Pontchartrain Park

August 29th marks the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  CNN.com has an interesting article about families in the Pontchartrain Park section of New Orleans who are banding together to save their historical community.

(CNN) — “This can be yours,” the black-and-white newspaper advertisement promised above an image of a tree-lined ranch home in Pontchartrain Park.

At the bottom, it said “Available to Negroes.”

It was the 1950s in segregated New Orleans, Louisiana, and the promise of a slice of suburbia for black Americans lured hundreds to the new community.

That included Meldon Woods, an Air Force corporal who had been given a home loan for his military service through the GI Bill. He and his wife, Audrey, a schoolteacher at the time, purchased a two-story home in 1957 where they raised their four children.

Fifty years later, he was forced to evacuate that home as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

Actor Wendell Pierce, who starred in the HBO series The Wire and currently stars in the HBO series Treme is one of many long time residents who’s helping to rebuild Ponchartrain Park.

Pierce staged a massive effort to get the city of New Orleans to start rebuilding the neighborhood’s blighted and abandoned properties.

Only 30 percent of the neighborhood’s rsidents had returned two years after Katrina — the second slowest rate of return in New Orleans behind the city’s devastated and impoverished Ninth Ward, according to Pierce.

Ponchartrain Park, a neighborhood in New Orleans was one of the first suburban style communities developed by African Americans for African Americans. It was developed after World War II.  Ponchartrain Park was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

On August 21 and 22 CNN has a special titled New Orleans Rising.  The show will feature the residents who along with Wendell Pierce are helping to get Pontchartrain Park back on it’s feet.  The special will air at 8:00 ET.

When I read about the history of Ponchartrain Park, it reminded me of the neighborhood I grew up in when I was living in Atlanta.  During the 1960s my family and I lived in the Collier Heights neighborhood of Atlanta.  Collier Heights was the first community in the United States built by African Americans for African Americans.  You have to remember that like Ponchartrain Park, Collier Heights was developed and built in the South during the days of racial segregation in the 1950’s.  We eventually moved from Atlanta to Silver Spring, Maryland in 1968.  You can read more about the history of Collier Heights here and here.

2 responses

  1. It’s very sad about how the insurance companies treated the homeowners. I read about some of the tactics they used.

    I know you’re very proud of Wendell. I watched New Orleans Rising and I was surprised that he ran into resistance from the residents there when he first brought up the subject of rebuilding their community.

    I was surprised to see how similar Ponchartrain Park and Collier Heights got their start. Makes me wonder if there are more communities like them.

  2. Wow,the similarities are really striking. I grew up in Pontchartrain Park and currently live in the home I grew up in. A lot of the elderly people died from the stress of Katrina. Majority of them owned their homes outright only to have insurance companies low-ball them or not pay them a penny. Wendell and I are old friends, we went to school together, his mom was my 1st grade teacher. What he is doing for the neighborhood is beyond amazing. He has made his parents and all of us who know him, proud.

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