Bayou St. John is the Reason for New Orleans

by Angela Carll
Times Picayune – November 15, 1985
Bayou St. John is the reason New Orleans is located where it is. The bayou provided a connection from the Mississippi River overland via an old Indian path to Lake Ponchartrain.

A number of historic landmarks still stand in this neighborhood to remind visitors of the city’s heritage.

The Old Spanish Custom House, built in 1784 at the corner of Moss Street and Grand Route Saint John, is the oldest structure in this neighborhood.
Another renowned home is the Pitot House, named for James Pitot, the second mayor of New Orleans. Built in 1799 at 1370 Moss Street, the Pitot House was later moved a short distance up the bayou to 1440 Moss in 1970.

The Tivoli amusement park once stood where the Pitot House is now. It featured a pavillion, orange trees, and dances were held there on Sundays.

Much of Bayou St. John remained swampy and unable to be developed while the city was attempting to drain the area, which was called “back of town” as early as 1835.

In 1866, the city started using the bayou as a drainage receptacle, and a community of houseboats grew up along it. In 1936, the State House of Representatives declared the bayou a non-navigable stream.

Fort St. John, where the bayou and lake meet, was originally built as a fortification by the French and later became the most prominent resort area in New Orleans during the 1930s. The Old Spanish Fort still stands on this site.

The fort is a modern-day battleground. The Orleans Levee Board has proposed replacing the Lakeshore Drive bridge that spans the bayou at its entrance to the lake with a grade-level crossing using culverts for water to flow back and forth from the lake to the bayou.

Members of the Bayou St. John Improvement Association have sued the Levee Board to halt construction, arguing that wind moves water currents and that the City Park lagoons which are fed by water from the bayou will soon stagnate. They also contend that closing the mouth of the bayou will damage an important part of the city’s historical heritage. (The “waterfall dam” near the mouth of Bayou St. John was removed in 2013. Please visit the link for more information: http://fsjna.org/2012/08/update-on-dam-removal/)

Although the bayou today lacks even the rowing clubs, which were popular in the last century, a drive along its curving shore shows typical Louisiana country homes. It still exists to remind us of New Orleans’ earliest beginnings, and why the city was built in a place that seems most improbable to us today.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A PDF OF THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE.

Faubourg St. John was a community ten years before the founding of New Orleans in 1718.

Click on the map of Faubourg St. John for a larger view.

For more information, please visit the ABOUT and HISTORY tabs at FSJNA dot ORG

Donation of City Property

As the recovery progresses, consideration of what makes
New Orleans unique is paramount to retaining the character and ambiance people flock from around the world to see.

2552 St. Philip Street is just one of many city owned properties threatened with extinction.
It’s hard for the city to be genuine in its pursuit of derelict
properties when city-owned historically significant properties
like 2552 St. Philip are systematically being demolished by neglect.

I believe a plan should be formulated to sell city owned historic properties at a discount
(or DONATED) to entities which pledge to restore them properly.

The property at 2552 St. Philip is eligible for significant tax credits (50%) according to the
Office of Cultural Development/Division of Historic Preservation if
it is donated/sold to a private entity and then restored and put
into commercial use. A public/private partnership that would
restore city-owned historically significant properties and make
them commercially viable at the same time is a win for the city, bringing jobs and tax revenue and a win for preservation by
retaining significant parts of our cultural heritage.