The Resorts

Developers responded the trend of increased relaxation and resorts grew in number
and popularity in the south and northeast.  

Even without this growing popularity, residents of New Orleans had numerous
reasons for going to resorts including civil and political unrest, labor problems,
crime, drugs, heat, humidity, and poor sanitation.  The city was a hotbed of disease
due in part to the limited sanitation methods and the daily arrival of immigrants with
almost every sickness imaginable.  During the summer months the addition of heat
and humidity caused some of these outbreaks to reach epidemic proportions.  The
most devastating of these epidemics was
yellow fever.            

It had long been recognized that Grand Isle could be a successful resort area.  The
first Grand Isle resort of the Gilded Age was a dream of the entrepreneur and
developer of the Harvey Canal, Joseph Hale Harvey.  He, along with Benjamin
Margot, bought out the Barataria Plantation after the Civil War.  They developed it
into an appealing resort as described by Evans, Stielow and Swanson their history,
Grand Isle on the Gulf:

    The remodeled slave cabins, laid out in double rows between “streets” lined
    with trees, became cozy cottages for the reception of guests.  The sugar
    house was divided into two large rooms.  One served as a huge dining hall.
    The other contained a piano and was used as a dance hall.  A large clientele
   could be lodged in the old plantation residence which also held the office,
    bar-room, and billiard room.  To the delight of the largely Creole patrons,
   several hotel servants were imported from France, Italy, and Bavaria.

Harvey offered excursions to the island and advertised the resort, targeting the elite
of New Orleans, the family-oriented French Creoles.  Steamers ran three days a week
from New Orleans to Grand Isle.

Advertisement for The Grand Isle Hotel
From New Orleans Times-Democrat, July 27, 1882

Harvey envisioned transforming Grand Isle into one of the most renowned resorts in the
United States.  The Grand Isle resorts represented a type of resort identified as “home”
resorts.  These establishments provided a summer refuge for families that was within
commuting distance of urban work places.  The families spent the summer there, with the
patriarch spending the week working and joining the family for the weekends. The resort
became a summer residence for many Creole families, a respite from the city.  Despite the
popularity of the resort, the financial Panic of 1873 caused a slowdown in tourism, and the
Grand Isle Hotel went bankrupt.

In 1878 the hotel was sold to John F. Krantz who reopened it just in time for another
devastating yellow jack epidemic.  The successful resort that Krantz established
encouraged others to follow suit.  George Willoz opened a pension that may have been
what Chopin’s based Lebrun’s Place in The Awakening on.

Kranz Resort Hotel

All pictures from Reflechir: Vol.1. Les images des
prairies tremblantes: 1840-1940
by Chénière
Hurricane Centennial Committee.

Resorts gave new opportunities to women of the time, who were the principal occupants.  It
allowed them to view life in a different light.  Many of the eastern resorts were viewed as
places to meet a mate, but Grand Isle, as a home resort, did not follow suit.  But it was not
unheard of for women who were left alone for the summer to engage in affairs

In the early 1890’s P. F. Herwig had built
a hotel and was collecting materials to
build another.  There were plans to
develop resorts on Grande Terre and
Chénière Caminada.  In 1892 the
luxurious Ocean Club was opened for
business.

The major pastime was surf-bathing and
a tram was provided to transport
residents from the resort to the beach.  
Summer residents also enjoyed hunting,
fishing, sailing, exploring, and relaxing in
an atmosphere that was fee of  stress.  
On the weekends there were dances,
parties and gambling.

Krantz’s Grand Isle Hotel
Picture of painting by Tracy Warhart Plaisance

from Reflechir: Vol.1. Les images des prairies
tremblantes: 1840-1940
by Chénière Hurricane
Cent ennial Committee.

from Lost Louisiana: Former coastal communities are
gone, almost forgotten.

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