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Local History

Covington History: Old Landing

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Old Landing

In the early days of Covington, before the roads were in good shape and before the train tracks were built, river traffic on the Bogue Falaya River was paramount. Boats coming up the Tchefuncte River from Madisonville needed a dock to discharge passengers from New Orleans and take on cargo from areas north of Covington (to bring back to New Orleans). So a major landing was developed on the point of land south of Covington at the confluence of the Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncte Rivers.

A postcard showing the New Camelia at Old Landing.

This was the landing where your grandparents and great grandparents would disembark from the lake schooners and steamboats, hop aboard a horse and buggy and head up Old Landing Road to Covington.

Land records show that Old Landing was owned by the Badon Family based on an early settlement land grant to Henry Badon. It was this landing that played a pivotal role in the development of early Covington, and it was quite popular, especially since it was also a ferry crossing, according to one time parish archivist, the late Bertha Neff. This was in the early to mid 1800’s.

Mrs. Amos Neff’s Notes on the Ferry Crossing

Text from the above notes:

Henry Badon in 1806 acquired the land opposite his mother’s estate between the Tchefuncte and Bogue Falaya Rivers, and here was located one of the first ferries, long referred to as “Old Landing,” Jahncke Avenue, which brought the east and west banks of these two rivers together.

An early land grant map

The dotted line seen at the middle bottom may have indicated a horse trail or footpath, and where the dotted line crossed the Tchefuncte River would have been a good place for a ferry. On an adjacent map, the dotted line continues southward, crossing the Charles Parent land grant, and goes down to Madisonville.

Meanwhile, over on the Bogue Falaya River, the river was wide enough and deep enough to accommodate the larger vessels turning around and docking. When the Bogue Falaya River passed the Abita River, it became shallower and with sharper turns, so Badon Landing south of the Abita River was well situated to accommodate the larger vessels, sailing schooners and the steamboats when they came up the river.

Once the Bogue Falaya River passed the Abita River, it really got narrower and with sharp turns and sandbars

Old Landing was three miles from the center of Covington, so there were taxi (hack) services that provided transfer of passengers and cargo up Old Landing Road all the way up to Covington and points beyond.

John Wharton Collins and Badon Landing

According to Collins family historian Thomas Wharton Collens, who gave a speech to the St. Tammany Historical Society in 1988, the first of the Collins family to come to Louisiana was William Wharton Collins, who was an experienced sea captain. Jack Terry, who helped research this article, said, “Badon Landing may have been where William Collins docked when he delivered mail to North Shore.” William Collins had a post office contract to bring mail back and forth across Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans, stopping at Madisonville and probably further upriver at Old Landing.

Thomas Wharton Collins also told the historical society that William’s brother John Wharton Collins came to New Orleans in 1800 at the age of 18, and in 1811, John Wharton Collins was working as a grocer on Levee Street in New Orleans. Two years later he purchased the Jacques Drieux property and this is what became what we now know as Covington, according to the 1988 speech by his great great grandson.

So Old Landing played a key part in Collins family history.

As Covington grew in size and commercial activity, the landing became more important. Covington developed as the southern end of major trade routes from Columbia and Holmesville, Mississippi, and when river dredging became available, the channel all the way up to Covington was deepened so that more boats could make it up to Columbia Landing. This was preferred since it was only a block from downtown Covington where all the major hotels, boarding houses and restaurants were located.

A dredge boat working on the Bogue Falaya

At some point Badon Landing became the Old Landing, and is referred to as such over the years. Several other river landings were along the river, with Columbia Landing being the northernmost.

In this 1939 USGS topographical map, the “head of navigation” on the Bogue Falaya River was shown at approximately where the Chimes Restaurant is today. That was with regular dredging, however. As the dredging came to a stop, the river silted up and getting deep draft vessels to Columbia Landing became next to impossible.

A picture of the New Camelia at Old Landing

The New Camelia was one of the boats that was too large to make it all the way upriver to Columbia Landing, so it had to use Old Landing.

