Slidell, Louisiana, (population 32,000), is located on high ground north of Lake Pontchartrain at the southeastern tip of St. Tammany Parish, and is the largest municipality in the parish. The town began around 1882 as a building camp established by the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. A line was built from New Orleans to Meridian, Mississippi, connecting from there with Cincinnati, Ohio, and eventually with New York City. Slidell was chartered by the Louisiana legislature in 1888 and in 1890 had a population of 364.
Manufacturing came to Slidell in the early 20th century, with the development of a creosote plant, one of the country’s largest brick manufacturing facilities, a large lumber mill, and a shipyard. The Slidell shipyard contributed significantly to the national effort in both World Wars, and Slidell residents worked in New Orleans ship, tank, and airplane construction during World War II. During the 1960s, Slidell more than doubled, thanks in part to NASA’s Slidell Computer Complex, built in 1962 to support the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Center in New Orleans.
In 2003 the city created the Olde Towne Preservation Commission to preserve the architectural quality, urban character, economic viability, history, and cultural heritage of Slidell’s oldest district. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina brought devastation to Slidell. Homes, businesses, and public buildings, including the City Hall complex in Olde Towne, were flooded. Water damage was especially bad in the southern half of the city, but significant rebuilding has taken place.
Today, Slidell has a new comprehensive master plan, preserving a sense of the past while accommodating an ever-increasing number of residents. The Olde Town Preservation Commission and the city recently collaborated with the Tulane Regional Urban Design Center to create a new and comprehensive set of design guidelines for Olde Towne and the Fremaux Avenue corridor that are based on the historic architecture and urban fabric of Olde Towne Slidell. Working with Southeastern Louisiana University, the commission also completed an inventory of historic architectural resources. The completion of both the new design guidelines and the inventory help to ensure the continuing preservation of Olde Towne’s historic character.
The commission also collaborates with other groups on numerous Olde Towne events, including the spring and fall Antique Street Fairs and the annual Cultural Extravaganza. Other events held in Slidell include Some Enchanted Evening and Arts Evening, both of which are sponsored by the city. Some Enchanted Evening is held each May and brings the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra to Heritage Park for a twilight performance. Crowds of more than 6,000 enjoy this free concert each year. Arts Evening is the largest cultural event in Slidell, celebrating visual arts, performing arts, dance, music, antique shopping, fine and casual dining, and more. The event, held the first Saturday of November, draws an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 each year. Works of more than 100 artists are displayed throughout Olde Towne, and live music and dance performances are presented. The evening finishes with the Arts Evening Bayou Bash concert.
Another attraction in Olde Towne is the Slidell Museum, located in a 1907 building that was home both to the city hall and the city jail. It features extensive exhibits on the history of the city and the region. The museum is open to the public and hosts many school groups each year. Museum employees and volunteers can often be seen in mid-19th century dress at the various festivals and events in Olde Towne.
Designated a Preserve America Community in May 2008.
For more information
City of Slidell Cultural & Public Affairs
Discover our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary: History & Culture of Southeastern Louisiana