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Blake Pontchartrain: Lake Vista Shopping Center 

click to enlarge The Lake Vista Shopping Center has housed businesses since the late 1940s.

Photo by Kat Stromquist

The Lake Vista Shopping Center has housed businesses since the late 1940s.

Hey Blake,

In the Lake Vista neighborhood, I discovered the best-looking Art Deco shopping center among houses and between two churches. What can you tell me about it?

Leslie

Dear Leslie,

  The Lake Vista shopping center and its second-story Lake Vista Community Center in the 6500 block of Spanish Fort Boulevard were designed as a focal point of the subdivision when it was proposed in the 1930s. Lake Vista was part of a much larger lakefront reclamation project launched by the Orleans Levee Board in 1928 in which the board drained swampland and pumped sand from the lake to create a subdivision bordered along the lake by a concrete seawall. The sale of lots began in 1938 and construction boomed after World War II. The area features streets with cul-de-sacs and homes built with their front doors and living rooms facing garden lanes and parks. There also were plans for the streets to lead to a "modern Community Center to house all shopping facilities, together with sites set aside for churches, schools and a theater."

  Construction on that wing-shaped community center began in 1946, with space leased to a supermarket, drugstore, beauty salon, clothing shop, physician's office, dentist's office and restaurant. Various businesses opened there over the next decade and some remain today. The second floor continues to be used as a meeting space for civic, religious and social groups — and more recently, early voting.

  The nearby Lake Vista United Methodist Church was dedicated in 1952. Members of the congregation, which first formed in December 1948, met in members' homes until the church was completed. A new church, which had seating around a central altar, was completed in 1961.

  Before St. Pius X Catholic Church was created, the area was called the Lake Vista Mission, a satellite congregation of Our Lady of the Rosary Church on Esplanade Avenue. Masses were celebrated in the community center until a school/church/rectory building was completed in 1953. The church was named for Pope Pius X, who was canonized in 1954. The permanent church, featuring a copper roof and seating in the round, was dedicated in 1966.

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