During the early 1800’s Milneburg (pronounced “Milenburg” by old
time New Orleanians) sprang up on the shore east of Bayou St. John. It was named for its founder Scottish philanthropist Alexander
Milne who had made a fortune in the hardware and brick making businesses. At the time of his death in 1838, Milne owned twenty-two
miles of land along the lakeshore from the Rigolets to Jefferson Parish.
Milneburg developed into a thriving port handling goods shipped to and from Mobile
and survived the 1831 hurricane that brought lake waters as far as Dauphine St. A lighthouse was constructed there in 1832.
Within the same year the Pontchartrain Railroad began its 5 mile one-hundred year run from the river along Elysian Fields
Avenue. The famous “Smoky Mary” allowed easy access for city dwellers to this area of the lakefront where they
could spend time at the Washington Hotel or the simple fishing camps, relax in the park or a saloon to hear early jazz greats,
enjoy a meal at one of many restaurants, or simply swim. Most of the structures at Milneburg were built over the lake on pilings,
many of them connected to one another by wooden walkways.
The steamers New Camellia, Abita, and Heroine ran between Milneburg and the resorts and docks on the north shore. In
1872 enterprising German immigrant Fritz Jahncke rented a single steam dredge on the south shore, navigated it to Madisonvile,
dug up white Tchefuncte River sand and shipped the sand back to New Orleans to be used for making bricks and concrete. Like
Alexander Milne, Jahncke began his fortune in brick making. Jahncke expanded the business to include supporting industries
that impacted the north and south shores – boat building, repair, and shipping. During WWI, the Jahncke Shipyard in
Madisonville was contracted to build ships for the U.S. Navy.
Milneburg’s importance, as a port declined during the Civil War when trade with Mobile was no longer possible.
By 1870, the port was even less viable due to the opening of the New Orleans, Mobile and Chattanooga Railroad but Milneburg
continued to thrive as a lakefront resort, recreation area, and birthplace of Jazz until 1920’s and 1930’s when
land reclamation projects left the community about a half-mile from the shore. The Port Pontchartrain Light (also known as
the Milneburg Lighthouse) which was built on piers in the lake was then surrounded by concrete in Kiddieland at the Pontchartrain
Beach Amusement Park.