Lake Pontchartrain (Images of America)

West End

During the 1830’s another canal was dug to connect New Orleans at the river to the lake. The New Basin Canal (formally known as the New Orleans Navigation Canal) allowed smooth sailing from the city to West End (also known as Lake End) on the western edge of the city. Irish immigrants were employed as laborers in digging this waterway through mosquito infested swamps where they were susceptible to yellow fever, malaria, and cholera. Thousands of laborers died while toiling in the canal, many of them having been buried where they fell. A monument to them now stands on the neutral ground between West End and Pontchartrain Boulevards near the lake. It reads, “In memory of the Irish immigrants who dug the New Basin Canal 1832-1838 this Celtic Cross carved in Ireland has been erected by the Irish Cultural Society of New Orleans”.

A shell road was built along the city side of the New Basin Canal allowing carriages and street cars to transport city dwellers to the lakefront where they would find Mannessier’s Pavilion, the West End Hotel, the Capitol Hotel, Lecourt’s Hotel, restaurants, bathhouses, and the Southern Yacht Club. West End, also known as New Lake End provided New Orleanians with yet another source of lakefront entertainment and relaxation.

In 1869 the New Orleans & Metairie Railroad Company extended its Canal Street track from the cemeteries to West End. Between 1871 and 1880 land was reclaimed at the end of the New Basin Canal. By the late 1800’s the area was well developed and included a park and gardens, a bandstand, and amusement rides. The first movie in New Orleans was shown on an outdoor screen on the lakefront. In 1896 Allen B. Blakemore, an electrical engineer for the New Orleans City and Lake Railroad used the current from the street car line to power a vitascope machine.

Bucktown, the area of Metairie bordering the western boundary of New Orleans, developed during the late 1800’s and remained a rustic fishing village well into the 20th century. By the late 1800’s camps lined the 17th St. Canal while the small community boasted a school, a jail, stores, saloons, gambling houses, club houses, dance halls, and many restaurants. The camps, including the popular Sid-Mars Restaurant, still remained until Hurricane Katrina washed them away.


Other books by Catherine Campanella:

Excerpts from New Orleans City Park (Images of America)

The Beginning
West End
Back to the Bayou
War and Peaceful Pursuits
Life on the Lake
Photo Gallery
More Lake Pontchartrain History

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A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book is dedicated to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's efforts to rebuild the historic New Canal Lighthouse.

Contact Catherine Campanella