Pontchartrain Park-1950s-New Orleans

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Pontchartrain Park 1950s New Orleans by Dr. Earnestine Bennett-Johnson New Orleans (La.) Department of Parks and Parkways Photographs (Pontchartrain Park Subseries) City Archives New Orleans Public Library

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Pontchartrain Park Historical Note The Pontchartrain Park was developed in the mid-1950s by the Park and Parkways Commission (now the Department of Parks and Parkways) on the lakefront land adjacent to the Industrial Canal. The 190-acre park, initially constructed for use by African-Americans, provided a 9-hole golf course (expanded in 1957 to 18 holes), a picnic area, tennis courts, a playground and lagoons. Several years later a baseball stadium and tennis courts were added. In 1979, the golf course was renovated and renamed in honor of Joseph M. Bartholomew, Sr., the course's designer and first golf pro. The playground, stadium and tennis courts are now administered by the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD). The Pontchartrain Park subdivision was developed by private investors at the same time on land surrounding the public park. Billed at the time as "one of the biggest, most luxurious Negro developments ever undertaken in the South," the 200-acre subdivision contains 1000 two and three-bedroom homes.

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During the late 1940s, New Orleans entered a period of growth and change with deLesseps S. Morrison as its Mayor.  From about 1946 to 1960, it is estimated that more than a billion dollars was spent to expand/build plants alone.  In the 1950s, especially in the South, segregation was the rule, not the exception. New Orleans had always had a reputation for interracial social mixing, especially because so many free people of color lived in the city before the Civil War.   It was still “separate but equal”, although many Blacks and Whites lived together in a neighborhood.  It has been suggested that during that time, even in American cities, Blacks were more “residentially segregated” than in the 1930s.

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Middle and upper-middle class Blacks were starting to worry Mayor Morrison about a subdivision where doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, engineers, postal employees and other professionals could live.  Although Mayor “Chep” Morrison did not believe in integration, because Blacks could vote, he would need to oft times “appease” them.  He, Rosa Keller, Edgar Stern, Hamilton Crawford, Charles Keller, Gervais Favrot, David Greenup, Theodore Marchand and others, helped wealthy Black professionals create not only the “first African-American subdivision in the nation”, but enjoy a golf course, tennis courts, a baseball/football stadium, and much, much more.

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called the “segregation line/trench/ditch” – it divided Pontchartrain Park from Gentilly Woods in 1950s New Orleans, Louisiana

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From left: Councilman Paul Burke; Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison, Reverend A.L. Davis; next four unidentified; Councilmembers Walter Duffourc and James Fitzmorris Photography by Leon Trice Photography

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Prospective buyers tour newly built homes in the Pontchartrain Park neighborhood of New Orleans in the late '50s.

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One thousand homes were constructed for approximately $15 million, with the 210-acre private housing subdivision surrounding the park.  Important dates in the development of Pontchartrain Park include: the November 23rd and 24 th (1954) announcements about the project including a picture of one of the models; the dedicating on an. 31 st (1955); the construction beginning Jan.-Feb. 1955; model homes opining May 1955; the City of New  Orleans New Orleans Recreation Department providing bleachers for the stadium; May 7, 1956—dedication of the golf-course; new bus service (May 29, 1956); along with an elementary school, university and several churches.

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Dedication of Pontchartrain Park January 31, 1955 Photography by Leon Trice Photography

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Dedication of Pontchartrain Park January 31, 1955 Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr., New Orleans Recreation Department Photography by Leon Trice Photography

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Dedication of Pontchartrain Park - January 31, 1955 From left: Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison; Councilmembers Glenn Clasen, James Fitzmorris, Walter Duffourc, Victor H. Schiro, A. Brown Moore and Fred Cassibry; unidentified; Joseph Bartholomew; unidentified; unidentified. Photography by Leon Trice Photography

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One of the city's newer public recreational facilities is Pontchartrain Park, developed in the 1950s by the Parkway and Park Commission from vacant lakefront ground adjacent to the Industrial Canal. As illustrated by this 1957 photograph, the "greening" of Pontchartrain Park was quite literally accomplished from the ground up!

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Lincoln Beach Amusement Park was opened in 1954 and was a popular attraction for African Americans in New Orleans. It closed in 1964. On the stage at Lincoln Beach many extraordinary musicians performed, including Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Little Richard, Ink Spots, Earl King, Papa Celestin, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers, Deacon John, Guitar Slim.  1950s or 60s Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones made a musical name for himself in New Orleans in the 1950s, and had a million seller with The Things That I Used To Do...His musical descendants include Ray Charles, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix.

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1951-Ernie K-Doe Performs at Lincoln Beach By age 15, Ernie had won a talent contest sponsored by radio station WMRY at segregated Lincoln Beach.

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LINCOLN BEACH (amusement for colored/negroes) New Orleans – 1950s

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New golf clubhouse in Pontchartrain Park - March 1969 Photograph by Joseph C. Davi

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Mayor Ernest N. Morial (former Pontchartrain Parker resident), District E Councilman Philip C. Ciaccio (next to the Mayor, wearing the light jacket), and others at a ceremony related to the Pontchartrain Park Golf Clubhouse, ca. 1980.