In 1962 the Louisiana Historical Association published in its journal an extensive review of the hotel resorts in New Orleans at Milneburg, and the resort hotels at Mandeville and Madisonville as well.
The article was entitled "A Southern Spa: Ante-Bellum Lake Pontchartrain" By James P. Baughman. Subjects ranged from railroad access to the resorts, bathing (swimming) facilities, yachting regattas, musicians and more personal recreational pursuits.
Here is an excerpt from the text concerning hotel accommodations north of the lake.
"But resorts of almost equal popularity developed concurrently along the northern shore of the lake, centered mostly in the towns of Mandeville and Madisonville."
"At Mandeville, built by Bernard de Marigny in 1834, John Davis erected another hotel and gambling casino. Several accomplished foreign chefs made his dining room famous. In 1841 Davis' Mandeville Hotel offered visitors billiards, stables, bath houses for ladies and gentlemen, and "pleasant company," for $60 per month, or $3 per day."
"California House, Bachelor's Hall, Mrs. Wellington's House, and the Gayoso Hotel also operated at Mandeville during the 1850's, the last advertising "an eminent city Physician" in attendance on weekends."
"Madisonville, seven miles west of Mandeville and located a little inland from the lake on the Tchefuncte River, was usually considered a Pontchartrain resort. The thoroughly renovated Madisonville Hotel reopened in 1841 advertising fine walks and stables, a constant supply of ocean and lake fish, and a special family apartment, $40 per month or $2 per day. Rates were reduced the next year, under new management, to $8 per week or $1.50 per day.
"In 1843 the hotel, near "numerous streams abounding with trout and perch . . . one mile from the lake . . . [with] red and other salt water fish . . . [near] forests well stocked with game," continued in popularity and charged $30 per month, $9 per week.
"This Madisonville Hotel, adding tenpin alleys and billiards to its attractions, operated until the Civil War, becoming the City Hotel in 1855 and the Confederate House in 1861.
Lake Pontchartrain Shore near Madisonville
Photo by Percy Viosca Jr.
"The Madisonville and Mandeville hotels drew guests both overland from the surrounding area to the north and across the lake from New Orleans. Short excursions to the north shore for a picnic or a meal at one of the hotels were always quite popular with Orleanians, since a "sea voyage" was included.
"Transportation was readily available on several steamers which regularly left the Pontchartrain Railroad's wharf at Milneburg. Passage for these one-day outings was fifty cents each way, a fish breakfast being served on board. On special occasions a band could be provided for dancing."
"Other parties used private boats to picnic across the lake. The Stingaree Club descended upon Mandeville, July 4, 1849, and camped "in a grove of magnolias and oaks, open to the delicious breezes of the lake." Songs and impromptu dancing "with a frolicsome gayety, perhaps a little beyond the license of a ball room" were the order of the day.
"Immense quantities of turkeys, hams, tongues, beef, and lamb were consumed as was a "huge" freshly caught redfish. The day was completed by a moonlight cruise back to New Orleans."
Resorts Acted Together
"Although separated by twenty-five miles of water, resorts on both shores of Pontchartrain may be considered as a unit. They often cooperated on the sponsorship of events designed to attract visitors and excursionists and maintained a spirited but friendly rivalry throughout the ante-bellum period."
"The "season" for the lake ran from May to October as proprietors of the resorts strove to outdo each other in attracting and satisfying guests."