According to Jack Terry, “From 1878 through about 1906 it appears that the New Camelia was docking at Old Landing. But after that it appears to be docking at Madisonville and Mandeville, and people used the train to get from Covington to Mandeville to connect to the New Camelia.” In 1909 and afterwards Covington folks could have easily hopped on the motor car trolley and rode down to Mandeville lakefront to board any one of several New Orleans bound steamboats.

Another picture of the New Camelia at Old Landing

Some interesting newspaper clippings:

1879

Text from the above newspaper item:

 The Steamer Heroine came sailing up to the Old Landing last Monday evening, just as if she had been accustomed to coming there "all her life." She experienced no difficulty whatever in ascending the river, but glided gracefully around the bends with perfect ease. Doubtless much praise is due to Capt. Miller, who possesses a thorough knowledge of the river. He has the entire confidence of our citizens, and we frequently hear the expression: "what Capt. Miller don't know about our river ain't worth knowin'."

Text from the above newspaper item:

 The steamer New Camelia has been purchased by Mr. W. G. Coyle of New Orleans, owner of the fleet and handsome steamer Heroine. The New Camelia will hereafter leave Old Landing at five o'clock in the morning instead of six.

On Saturday evenings she will come through direct to Madisonville and Old Landing.

 The Heroine will run to Madisonville on non-mail days. We learn that it is the intention of Mr. Coyle to have the trips of both vessels extend as far up as Old Landing, which will necessitate a slight change in the rudder of the Heroine, to enable her to make the short bends in the river.

 With these two fine vessels in the Lake trade, we will have greatly increased facilities for business with the city, and the people of New Orleans may now prepare to "exode" into the piney woods at any time and in any number, being sure of a pleasant passage and a quick trip. 

(Note: the word “exode” means to make an exodus out of one place into another place)

1880

Text from the above newspaper item:

Mardi Gras Excursion To The City – The large and handsome Lake Steamer New Camelia will make an excursion trip to the city, for the benefit of those who desire to attend Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans. The excursionists will start from the Old Landing on Monday morning, February 9, at 7 o’clock. Fare for the round trip, one dollar. The tickets will be good for one week, and excursionists can return either on Thursday or Saturday night.

1881
1919

The dredging of the Bogue Falaya River up to Columbia Landing became more and more of a challenge, as silting of the river bottom caused more boats to run aground over the years. When the trains came, the shipping of cargo from Covington to New Orleans starting using the railroad more, and Columbia Landing lost some of its business.

The periodic dredging of the Bogue Falaya River from Columbia Landing (shown above) down the river to the Tchefuncte River became more costly and less justifiable.

Over the years, the name “Old Landing” began to refer to the residential community in the area between the two rivers, served by Old Landing Road.

1920
Old Landing Road Postcard

As to the location of Old Landing, several people recall seeing a number of pilings in the river at the end of Lucie Drive, off Old Landing Road, prompting them to think that being the likely location of Old Landing. Longtime residents of Covington sometimes differ on what location they remember labelled as “old landing.” Since there were several landings along the river, it may be hard to pinpoint which old landing was THE Old Landing.

The map below points out a river bend location that would match up with previous photographs of “Old Landing,” and that point is where relatively high ground starts right next to the river. It would have been a good spot for a dock, a wharf, and a road going up to Covington.

Thanks goes to Pat Clanton, Jack Terry, Mark Johnson and Dorothy Frederick for their information regarding the location of Old Landing.

Local History

Covington History: The Money Hill Tung Oil Plantation Story

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Covington History segment provided by local historical writer Ron Barthet. View his blog Tammany Family here.

Tung Oil was an extremely important product in the early 20th century, available only from China and used in a variety of applications, from sealing and waterproofing Naval vessels to a key ingredient in varnish and paint. When the United States government decided it was important for the nation to grow its own tung trees (to reduce imports from China’s tung oil industry), a few precious seeds were smuggled out of China and the search began for a suitable place to grow them.

