One of Slidell’s best known features is its exquisite Antique District, which sponsors an Antique Street Fair in April and October. Contact them by calling 985-641-6316. Slidell also attracts marine lovers, as it borders Lake Pontchartrain and features beautiful marinas. Don’t forget about the food! Slidell features an abundance of extraordinary restaurants specializing in everything from local Cajun and Creole favorites to exotic cuisine’s from across the world. There is something for everyone here in fair Slidell.
Stores, hotels and saloons (as many as 14 operated on Front Street above Fremaux Avenue) provided for the needs of the growing community. Later, when automobiles became the mode of travel, U.S. Highway 11, running next to the railroad, brought many travelers through Slidell on their way to the Gulf Coast, Birmingham and beyond. As companies such as St. Joe Brickwork’s and Southern Shipbuilding attracted more workers, Slidell grew to the point that, at one time, a two-story merchandise store was built for Salmen Company employees to buy goods with “scrip” they got as pay. In the early decades of this century the railroad was ideal transportation for the logging industry, as the woodlands north of Lake Pontchartrain became more accessible. Many roads leading east from Front Street (and the rail line), like Gause Road and Brown’s Switch Road, were originally light rail lines that ended at the Pearl River Swamp and its seemingly endless supply of cypress trees. Slidell continued to grow, and as subdivisions popped up in the ’50s, so did commuters, many taking the bus across the Highway 11 bridge to New Orleans. Then came the interstate highway system in the mid-’60s. US 11 (Front Street) and the railroad aren’t used as much for shipping or travel anymore. The result: What had for so long been Downtown was becoming Olde Towne.
The years since then have brought more subdivisions, shopping centers and commuters, and more business development along the arteries leading to the interstate. With the rapid growth of the city – its complexion changed by urbanization – Olde Towne’s heartbeat slowed. But there is now a concerted effort by several groups to revitalize and preserve this important part of Slidell’s history. The Olde Towne Merchants’ Association has been integral in re-establishing this area as historically significant and economically viable. The committed citizens of this association have sponsored many projects such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Newspapers in Education, Adopt-A-School, Olde Towne Maps, The Olde Towne Merchants Newsletter, and more. Its all-volunteer governing board’s accomplishments are easy to see when you’re in the Olde Towne area: the Olde Towne logo created by local artists; banners; the old style lampposts and benches on First Street; additional lighting; and designation as part of the 13-parish Louisiana Scenic Byways route. Other projects that the corporation has accomplished are not as visible but just as vital. Its executive director acts as a liaison between the corporation and the community and develops working relationships with other associations and organizations interested in Olde Towne development. It has established the Olde Towne Preservation District and created a low-interest loan pool for facade improvements to non-residential property. The corporation also implemented a tax reduction program to entice investment.
Marie Ricca Lasecki, Olde Towne Development Corp., Special Projects, contributed to this story. It was compiled and written by Chamber of Commerce staff.