New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, May 27, 2024
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A Brief History of the Hayne Boulevard Camps:

The history of Louisianians having camps, or pier structures goes back to the American Indians who lived here. LaSalle when he came up the Mississippi River in the 17th Century witnessed pier like structures along its banks inhabited by local natives. In 1815, General Andrew Jackson, built a camp as a club on Bayou Sauvage, for himself and his lieutenants while Fort McComb and Fort Pike were under construction. Tally-ho Club is the oldest hunting and fishing club in the US; its original buildings are still maintained on Chef Pass by its members.

Around 1800, a village called Milneburg , named after the great benefactor
who once owned twenty-two miles of Lake front, began to develop along
the shore of Lake Pontchartrain near the site of Pontchartrain Beach. It
consisted of over twelve hundred structures over water and had homes,
hotels, restaurants, bath houses, schools, churches, bars--an entire
community far removed from the City. The Pontchartrain Railroad ran a
train dubbed “Smoky Mary” that ran from the foot of Elysian Fields at the
river to the shore and beyond to a pier that extended nearly one thousand
feet into Lake Pontchartrain terminating at the extant lighthouse that is now
in the UNO technology park. From that pier hundreds of camps were built
creating a patchwork of buildings frequented by both races. In the early
1920’s a new seawall was planned by the Orleans Levee Board and thus
the entire village was eventually destroyed.

The Levee Board provided new sites for new camps along with many
moved Milneburg camps along Hayne Boulevard. The camp owners were
issued permits by the Board to insure that camps were built at reasonably
spaced intervals to prevent the spread of possible house fires. Until five
years ago the Levee Board charged lease payments for those sites; then
those payments changed to a permit became fee permits to cross the levee.
The original leased sites areas were all 50’ wide. Each site was further
subdivided into three sites of 400’, 500’, or 800’; this means that originally
three camps were built on one 50’ wide site. Early in the 1920’s and 30’s
there were about 360 buildings. During the late 30’s the Levee Board began
to threaten camp owners with removal, and refusals to rebuild in the event
of a storm or other catastrophe. These threats and refusals caused owners to
not rebuild when camps were lost. Thus camps diminished in number to
about seventy between the Airport and Paris Road with another thirty
beyond Paris when Hurricane Georges struck in September 1998.

The history of the area is notable. The camps are noted for its vernacular
architecture that is very similar to the rural French Colonial or French
Creole style. Also many local and state notables owned camps there such as
Huey Long, Mayor Robert Maestri, Mayor Chep Morrisson, “Diamond Jim”
Moran; many others such as Dorothy Moore and Jayne Maynesfield visited
and rented camps. Even President Franklin Roosevelt stopped in Little
Woods for a brief repast. Elvis Presley and Carolyn Jones were in the movie
King Creole, part of which was shot in a camp now lost to the Southshore
marina project. Thousands of Louisianians have enjoyed the camps along
the Lake. Camps embody the spirit and celebrate life on the Lake. New
Orleans had no natural beaches, and camps were the way for hundreds of
years that New Orleanians enjoyed the Lake. Camps are to New Orleanians
as beaches are to Floridians. Imagine if camps were again developed on the
Lake along with piers and pavilions for neighbors to access the Lake, many
of our citizens would not have to leave New Orleans for recreation!