One of the earlier settlers to the area was John William Gause. Along with a younger brother, Wesley Coke Asbury Gause, Judge Wingate, and several others, they left Shallotte, North Carolina, on February 18, and arrived at Pearlington, Mississippi, on April 14, 1836. Wesley and his family decided to remain there, while John and his family decided to cross the Pearl River and built a log cabin on the west bank. He then began a lumber mill in the fledgling town later to be known as Slidell. His traveling back and forth from lumber yard to home created a road, known today as Gause Boulevard, a major east/west street spanning the greater Slidell area. The lumber yard was located at the northwest area of where Gause Boulevard crosses the railroad track next to Front Street. The log cabin was built at the very east end of the road, just a few yards from the river. The house stood until the late 1990s, and a small family burial plot still remains, where John is buried between his two wives, Lydia Russ and Johanna Frederica Van Heemskerk.
Slidell was founded on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in 1882 and 1883 during construction of the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (N.O.N.E.). The N.O.N.E. line connected New Orleans to Meridian, Mississippi. The town was named in honor of American politician and Confederate ambassador to France, John Slidell, father-in-law of real estate developer Baron Frederic Emile d’Erlanger and officially chartered by the Louisiana State Legislature in 1888.
After the tracks were laid, a train depot was built and the station was named Slidell following the request of Baron Emile Erlanger. Erlanger was John Slidell’s son-in-law through his marriage to Mathilde Slidell. By 1884, not only was the railroad completed, but the first telephone and telegraph line had been extended from Mandeville.
John Slidell migrated to New Orleans from New York City to become a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, a U.S. District Attorney from 1829 to 1833, and was elected to the U.S. Congress from 1843 to 1845, followed by election to the U.S. Senate, 1853 to 1861.
When Louisiana seceded from the Union, he resigned from Congress and was appointed the Confederate Commissioner to France charged with seeking aid from England and France.
However, once in England, he was denied permission to return to the United States. Slidell died in exile at Cowes, England on July 26, 1871, and was interred in a private cemetery near Paris, France. He was never a part of the little town, but in all probability, his life story would have faded into oblivion except for the naming of the town in 1888.
Around 1910, Slidell began a period of economic and industrial growth. A large creosote plant was built, and Slidell became home to the Fritz Salmen Brickyard, a major producer of bricks later named St. Joe Brick. A lumber mill and shipyard was also built. Following the construction of Interstate 10, Interstate 59, and Interstate 12, Slidell became a major crossroads for those traversing the Gulf States.
In 1915, the creosote plant burned to the ground, killing 55 workers and 3 firefighters. The plant was rebuilt on Bayou Lane, closer to a water source and closer to a fire station. Eventually, creosote polluted the bayou, which, was a source of drinking water for many of Slidell’s residents. The creosote plant was abandoned in 1986 and became an EPA Superfund site. The canal was dredged and waste incinerated until the completion of the cleanup in 1996. At that time a boat launch was built and Heritage Park was constructed on the site.
With the advent of the U.S. space program in the 1960s, NASA opened the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the John C. Stennis Space Center in nearby Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, along with a NASA computer center on Gause Boulevard. This nearly tripled Slidell’s population over a period of ten years, and the city became a major suburb of New Orleans. Slidell is also the location of the National Weather Service forecast office for the New Orleans and Baton Rouge area.
The Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, which encompasses the Honey Island Swamp comprises 34,896 acres managed for wildlife and includes a 250 square mile cypress-tupelo swamp. The Honey Island Swamp is one of the least explored swamps in America!
In 2005, Slidell suffered extensive damage from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, as the storm made final landfall on the morning of August 29. The municipal area is located about 2 miles inland and parts of the city experienced a storm surge in excess of 10 feet. The unincorporated areas of St. Tammany Parish, to the south and east, often commonly referred to as Slidell, experienced a storm surge of 13 to 16 feet.
The I-10 Twin Spans (The Frank Davis Naturally “N’Awlins” Memorial Bridge, AKA, the “Frank”) on the eastern side of Lake Pontchartrain connecting New Orleans to Slidell and the Gulf Coast was replaced at a cost of over $800 million after the hurricane. A portion of the old I-10 Bridge on the north end is now the St. Tammany Fishing Pier.
Slidell has a humid subtropical climate, with short, generally mild winters (slightly cooler than the New Orleans area) and hot, humid summers.
According to the 2010 US Census there are 27,068 people, 10,050 households, and 7,145 families in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 76.0% White, 17.0% African American, 0.5% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 2.7% from other races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 6.3% of the population. The train station in downtown Slidell
Amtrak’s daily Crescent train connects Slidell with New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Birmingham, and New Orleans. The Slidell Amtrak station is situated on Front Street in Olde Towne Slidell, with a beautiful view of one of Heritage Park, which is complete with playground equipment for younger children and open spaces for people to play football. There are also numerous fishing spots.
Slidell is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Interstate 10, Interstate 12, Interstate 59, and U.S. Highway 11. The I-10 Twin Span Bridge runs from Slidell over Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans East.
Slidell Airport (ICAO: KASD, FAA LID: ASD) is a city-owned public-use airport located four nautical miles northwest of the central business district of Slidell.
Slidell is proud of its historic Olde Towne, with its excellent restaurants, antique shops and an ambience that recalls simpler times.
Entering a period of rapid growth, on November 13, 1888, the town was incorporated. The town was described as spanning 3 miles from north to south and 2 miles east to west in the form of a reversed “L-shape.” Corporate limits shortly thereafter increased by incorporating a northeastern portion of the John Guzman tract. Roughly, the expanded street boundaries were Fremaux Avenue to Fifth Street, then Cousin Street to Carey and to Front Street, then back to Fremaux Avenue.
In touring Olde Towne Slidell today, many local landmarks still abound. Mires’ Hardware opened in 1915. The Peach Tree was opened by Gastrorondo, a French opera singer. Slidell Cleaners was built in 1939 by Joe Johnson. Olde Towne Antiques was formerly a saloon, grocery store, and meat market before remodeling. The present Slidell Museum was built in 1907 as the City Hall. The Second Story Lounge was originally a grocery store operated by the Carollo family. Other original family names associated with buildings in the area were Abney, Baker, Cornibe, Crowe, Crow, Evans, Fontana, Gazano, Giordano, Neuhauser, Polk and Pravata.