Fort St. John of the Bayou or Fort San Juan del Bayou, later shortened to Fort St. John, was established in 1701 by the French as the first defensive position outside the city. It was located at the base of Bayou St. John where it opened to Lake Pontchartrain. The Spanish gained control of New Orleans in 1763 and rebuilt the old wooden French fort out of their customary masonry.
Today when you tour the remains you can see bits and pieces, remnants of the glory from yester years. You won’t fully get a picture of all Fort St. John’s splendor unless you look up older photos. The remains serve as an important historical reminder for the city of New Orleans, and how significant the fort and waterways were to the protection of the city from a direct attack by way of Lake Pontchartrain.
The French regained control of New Orleans in 1801 but then later sold it to the Americans in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The fort was occupied by Americans starting in 1803 and was garrisoned in preparation for the British attack but never saw wartime action. General Jackson stationed some of his best gunners there. When it was clear, the enemy would not attack through Lake Pontchartrain, they were recalled for the Battle of New Orleans.
Around 1818 Fort Pike was constructed and designed to guard the Rigolets Pass. It would assume the primary role for coastal defense for Lake Pontchartrain. Fort St. John was decommissioned and sold in 1823. It was later constructed into a hotel, then subsequently an amusement park and tourist destination that lasted through the 1920’s.
It has now faded into the pages of history books but leaves a legacy behind. It leaves a few legends too. All important historical sites have haunts and ghost stories that paint a picture, Fort St. John is no different. Should you get the chance to pass by ask about a soldier named Sancho Pablo.