Wheels, Wheels, Wheels

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How life in St. Charles Parish would change in the first half of the 2oth Century with the arrival of the automobile and the improvement and construction of roadways!! Sixty percent of Louisiana was rural at the turn of the century, and St. Charles Parish was a rural parish. Mud roads were everywhere. Roads were so often impassable that wagons and buggies would get stuck. Farmers had difficulty bringing their produce to market and often used the river instead. Doctors struggled to reach their patients. In order to reach their students, teachers often lived on school premises or rented rooms nearby. Voters even had difficulty reaching the polls. But change was on the horizon!

Old Spanish Trail

In 1908, Henry Ford began producing his Model T. In 1915 in Mobile, Alabama, a group of automobile enthusiasts, spirited by the Spanish padres and conquistadores, met and organized the “Old Spanish Trail Project.” The project promoted a paved automobile highway across the southern United States connecting St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California. Louisiana became a thorn in the side of the trail organization, failing to pave the road and replace ferries with bridges. In 1919, shamed by the completion and opening of the trail in all other states except Louisiana, Governor Huey Long paved the highway with asphalt all through the state and contributed more than half of the construction funds for the Huey Long Bridge. (The bridge was and still (2010) is owned by the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, which is owned by the City of New Orleans and managed by the Public Belt Railroad Commission.) In 1935, the Huey Long Bridge replaced the Walnut Street Ferry removing the last Old Spanish Trail obstacle.

 In St. Charles Parish, the new two-lane Old Spanish Trail Highway (now U.S. 90) built by Governor Long was a diversion from the original path, which lies nearby. A portion of the original historic Old Spanish Trail, probably in existence since the 1700s, remains today in St. Charles paralleling the railroad track from Paul Maillard Road in Boutte through Des Allemands to the Lafourche Parish line. (U.S. 90 was expanded in the 1960s to a four-lane highway and is proposed to become a part of the new I-49 corridor.)

The King of Spain sent a representative to America to participate in the dedication of the 20th Century trail.

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

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