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Blake Pontchartrain: Lincoln Beach 

A racially segregated park along Lake Pontchartrain during Jim Crow

click to enlarge A rusting sign on Hayne Boulevard shows the way to the old Lincoln Beach in New Orleans East.

Photo by Infrogmation/ Creative Commons

A rusting sign on Hayne Boulevard shows the way to the old Lincoln Beach in New Orleans East.

Hey Blake,

Where exactly was or is Lincoln Beach and can you still swim there?

Dear reader,

  Many years ago at this time of year, Lincoln Beach would be just about concluding its peak summer sea- son, a time when thousands of New Orleans African-Americans would flock to the lakefront beach and amusement area for swimming and entertainment.

  Many may remember the long ride to Lincoln Beach, which was located on Lake Pontchartrain near where Hayne Boulevard meets Paris Road in New Orleans East — or more precisely, in Little Woods. During segregation, the swimming area and amusement park catered to the city's black community, as a companion to the whites-only Pontchartrain Beach. Lincoln Beach originally was developed on 2.3 acres of land given to the Orleans Levee Board by Samuel Zemurray, the United Fruit Company magnate. In 1939, the Levee Board built a sand beach and small amusement park at the site.

  In later years, the board spent more than $1 million enhancing and expanding the Lincoln Beach facilities to more than 17 acres. The redeveloped area was formally dedicated and opened on May 8, 1954. The area included three swimming pools, two shelters, a restaurant (called The Carver House Terrace) and an amusement area. From 1954 to 1964, Lincoln Beach became a center of entertainment for African-Americans in the city. In addition to swimming and amusement park rides, stage shows and talent shows were a draw, as well as concerts by acts such as The Ink Spots, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Nat "King" Cole and Fats Domino.

  With the passage of the Civil Rights Act in July 1964, Pontchartrain Beach was opened to all races, and Lincoln Beach closed later that year. In the decades since, the property has fallen into disrepair. There have been numerous efforts to revitalize the area, but none has brought the park back to anything close to what it was.

  As for swimming, while the lake's water quality has improved dramatically in recent years, swimmers who enter the water near Lincoln Beach are reminded that they swim at their own risk.

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