Old Spanish Fort Resort and Amusement Park
1820's - 1920's

Bayou St. John at Lake Pontchartrain
New Orleans, LA
Continued: A History of the Old Spanish Fort
by  Nancy Brister
Return to Part One, "Fort San Juan del Bayou"
The casino at Old Spanish Fort was built
in 1881 and destroyed by fire in 1906.
A hotel, located on the site of the fort, operated successfully from 1823 to 1878, when the property was purchased by Moses Schwartz, who added, over time, an amusement park, a casino, a theatre, a dancing pavillion, a cabaret and several fine restaurants.  These attracted well-known entertainers, orchestras and opera companies, as well as, many noteworthy guests from all over the country.  Before long, Spanish Fort became known as the "Coney Island of the South."  Among the restaurants were Over the Rhine - a German restaurant and beer garden, Tranchina's Restaurant, Tokyo Gardens and a cabaret called The Frolics.
Boats docked at Spanish Fort's pier on Bayou St. John.
The park by the bandstand
Tables by the bandstand.
Another view of the tables and the park.
Postcard of some of the fort's remains, ca 1900
Man poses with a canon from the fort, ca 1890's.
The grave at Old Spanish Fort.
The link to this page is:  http://old-new-orleans.com/NO_SpanishFort_Resort.html

Spanish Fort Today

The "Little Fort" & Sunny Schiro's Efforts to Save It

Part I:  History of San Juan del Bayou

Back to   Old New Orleans


Ad for Spanish Fort thanks to Infrogmation at Wikimedia Commonns.
  In 1906, a massive fire destroyed many of the buildings.  A new owner re-opened the site strictly as an amusement park, adding a roller coaster and ferris wheel and, also, constructing an electric railway from the city to the park.  But, by the mid-1920's, West End Resort and Amusement Park, also, on the lake, had wooed many of Spanish Fort's customers away and, in 1926, the Old Spanish Fort closed its gates and ceased to either protect or entertain the people of New Orleans from that time forward.
   It sits today, crumbling, long abandoned and, for the most part, unnoticed.  People pass by on their hurried errands every day, never knowing the rich history of a site where the founder of New Orleans first made encampment in 1699;  where, in turn, French, Spanish and American flags flew over the first military fort established in the area;  where tense soldiers maintained silent vigils alert for the enemy's approach;  where, armed for battle, American farmers, shopkeepers (and a pirate or two?) prepared to face the British in 1814;  where, in its later incarnation, New Orleanians and many others from around the country and the world, sailed and dined and danced their way through a hundred years of history...and where the fort has been a silent witness to yet another hundred years.
Except for the muted sound of traffic rushing by on a nearby thoroughfare, the only sounds that can be heard are the bayou's breezes dancing through the branches of the ancient oaks.  Today, the fort's lone inhabitant is the occupant of a solitary grave.  The unmarked grave sits inside of a rusting wrought iron fence.  A soldier, perhaps, who's been left by his comrades to stand guard alone.  The grave is rumored to be the resting place of a Spanish officer, Sancho Pablo, who fell in love with the daughter of a local Native American chief.  The chief, who opposed the union, is said to have ended the romance by murdering the dashing Spanish soldier.  I don't know about the romance, but I found a postcard made in 1915, with a picture of the grave and this description:  "Grave of Sancho Pablo, Commander of the Spanish Army, 1721-1741."  Maybe the legend of the princess was invented to explain the mysterious sound of a woman weeping at the old fort, heard so often through the years by nearby residents, usually on moonless nights.  Or, who knows?  Perhaps the legend is true!  -- Nancy