This month marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of Pontchartrain Park, the first subdivision in the city created for African-American homeowners at a pivotal time in the early civil rights movement. The subdivision formally opened on June 27, 1955. Recognizing the growth of an African-American middle class, city and federal leaders pushed for the $15 million, 1,000-home development. A key backer and lead developer was Edgar Stern, the businessman and philanthropist who also owned WDSU-TV.
The 200-acre lakefront tract along the Industrial Canal offered homes priced between $10,000 and $27,000 according to a 1955 ad. "A Pontchartrain Park address is a natural distinction for those who are getting ahead and who wish to enjoy the advantages they have long been able to afford," it reads. Two important facets of the subdivision were the Joe Bartholomew Golf Course (the only one open to African-Americans at the time) and Southern University New Orleans, which opened in 1959.
Though it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Pontchartrain Park is staging a comeback. Its early days and close-knit neighborhood feel remain fond memories for New Orleanians who grew up there, including actor Wendell Pierce, members of the Morial family and musician Terence Blanchard.