Monday, November 26, 2018

Fontainebleau State Park in 1956

     In September of 1956, some 62 years ago, an extensive article about Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville was published in the Louisiana Conservationist Magazine. Since the park's first day was on July 4, 1943, the article made its appearance only 13 years after the park was officially opened. Here is that article. Click on the images below to make them larger and more readable. 

Beautiful Fontainebleau State Park

     Fontainebleau State Park is located in St. Tam­many Parish on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Its western boundary, Bayou Castin, is com­mon with the corporate limits of the Town of Mandeville. It is reached by U. S. Highway No. 190 which roughly determines its northern boundary. The eastern boundary is Cane Bayou, which is also known locally as Big Branch. The southern limits of the property is a shoreline of approximately 2 1/2 miles on Lake Pontchartrain.
     According to Gayarre the site of the Fontaine­bleau State Park was visited in 1699 by the founder of New Orleans, Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville II, "who with a chief of the Bayagoulas for his guide, went to visit the Colapissas. They inhabited the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and their domains embraced the sites now occupied by Lewisburg, Mandeville, and Fontainebleau.
     That tribe numbered three hundred warriors, who, in their distant hunting excursions, had been engaged in frequent skirmishes with some of the British colonists in South Carolina. When the French landed, they were informed that, two days pre­vious, the village of the Colapissas had been at­tacked by a part of two hundred Chickasaws, headed by two Englishmen.
    These were the first tidings which the French had of their old rivals, and which proved to be the harbinger of the in­cessant struggle which was to continue for more than a century between the two races, and to ter­minate by the permanent occupation of Louisiana by the Anglo-Saxon."
     "The area forming the recreational section of Tchefuncte* State Park, (the original name of the park), aside from its natural ad­vantages and background as the habitat of an ancient race and the hunting ground of Choctaw braves, is historically significant because of the existing cul­tural and structural remains of Fontainebleau, the summer plantation home of Bernard de Marigny (1785-1868), that formerly occupied this site.
     Fontainebleau Plantation derived its name from the French town of Fontainebleau, two miles from the Seine, southeast of Paris on the railroad to Lyons. The origin of the name is obscure, but Fon­taine Belle Eau, a refreshing spring of the vicinity, is the most logical source. 
     Lying amidst a beautiful woodland made famous on canvas by Corot and other artists of the Barbizon School, for generations Fon­tainebleau, France, has been the haunt of beauty lovers. In the 11th century, Robert the Devout estab­lished a royal residence there. From that time, the rulers of France made Fontainebleau their summer headquarters, entertaining the royalty and nobility of Europe in an elaborately furnished palace sur­rounded by ornamental gardens and waters.
     Bernard de Marigny's friendship for Louis-Phi­lippe, his love for luxurious living and the spectacu­lar, and his desire to be a monarch in a realm of his own making, might have inspired him to call his lakeshore establishment Fontainebleau, but perhaps the sylvan beauty of the location, was the strongest influencing factor. Marigny is said to have en­visioned another princely residence in his own Fon­tainebleau, which was just near enough to New Or­leans to provide a retreat for the leaders of Loui­siana.
     For garden walks, chimneys, smokestacks and other structures amidst the growths of sweet gum, pine spruce oak, hickory, and magnolia of Fontaine-bealu, bricks were made from Pontchartrain clays in Marigny's own kiln. The bell that called the slaves to and from the fields and sounded plantation alarms was made of silver, possessing a rare tone reputed to be heard across the lake at New Orleans.
     Structural remains of buildings—suererie, brick­yard, chimneys, smokehouse— an old cattle gate, a small wooden structure with double chimneys and an over-hanging roof; a sunken depression that might have been the canal or "moat" over which Marigny is reputed to have had drawbridge, let down only for those whom he wanted to receive; fine trees and a great live oak alley are tangible evidences of the for­mer history of Fontainebleau as a plantation resi­dence.

     Bernard de Marigny was an important figure in public affairs of early nineteenth century Louisi­ana. Perhaps no other personage has lived so con­tinuously in the affection of his fellow-citizens and their descendants, as has this colorful, glamorous master of Fontainebleau. Tradition credits him with many duels, fought and evaded, while records show that he was a member of the Anti-Duelling Associa­tion, which he helped to organize. Many of the yarns spun about him are woven thus from thin air, but to him goes the credit for encouraging the pleasure-loving spirit of Creole Louisiana with its fondness for gay times and good food.
     The park site was purchased in 1937 by the State from the Great Southern Lumber Co. Early the fol­lowing year a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was moved in to start the development. After the expira­tion of the CCC program, the State Parks and Rec­reation Commission contrived to develop the area with state funds.
     Present facilities include an extensive picnic area near the lake. Picnic shelters, numerous picnic tables, and comfort stations are set beneath the live oaks which once formed part of the Marigny Planta­tion. There is a large bathhouse and a public beach on Lake Pontchartrain. At a replica of the Old Span­ish Customs House refreshments may be purchased.
     Located near Bayou Castin and the lake at the western end of the park is a small group camp build­ing which accommodates 26 campers.
     On Cane Bayou at the eastern end of the park are two dormitories and a dining hall which make up the large group camp. It accommodates 64 campers. On the area there is a small private lake with a swim­ming pier. A maintenance and construction headquarters unit for the southern section of the state is being devel­oped north of the highway out of the main part of the park area.
     Last years' attendance (in 1955) was estimated at a total of 145,508. The area is designed for a peak load of 5,000 persons at one time. 

In the year 2004, Fontainebleau hosted 106,171 day-use visitors and 106,788 over night visitors, for a total attendance of 212,959 that year. In 2016, Fontainebleau reported an annual visitor count of 235,492 people.

See also:

State Parks Website for Fontainebleau

The History of Fontainebleau State Park

Golf Course Planned for Fontainebleau State Park

Fontainebleau State Park Beach  

Knott Plantation