Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood

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New Orleans, LA
United States
Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood

Landscape Information

Located in the lakeside neighborhood of Gentilly, this one-square-mile housing development was constructed in 1955, and is recognized as one of the earliest African American suburbs in the United States. It was particularly designed for and marketed to middle- and upper-class African Americans, setting it apart from other housing developments in the city. Attracted by the ideal of the modern, suburban home as well as the professional residential community, many black Creoles left older city neighborhoods to settle in Pontchartrain Park. Conceived during a time of racial segregation, the neighborhood, which was originally surrounded by lakefront development that had exclusively served white residents, came to symbolize expanding residential opportunities for African Americans when they began moving into adjacent lakefront properties in the 1970s.

Designed by the W.H. Crawford Corporation on what had previously been a cypress swamp, the development features single-family homes, mostly in the California Ranch style, surrounded by lawns and situated on standardized suburban lots. The houses were built on low-lying, reclaimed land with at-grade concrete slabs, making them vulnerable to flooding. At the center of the neighborhood is the approximately 183-acre, amoeba-shaped Pontchartrain Park. Two curvilinear roads, Press Street and Congress Drive, wrap around the park and serve as the primary neighborhood thoroughfares. Smaller winding interior streets create a sinuous pattern that stands in contrast to contiguous gridded developments. Southern University, a historically black school, opened a campus in the northwest corner of Pontchartrain Park in 1959. The development remains one of the most prominent African American residential enclaves in the city, despite severe flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that left much of it submerged for weeks.