After serious research into the climate and soils needed to grow tung oil trees, it was found that St. Tammany Parish was one of the few places that would accommodate them. So the Goodyear family, which was so instrumental in developing the lumber industry in Bogalusa and whose “Great Southern Lumber Company” owned acreage in St. Tammany Parish suitable for the project, established the Money Hill Tung Oil Plantation.

To read more about this adventure, CLICK ON THIS LINK for a PDF file detailing the history of the Money Hill operation.

After the need for tung tree oils diminished (due to suitable synthetics), the Money Hill area served as a popular family campground for many years and now serves as home to residential subdivisions. It is located northeast of Abita Springs. La Hwy. 21 bisects the area on its way to Bush.

click on photo to enlarge

In the 1946 phone book, the “Ozone Tung Oil Producers Cooperative Association” was located on 28th Avenue in Covington and the phone number was 423-J.

Check out Ron Barthet’s blog Tammany Family for more great local history!

Local History

Covington History: The History of the Star Theater

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Covington History segment provided by local historical writer Ron Barthet. View his blog Tammany Family here.

The Star Theater in Covington is legendary in the minds of Covington area residents who have tons of great memories of seeing the big movies, meeting with friends on Saturday night, and taking part in the many community events sponsored by the theater over the years.

Warren Salles of Covington has owned the Star Theater, 332 North New Hampshire Street for many years. In 1997 he explained the history of Covington’s community movie show in an interview that I videotaped. His love of the theater business was evident as he told of the efforts to renovate and put the theater back into operation after years of sitting silent.

Click on the triangle above to play the video telling about the Star Theater and its impact when it was first opened in 1942 and in the years following.

The tornado that hit downtown Covington later that year put a kink in those plans, though the theater survived and is ready for its next run of community service.

The Salles Family History in Motion Picture Theaters

Salles family & friends

Warren Salles’ family has been involved in the neighborhood theater business in the New Orleans area for over 100 years. His grandfather built his first theater, The Market, in 1907, and it featured vaudeville acts. The second came in 1915.

The Star theater in Covington first opened on April 25, 1942, in the midst of World War II. It was built by his father, Warren J. Salles Sr., who operated several theaters in New Orleans before coming to Covington. Salles father first thought of building a theater in Covington around 1940, having enjoyed a summer home here for many years prior to that. For the new show, he bought the property formerly occupied by Badon’s Garage. but before he could start the project, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and war was declared.

World War II was both a help and a hindrance to building the Star. During the war, it was impossible to get steel. His father had to get special permission from the federal war department to get the steel necessary to complete the building. The trusses and the steel for the projection room were a critical need, since at that time projection rooms were built like bank vaults.

The 25 foot high star on the front of the building was lifted into place by a huge crane that blocked the entire street. The star featured two colors of neon lights and extended above the roof line of the building.

On the day the theater first opened in 1942, congratulatory telegrams arrived from around the nation, many of them coming from movie stars. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Lionel Barrymore, and several other MGM stars sent their best wishes. “It was a courtesy of the trade and a common trademark of the MGM studies,” Salles said. At the time it was built and for many years thereafter, the theater was the largest motion picture theater in St. Tammany Parish.

The Movietone news reels became very popular, as they provided the only real look at the progress of the war around the world. “Dad was instrumental in selling a large volume of war bonds here at the theater,” Salles commented. “He came up with the idea of posting the name of a local serviceman in the lobby and selling the war bonds on a card table in his honor.”

During the war, Salles’ father would be regularly visited by the air raid warden to be sure his theater could be blacked out immediately in case of an air attack. In fact, there was a special switch that could be thrown to instantly darken the large neon star.

Salles recalls the celebration that accompanied V-J Day at the end of World War II. He has a photograph of over a thousand people standing in North New Hampshire Street. His father had hung two huge American flags all the way across the street, and a sound truck that had been built in the days of Huey Long was pressed into service to go throughout the city announcing the block dance that was planned at the Star in celebration of victory in Japan.

