Legendary Locals of Metairie

Chapter 1 - Visionaries

This website contains excerpts along with some of the 172 photographs in Legendary Locals of Metairie (Arcadia Publishing, 2013) by Catherine Campanella.
Use the links here to explore a sample of the book -- or purchase it for an in-depth view.


Claude Joseph Villars Du Breuil was the first European settler in Metairie, arriving in 1710. By 1724 he built a levee (the first in the area) to protect his plantation which would be the predecessor of the Mississippi River's original levee system. French Attorney General of the Superior Council of Louisiana Pierre Chartier de Baulne settled in 1719. French Canadian brothers Louis Chauvin de Beaulieu, Nicolas Chauvin de La Frenière, and Joseph Chauvin de Léry came one year later. We can thank Nicolas Chauvin for the word chauvinism which evolved from the French chauvinisme defined as, “from character noted for his excessive patriotism and devotion to Napoleon”.

Francois Pascalis de La Barre, a colonial official, was granted a river-to-lake tract in 1750. In 1847 land inherited by his heir the late J. Volante Labarre was listed for sale. DuBreuil, Chartier, and Chauvin's land would also be sold and divided, coming into the hands of other families.

Pierre Gervais Arnoult settled in 1827. The Bonnabels came to New Orleans around 1830 but Alfred did not permanently to Metairie until later. The Trudeaus arrived in the 1840s. Next came the Betz family who acquired land north of Metairie Road. John N. Betz was born here in 1847. His daughters Louise and Cora married into the Riviere family. Hog Alley was owned by Peter Betz (it became Ingleside Heights). Rosa Avenue is named for John Betz' wife Rosina. Among his large tract of land was the Metairie Kennel Club greyhound track. The DeLimons lived on Focis Street in what was one of the oldest homes near Metairie Road and near the Louisiana Kennel Club whose land they owned. On their property (now DeLimon Place condominiums, formerly Do Drive-In) was an antebellum schoolroom and an early Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America wireless radio tower.

Theodore Bruning arrived in Bucktown in the late 1850s and built what would become the third oldest restaurant in the greater New Orleans area. He married Mabel Hamilton. Sons John and Theodore were well known and loved as rescuers of people in peril on Lake Pontchartrain and the 17th Street Canal. News of John's death in 1963 appeared prominently on the front page of the Times-Picayune memorializing his life-saving heroics and 20 plus years of service on the Jefferson Parish School Board, his founding of the East End Volunteer Fire Department, and his time served as a deputy sheriff and jailer of his “town”.

Next to arrive in Bucktown were the Boutalls. Charles' children, all born in Bucktown, were Jeanette Boutall Woest whose artwork appears below, Edward D. who married Joseph Bruning's daughter Bertha, and Charles Arthur who married John Bruning's daughter Lillian. Their son John C. became the judge of the 24th Judicial Court of Jefferson. Lillian's niece Amelia Werner married Sam Urrate. Sam and Amelia ran Bruning's Restaurant until it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Ralph Shultz, Bucktown commercial fisher and hunter lived in and opened a general store/bar in what was the town schoolhouse on Lake Avenue that survived late into the 20th century as did he. One of his ten siblings, Grace, married. John C. Bruning. Other Bucktown entrepreneurs included William Rapp and members of the Tranchina family who have owned and operated Rapp's Luggage since 1917. Frank William Turan Swanson and wife Julia Pfeiffer, lakefront residents since the early 1900s, opened

Swanson's Seafood in 1926. Half of the building was in Jefferson Parish, the other in Orleans. A line was drawn to indicate which was which and gambling thrived on the Metairie side. Frank also served as deputy sheriff and operated the Bucktown jail. Swanson's closed in 1979 when grandson Danny Mayer passed away. The Swanson seafood legacy lives on today at Dennis' Seafood owned and operated by grandson Dennis Lacoste and his wife June.

Fitzgerald's Seafoods Restaurant was opened in 1932 by Margaret (Bruning) and Maurice J. Fitzgerald who had married in the old home of her parents on the lake. Their children worked beside them.

Maurice Jr. took over after his parents died. He later opened Le Chateau Phylmar in his childhood home on Old Hammond Highway in Bucktown. Maggie Hemard bused tables at Fitzgerald's until 1957 when she opened a little shack, set picnic tables outside, and called the place “Maggie and Smitty's Crabnett”.

Back in Old Metairie horseback-riding constable Charles Root, who used the Camp Parapet powder magazine for a jail, settled in 1888. Frank Fagot came around 1900 acquiring some 200 acres. He opened a general store and in 1911 developed Metairie Heights, the first modern subdivision in Metairie. He was the parish tax collector and atop the store at Metairie Heights Avenue at Metairie Road he ran a gambling house. In the store his wife Florida I. Hanna was Metairie's first postmistress in 1914.

Eli Watson built his Metairie Road mansion in 1911. He reigned as Rex – King of Carnival in 1927 and in 1928 opened the world's longest bridge – the Watson-Williams bridge from New Orleans to Slidell, which he built and owned. It survived Hurricane Katrina and is still used today.

Alfred D. Danziger's name was honored in 1988 when the Danziger Bridge opened over the Industrial Canal as the world's widest lift bridge. The Metairie attorney was also Mayor Robert Maistri's executive council and Governor Huey P. Long's personal lawyer.

These and other visionaries are included in this chapter which highlights those who settled in the rural area that Metairie was during their lifetimes. These were optimistic people moving to a remote and mostly uncharted place. They whittled homes, farms, and businesses from an ancient forest surrounded by swampland, bayous, Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River. Some foresaw what was to come. Some actively endeavored to shape Metairie's history. All were pioneers.

Other books by Catherine Campanella:

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

Excerpts from New Orleans City Park  (Images of America).

Contact Catherine Campanella