A Brief History of Milneburg, New Orleans

Milneburg Lighthouse
Milneburg Lighthouse | © Infrogmation of New Orleans / Flickr
Carolyn Heneghan

New Orleans enthusiasts will find that much of the city’s rich history remains encased in the distinct neighborhoods of the city’s past and present. One such area is Milneburg, one of the oldest in New Orleans and once an active commercial and industrial center. But today, this area looks vastly different compared to its social heyday, memorialized by the still-standing Milneburg Lighthouse on the campus of the University of New Orleans.

Loved by over 40s

The founding of Milneburg

Milneburg began as an area of swampland where Elysian Fields Ave meets Lake Pontchartrain. Scottish land developer Alexander Milne purchased the tract of land that would later bear his name from the Spanish colonial government, which at the time didn’t consider the marshland to be of any value.

Milne developed the neighborhood in part through profits from his brick-making business. That business’ success had catapulted after major fires in 1788, and 1794 prompted the Spanish government to have the city rebuilt with brick buildings rather than wood, as the French had originally constructed them.

By 1830, Milne approached a group of businessmen to join him in founding the Pontchartrain Rail-Road Company, which constructed the Pontchartrain Rail-Road, known locally as “Smoky Mary.” The five-mile Smoky Mary railroad connected Milneburg to the Faubourg Marigny, a neighborhood just east of the French Quarter.

Milne also built a small port and pier along the lakefront, which created a new and easier path for ship captains transporting goods and people to New Orleans. In 1834, the Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse, also known as the Milneburg Lighthouse, became another new lakefront feature and boosted port safety.

Pontchartrain Rail-Road

Milneburg in its prime

Milneburg grew as a commercial hub during the antebellum period and through the Civil War, especially as a day trip destination for those who wanted a break from the city. By the 1840s, the area saw an influx of restaurants, clubs, and saloons to support business growth at the port.

But as Milneburg’s days as a commercial port came to an end in the late 1800s, the neighborhood evolved into a series of fishing camps and resorts. These establishments thrived alongside the community’s dynamic restaurant and entertainment scene, where jazz music particularly flourished. And when land reclamation projects relocated the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park to Elysian Fields, those day trips to Milneburg and “The Beach” became even more common.

However, Milneburg’s character and façade changed significantly with the arrival of World War II. The Army and Navy claimed land on both sides of the amusement park for military bases and supply depots, particularly aircraft manufacturing. However, the military groups relocated their operations from Milneburg following the war.

Milneburg, New Orleans, circa 1923

Milneburg today

The University of New Orleans (UNO)—previously Louisiana State University in New Orleans—and the Lake Oaks subdivision in the Lakeview neighborhood now stand where Milneburg used to lie. The federal government still owns part of the old neighborhood as well, which now houses FBI and Army Reserve facilities.

The Milneburg Lighthouse remains on the UNO campus, preserved for posterity within the university’s Research and Technology Park, nearly two centuries later. Today, Milneburg refers to a specific subdistrict of the Gentilly neighborhood slightly south and inland of the original historic town.

Old Milneburg Lighthouse
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.