Bucktown and its lakefront was…
A fishing community and economy arranged around two roads running along the 17th Street Canal. A place known for its speakeasies, gaming halls and young bucks looking for nightlife. A venue for the birth of jazz with such tunes as Johnny Wiggs’ Bucktown Bounce and Jelly Roll Morton’s Bucktown Blues. A stretch of lakefront roiled by Hurricanes in 1915 and 1947 and forever changed by the introduction of the area’s extensive levee system.
And still is…
A partially reclaimed stretch of 30-acres of lake bottom forming a protected harbor owned by the State and leased back by Jefferson Parish. The home base for the U.S. Coast Guard Station New Orleans and incubator of local commercial fishing and recreational boating. An open space to walk, bike, view, and enjoy the lakefront. A neighborhood that has continued to grow and assimilate with the many communities and neighborhoods of Jefferson and Orleans Parishes.
Bucktown Harbor could be…
A vibrant harborfront rich with tradition and local flavor. A place providing new opportunities for recreation and boating while supporting a strong community through thoughtfully designed public spaces and environmental preservation areas. A source of continuous community pride and use.
Bucktown’s evolution started in the mid-19th century with the Lakeport commercial wharf and resort area. It was a transit crossroads, with steamboats docking at the entrance to the New Basin Canal to link up with the terminus of the Jefferson and Lake Pontchartrain Railroad. Around this steamboat and railroad terminus emerged Bucktown’s first development—rustic fishing buildings, and later, more elaborate wooden camps built on docks. Early Bucktown had a lot to offer, but perhaps of greatest notoriety were its restaurants serving wild-caught seafood, wildfowl, and game. With great food came other complimentary activities—prohibition-era speakeasies, gaming dens, dance halls, and other less respectable establishments. The regional jazz music scene also gained footing from Bucktown’s raucous nightlife.
There were pauses in Bucktown’s energetic evolution. Hurricane’s in 1915 and 1947 caused considerable destruction along the lakefront. These natural disasters elicited a logical engineered response vis-a-vis the development of an elaborate levee system ringing the lakeshore. Pumping stations were embedded in levees along with gates to provide access canals and harbors. By the late 1960s, Bucktown started to feel less like a small town and more like an engineered safe zone and component, part of the growing suburban sprawl emanating from Orleans and Jefferson Parish communities.
Levees, pumps and gate construction forced the relocation of the 100-plus vessel Bucktown fishing fleet from the 17th Street Canal. This relocation, coupled with the general degradation of Lake seafood stocks, precipitated the decline of Bucktown fishermen and their families that could rely on commercial fishing for their livelihoods. This forced displacement provided partial justification for grants and other funding which resulted in the initial stages of land reclamation and basin development that became Bucktown Harbor.
In 2006, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Station New Orleans was established and became one of Bucktown Harbors first and most important tenants. This station is involved in maritime law enforcement, search and rescue activities, and, according to the USCG, is involved in nearly 3,000 cases per annum, making it one of the busiest stations in the United States.
Bucktown and USCG Station New Orleans became ground zero associated with the destruction—and relief effort— emanating from the catastrophic landfall of Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005. Across from Bucktown, the Orleans Parish 17th Street Canal levee breached, resulting in the flooding of homes, streets, and entire communities. While the ultimate outcomes from Katrina were numerous, one tangible result for Bucktown was the installation of temporary pumps and later the multi-million-dollar Permanent Canal Closures & Pumps (PCCP) project at the meeting point of the 17th Street Canal and Lake Pontchartrain. The PCCP project is nearly complete, with lands used for construction and temporary pump installation scheduled for demobilization in 2019-20.