By far the oldest thing at Camp Salmen, besides Bayou Liberty and the land itself, is the old trading post. It’s a classic Acadian style building, originally with cooling porches front and back and tall windows for ventilation and was built in the first decades of the Nineteenth Century.
The bayou in front of this structure got its name from a renegade Frenchman named La Liberte’ who left New Orleans shortly after it was founded and became one of the first Europeans to settle on the north shore. He made a living producing building materials from local natural resources and sailing them to the new city.
Joseph Laurent built his trading post about eighty years later to provision local Choctaw and settlers and sail their produce to market in the city. Like La Liberte’, he also produced building products from the land.
The site he chose was perfect: the bluff the building sits on was high enough to escape flooding, the bayou wide enough for Laurent to turn his schooner around and there were plenty of raw materials in the nearby woods. He also operated a ferry. The building has since become one of St. Tammany Parish’s oldest structures.
The interior of the main room.
Since the original French-built wooden city of New Orleans was devastated by two fires in the late 1700s, Louisiana’s new Spanish overlords decreed all new construction must be of brick and mortar to prevent another such disaster. This gave Laurent and others a strong market for north shore products - sand and gravel, lime for mortar (which was made by burning clam shells found on lake beaches), bricks from clay and the many things that could be made from pine trees: tar and pitch from the tree’s resin (for making canvas and rope waterproof and rot resistant), barrel staves, lumber, shingles, charcoal, etc. These materials helped build the French Quarter we know today as well as Laurent’s trading post. The wooded low area you can see next door is probably where the clay was mined for the bricks in its walls.
Fritz Salmen bought the old building around 1900 when it was nearly a century old and still in use as a residence, store and ferry office. After logging the surrounding land he donated it all to the Boy Scouts in the 1920s. They named the building “Salmen Lodge” in his honor and used it as a residence for the Camp Manager.
St. Tammany Parish Government now owns the property and has placed it on the National Register of Historic Places and will restore it to the way it was in the early 1800s.
The back porch is thought to have been enclosed shortly before the Civil War.