Pontchartrain Beach was an amusement park located in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. It was founded by Harry J. Batt Sr. and later mananged by his son, Harry J. Batt Jr. It opened in 1928, across Bayou St. John from an existing amusement resort at Old Spanish Fort. Pontchartrain Beach's original location is the present-day lakefront neighborhood of Lake Terrace. In the early 1930s, subsequent to the construction of a seawall extending from West End to the Industrial Canal that created a new shoreline for Lake Pontchartrain, Pontchartrain Beach was moved to a new location at the lake end of Elysian Fields Avenue, a location formerly offshore of Milneburg.
During the era of racial segregation, Pontchartrain Beach was for "Whites only;" another lakefront resort was reserved for "Colored" New Orleanians: Lincoln Beach. Pontchartrain Beach was racially integrated in the early 1960s, leading to the closure of Lincoln Beach.
Pontchartrain Beach included a beach with a large art deco style bathhouse and swimming pools, amusement rides (including a wooden roller coaster called the Zephyr), and concession stands. The park featured live music concerts, including many local musicians and touring national acts such as Elvis Presley.
Other rides and amusements included the Zephyr Junior, Smoky Mary, The Wild Maus, Musik Express, Log Ride, The Ragin' Cajun (a modern, looping steel coaster), The Bug, Paratrooper, Scrambler, Calypso, the "airplanes", Haunted House, Ghost Train, bumper cars, carousel, Ferris wheel, the Monster, Trabant, Sky Ride, Hard Rock, Galaxie, Laff in the Dark, Magic Rainbow, Red Baron, and Kiddieland. As with other amusement or theme parks, over time certain older rides were changed out for new ones. In addition to rides, there were also the summertime shows which changed every few years (Skipper & Dolly dolphin show, Great American High Dive Show, Merlin's Magic Rainbow Show). For a few years there was also a fairly large petting zoo with many farm animals and a huge red barn house. A miniature golf course was added, when this pastime became popular.
Just outside of the entrance gates was the Bali Hai Tiki-style restaurant. Another popular restaurant was the Ship Ahoy, which featured hamburgers and seafood.
The park was closed September 23, 1983, due to decreasing attendance, rising insurance costs, pollution concerns in the lake, and the impending competition of the 1984 World's Fair.
Several of the rides ended up in Gulf Shores, Alabama, at a small amusement park - including the Airplanes and many Kiddieland rides - which was subsequently wiped out by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The Ragin' Cajun moved to The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in 1984 and opened as Steamin' Demon.
The land formerly housing the park is now occupied by the University of New Orleans Research & Technology Park, home to the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) and the UNO Advanced Technology Center office building. A mile-long sand beach is still at the same area where Pontchartrain Beach once was; it is accessible to the public for everyone to enjoy.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pontchartrain Beach.|
- The Times-Picayune in 175 years - 1983: The ride is over at Pontchartrain Beach
- Numerous historical photos
- More Pontchartrain Beach Photos and Information
- Pontchartrain Beach at the Roller Coaster DataBase