spanish Fort. We’ll talk about the attractions at both, and how folks got out to Lake Pontchartrain.
1860 – 1880 – Summer Heat at West End
Lake House Hotel, 1860s
1880 – 1900
West End Resorts, 1892 (Charles Franck photo)
1900 – 1920
West End Lighthouse, 1910 (courtesy NOPL)
Entrance to the West End Garden, 1911 (Charles Durkee photo)
1912 Postcard of West End
Mugnier Photo (stereo), bridge connecting New Basin Canal with West End Amusement pavillions, 1900s
Confederate Submarine at Over the Rhine at Spanish Fort, 1895 (Mugnier photo)
Casino at Spanish Fort New Orleans, 1890s
Barney & Smith motorized streetcar pulling dummy cars, 1911
Spanish Fort Casino, 1890s (Mugnier Photo)
Spanish Fort midway, 1900s (Franck photo)
End of the Spanish Fort Streetcar line, at the bathhouse, 1912 (Franck photo)
Swimmers at Spanish Fort, 1900s (Franck photo)
Fitzgerald’s Restaurant at West End, New Orleans, 1995 (Edward Branley photo)
The craziest day at West End was always Good Friday! After the solemn aspects of Good Friday were observed, many New Orleans families headed out to West End for seafood. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t exactly as solemn as perhaps the Church wanted, but the food was good. Two of the popular restaurants were Brunings (top) and Fitzgerald’s. Both of these photos are from 1995. My family always preferred Brunings; their whole stuffed flounder is still the standard by which that dish is judged.
The Bucktown Bridge, connecting Orpheum Street in Metairie to West End in New Orleans, 1995 (Edward Branley photo)
We would come from the Metairie side of West End, crossing the old Bucktown Bridge, which, alas, ATNM, between storms and the enhanced flood protection/controls on the 17th Street Canal.
Hurricanes during the 1990s all but obliterated the restaurants, bars, and nightclubs at West End. Even before Katrina, it was impossible for the property owners to re-build, because of wind and flood issues. No insurance company would underwrite reconstruction or new development.
West End for dining and entertainment is a thing of the past, but many folks still have fond memories of fun evenings looking out on the water.
Dinner at West End
Bird’s eye view of Mannessier’s and West End Restaurant at West End, New Orleans, Louisiana. (LSM Collection, in the Public Domain)
Fridays in Lent usually bring out all the memories of going to Bruning’s, Fitzgerald’s, and other seafood places out at West End. Here’s a photo from an earlier vintage of West End, 1892. The restaurant on the left is Mannessier’s, on the right, West End Restaurant.
Mannessier’s Pavilion at West End, 1900s. (NOPL collection in the Public Domain)
Mannessier’s Restaurant was owned/operated by the same family that owned Mannessier’s Confectionary at 705 Royal Street, in the French Quarter. They opened the West End location in the late 1880s. They added a pavilion to the property in 1899, which was taken down in 1911.
At this time, West End was more of a day trip from downtown/uptown. You made your way to Canal Street and took the West End streetcar line out to the lakefront.
(h/t WebsitesNewOrleans.com for the pavilion photo)