LA - Bucktown and the lost bayous of East Jefferson: 'Geographies of New Orleans'

Within the boundaries of Orleans Parish, the shores of Lake Pontchartrain were once dotted with small coastal communities: West End, Spanish Fort, Milneburg, Seabrook, Citrus, Little Woods and South Point, as well as the train-stop hamlets of Lee, Micheaud (Michoud), Chef Menteur and the Rigolets in eastern New Orleans.

When we look to the city’s upriver neighbor, though, we see a different pattern. Jefferson Parish’s lakeshore had only one 19th-century community, and its swamps and marshes had hardly any, except for those along the road on the Metairie Ridge.

Why did Jefferson Parish’s east bank have only one outlying coastal settlement, while Orleans Parish had a dozen? The answer involves 19th century population distributions, and the network of canals and railroads built to serve them.

Two hundred years ago, most area residents lived close to the Mississippi River between present-day Bywater and the Lower Garden District, with the highest concentrations in and around the French Quarter.

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