West Beach Subdivision
Click play for audio of history:
West Beach Parkway Subdivision. This area, located in the Mandeville Historic District, was not part of Bernard Marigny's original town plan offered at auction in 1834. However, with its incorporation in 1925, it was among the first developments in the United States self-identified as a subdivision.
The site, designed as an oval, was never used as a racetrack as suggested by local tradition. Bounded by Lakeshore Drive on the south, Monroe Street on the north, Carondelet Street on the east and Galvez Street on the west, the two main tracts were purchased in 1906 by the Great Southern Lumber Company from Louisiana Fontini and George Bierhorst. The Bierhorst Tract, Mon Plaisir, was a diary farm on which the owner built his home in the late 19th century, located at 306 East Street.
The St Tammany Development Corporation acquired the land from Great Southern. Its conversion from 'low and marshy' land to a site 'more beautiful than words can describe' introduced the new subdivision in a 1926 Times-Picayune article written by State Representative Thomas Berry:
"A seawall protects it from the lake. The front has been filled with 30,000 cubic yards of material by hydraulic dredges, a circular driveway made that it is a thing of beauty, cement sidewalks laid, shrubs, flowers and trees planted in the parkways. All the natural beauty was taken advantage of.....reaching back into a paradise of pines and moss covered oaks.....
The developers are constantly making improvements on this property. Even now there is a 1,400 foot Artesian well, and water has been piped to every building site, and will be furnished free for all time.
There are proper building restrictions and beach front privileges, even for those who bought the back lots.
An Arabian Night's dream is to sit in the full glow of the southern moon and drink in the exquisite beauty of this place.......As one of the party so fittingly put it: 'Its a millionaire's dream at a poor man's price."
Among the subdivision's covenants, set forth in every Act of Sale, were routine requirements of set-backs and servitudes. Included was the obligation of each purchaser to pay monthly one cent for every front foot of his lot to the Improvement Association.
Interestingly the covenants, a product of the time in which it was written, included this:
"....nor to construct any improvement on said property in which persons of the African race will live, reside, or congregate, except servants of the household, or to use the same in any way except for dwelling purposes......."
Of historical significance, the covenants were altered, as appears in a 1959 Act of Sale: 'this sale is subject to the restrictions in the deed from the St Tammany Development Corporation....except to that racial prohibition held invalid by the US Supreme Court.'
The times were changing.