“The dance took place all night long, with the sound truck providing the music,” Salles explained.

Since the electric power tended to go out during storms, Salles’ father installed gas lights over the exits, and these would come on automatically if the electricity went off. The Star was also the first public building in Covington to be air-conditioned in the late 1940’s, he said.

Stage Shows

The theater hosted many stage shows during the 50’s and 60’s. The magic shows of Willard the Wizard were a favorite with the community, as were the presentations of a mind reader named Kirma the Great. “He was one of our more colorful characters,” Salles said. The Masked Rider and his horse also appeared on stage.

Widely known performers brought their act to the Star as well. Among the big name entertainers to grace its stage were Eddie Arnold, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Jimmie Dickens, and other Grand Ole Opry legends. Charlton Heston also visited the theater, as did local celebrity Louis Prima. Even the legendary Morgus appeared on stage at the Star. Miss Dell and her dance students review were frequent stage programs, and St. Paul’s School used the theater for its graduation ceremonies once, when Nikki Barranger was valedictorian.

The Star was the first theater on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain to show a movie in wide screen format, that being the 1952 motion picture “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne. To accommodate the wider screen, Henry Verges was called in to build a new screen frame. The theater also installed the first stereo sound in the northlake area.

As it became a hub of community life, Salles’ father would conduct special showings for private groups that were unable to come to the theater at night, groups such as the Catholic sisters at St. Gertrudes in Ramsay. “They even quilted an American flag for my father to show their appreciation,” Salles stated.

Peggy Dow

Some of the movies were truly special occasions as they starred St. Tammany area residents who had gone to Hollywood and become big-name actors and actresses. One such person was Peggy Dow, and a special premiere of one of her pictures brought in hundreds of fans and friends.

Part of the attraction were the giveaway stage shows, money nights where cash would be given away as part of the fun. The most popular game was called “Comet,” which was similar to bingo. There was also a series of horse racing games in the 1940’s where race films would be shipped to the theater and no one would know which horse in the film would win. Patrons would receive tickets which could have the winning horse’s name imprinted on it.

Over the years, the theater has also been used as a hurricane shelter several times. “I can recall people bringing their blankets and pillows and bedding down in the foyer and lobby. Many of them sat in the seats during the storms,” Salles said.

In 1997 the theater was extensively renovated with new sound, movie poster cases, concessions area and the marquee. The new cherry wood concession stand was custom-designed and custom-built by master craftsman Ernest Rodriguez III and his son.

Cutting the ribbon on the re-opening of the Star Theater in April of 1997

A tornado passed through Covington that same year, shortly after the theater was re-opened, and although numerous trees were destroyed, houses were damaged, and a two story dry cleaners building collapsed half a block away, the Star stood firm during the storm.

Salles on “American Pickers”

Salles has an extensive collection of photographs and memorabilia from the Star’s 55 years of community service, and he was even featured on an episode of “American Pickers,” the television show where two guys travel around the country looking for unusual collectibles.

Salles also spoke to the St. Tammany Parish Historical Society in 1997 about the history of the theater and its relationship with the community of Covington. CLICK HERE to hear an audio recording of that meeting presentation (MP3 file.)

Check out Ron Barthet’s blog Tammany Family for more great local history! More photos related to this post here.

CLICK HERE for information about other theaters in west St. Tammany.

General Local History Local News Shop Local

Local Author Offers Simple & Effective Philosophy – “A Poor Man Can Survive” by Murray James, Jr

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Mr. Murray James, Jr. with his book, "A Poor Man Can Survive"

Mr. Murray James, Jr. with his book, “A Poor Man Can Survive”

Mr. Murray James, Jr. is a quiet, unassuming and friendly gentleman, quick with a smile and a warm handshake. By his own account, he started out with very little, but rather than allow his situation to be an impediment, he simply worked harder. While he recognizes the despair generated by poverty, Mr. James also champions the responsibility of the individual to take charge of their lives and initiate the positive changes necessary to move forward.

