Traveling West on The Old Spanish Trail Highway

Louisiana:  Through New Orleans

 

The devastation along the OST through Mississippi continues as the traveler crosses the border into Louisiana and drives down the east coast of Lake Ponchartrain.  The OST is still intact for much of that trip but the many houses along the road have, for the most part, vanished.  Only  the stilts upon which the houses had always escaped rising water remain as a reminder of what had been.  The OST bridges along the approach to the Crescent City have long vanished, replaced by more modern (1940s and 1950s) bridges for U.S. 90.  But the roadway is essentially the same, just widened and improved even more.

The 1931 Old Spanish Trail Travel Bulletin notes that "The OST across Louisiana is being paved; about two-thirds completed, remainder to be completed during 1931."  Among the remaining problems in 1931 were (1) getting across the Mississippi River at New Orleans and (2) crossing the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City.

After leaving Pearlington and Mississippi, the OST continues west into Slidell and then drops directly south along the east shore of Lake Pontchartrain (the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge—shown on the map above—was not available until the early 1930s and was opposed by Huey P. Long) and into east New Orleans.  It is essential to have a contemporary (1924 - 1931) map of the city to actually follow the highway's route through the city.  The traveler should also remember that the roads then marked as OST already existed at the time the highway was marked, but the OST Association and local taxes did help to improve and widen the streets.  You should, if you do not have your own map, consider the map below.

Do note that the OST is clearly marked as the map crosses the now infamous Navigation Canal and enters the city at Gentilly Road.  It turns south on Broad Street to Canal and continues to St. Charles Avenue.  OST goes west on St. Charles Avenue to Louisiana Avenue and then turns left down to the Mississippi River where travelers on the OST took a ferry across the river.  Where necessary, OST improved roads and always added the OST pole markers, but the names of the streets remained as they are today.   You can, of course, no longer get down to the river at that point thanks to the levees and there is no longer a ferry making hourly runs to and from New Orleans.

The Williams Research Center across from Jackson Square is an essential resource for anyone doing research on any part of New Orleans.  The archivists there are extremely helpful in locating old maps of the city that mark the route.  Most of the maps used to locate the OST's route through New Orleans, though not reproduced here, are in the archives of that center.

Some years after the celebration that marked the completion of the OST (along with the placement of the "zero point" markers), Huey P. Long's administration as Governor of Louisiana managed to build bridges across the Mississippi River at New Orleans and at Baton Rouge.  If a traveler takes the Huey P. Long (U.S. 90) Bridge out of New Orleans, the car will be headed towards a reunion with OST, but will miss many miles of the original road bed as U.S. 90 is elevated and the OST was ground-level as it crossed that section out of New Orleans within five miles of the west side of the river.