Pontchartrain Park

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New Orleans, LA
United States
Pontchartrain Park

Opened in 1956, the approximately 183-acre park (which is located within a subdivision of the same name) is a significant landmark in the history of African American social progress in New Orleans. The land was part of a vast cypress swamp until the 1940s, when it was drained and developed as a park for use by African Americans, a Jim Crow-era municipal response to an increased demand for public recreation spaces for all.  The initial plan provided a golf course, picnic area, playground, and lagoons. The golf course, the largest and most popular component of the park, was designed and built by Joseph M. Bartholomew, Sr., an African American golf course designer and golf pro who also designed the Metairie Golf Club course and City Park courses No. 1 and 2. The Pontchartrain Park course included four irregularly shaped, winding ponds with intersecting allées of oak and cypress lining dirt paths between the holes. A dense, wooded “Bird Island” was created at the center of the southernmost pond.

In 1979 the course at Pontchartrain Park underwent several renovations and was renamed after Bartholomew. Further renovations to the fairways and reconstruction of the tees were completed in 2005, but critical levee breaches in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina destroyed the clubhouse and left the entire park submerged in more than ten feet of floodwater. Architect Garrett Gill redesigned the course, retaining the backbone of Bartholomew’s design while lengthening the course by some 400 yards, adding nine lakes, removing a canal, burying power lines, and marking fairways and greens with different varieties of Bermuda grass.  Gill also introduced gently undulating mounds and slopes to the previously flat course, a noted contrast to the low-lying delta topography of the region. The golf course was reopened to the public in 2011.  Other park facilities include the Wesley Barrow baseball stadium, tennis and basketball courts, and play equipment.