“Be The Best In Everything That You Do” This was something Mr. James’ father told him when he was a young boy, and this saying has been the motto by which he has lived his life. Mr. James’ book, “A Poor Man Can Survive”, chronicles his rewarding experiences working for Mr. Barton Hebert Jr., a man stricken with polio and in need of regular assistance who became like a brother to Murray, and whom Mr. James dutifully cared for over 42 years. The book was written to inspire others to have hope in the future and push for their dreams.

“A Poor Man Can Survive” is currently available at Jewel’s Cigar & Briar Shop in Covington and NAPA Auto Parts in Folsom, LA. Mr. James will speak at Christwood on March 17th with regard to the changes he’s seen in Covington over the years. Murray James Jr. can be reached at 985-373-8389 for book or speaking inquiries.

Local Events Local History Local News Non Profit Spotlight

“A Literary Soiree… Celebrating Covington’s Bicentennial” Presented by The Northshore Literary Society

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NorthshoreLiterarySocietyEleven local writers were selected by a panel of jurors seeking a range of works about Covington – from old memories to new impressions, from the historical to the personal, from the somber to the sprightly – that are well written and suitable for oral presentation. All forms of expression were considered: memoir, essay, poetry, short story, anecdote, fiction, nonfiction. The Literary Soiree will be Sunday, June 2nd, starting at 4 pm at St. John’s Coffeehouse, all are invited to what is promised to be a delightful literary experience commemorating Covington’s 200th birthday.

Local Events Local History Local News Non Profit Spotlight

“A Literary Soiree… Celebrating Covington’s Bicentennial” Presented by The Northshore Literary Society

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NorthshoreLiterarySocietyThe Northshore Literary Society invites writers to submit works for oral readings at “A Literary Soiree…Celebrating Covington’s Bicentennial” to be held on Sunday, June 2, 2013. Writings will be selected by a panel of jurors seeking a range of works about Covington – from old memories to new impressions, from the historical to the personal, from the somber to the sprightly – that are well written and suitable for oral presentation. All forms of expression will be considered: memoir, essay, poetry, short story, anecdote, fiction, nonfiction. Email northshoreliterarysociety@gmail.com for submission requirements and deadline.

General Local Events Local History Local News Non Profit Spotlight

“Covington’s History” Encore Presentation by Mark Johnson

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

From the founding fathers through the Civil War and into the 20th Century, Mark tells the stories of Covington with fun-filled facts (most of which are true). The Promise: You will learn something about Covington you did not know. The Hope: You will do so with a smile and a chuckle.  Back by popular demand, Mark will review his presentation made back in March and give us even more! In celebration of the many Covington Bicentennial events, STAA is pleased to add this lecture to the roster. Mark will revisit his last lecture between 3pm-3:30pm, break for a 15 minute intermission and continue with part two at 3:45pm-4pm. The event will take place at the Art House located at 320 N Columbia Street on Sunday, May 26th, and is free and open to the public.

Local Events Local News

Judge Jesse Jones, Covington Whiskey, and Other Tales of Early Covington

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On Saturday, June 9 at 6:30 p.m., Julie Anderson Stroble will give an informative and entertaining lecture titled “Judge Jesse Jones, Covington Whiskey, and Other Tales of Early Covington”.  Presented by the St. Tammany Historical Society, the lecture will take place at the Center of Performing Arts, St. Tammany Homestead Building, located at 201 N. Columbia Street.  This event is free and open to the public, featuring a wine and cheese reception.  Co-hosted by the Covington Bicentennial Committee.

Old CovingtonJudge Jesse Jones was appointed by an act of the State Legislature to form a justice community in Covington, the seat of the newly formed St. Tammany Parish after the war of 1812.  Mrs. Stroble will discuss the Judge’s influence on the development of St. Tammany Parish through the Civil War and beyond.