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Louisiana’s got a Hippie Haven in the forgotten little village of Abita Springs. The town is located on the northshore of Lake Pontchatrain, about 40 miles north of New Orleans. Once a resort for turn-of-the-century New Orleanians who wanted to flee the summer heat and yellow fever of the city, the old hotels and cottages remained, long after the tourists stopped coming.

During the 1970’s hippies moved in to the old houses to raise children, make art in community, and swim naked in the cool artesian water. At one point there were 16 jewelry artists living in this town of 1200, and the old “Longbranch Hotel” was a celebrated hippie commune and sight of now mythic hippie parties and gatherings.

Today, we have a funky folk art museum, a microbrewery, a town shadow play, a monthly blue grass hootenanny called “The Piney Woods Opry” held in the old town hall, and the most thoughtful “controlled growth” plan of any northshore community.

But there are lots of hippies and coffee house scenes sprinkling the northshore, Covington’s Columbia Street Grocery, Mandeville’s Java Grotto, and I don’t know if they qualify as hippies, but damn near everyone gets stoned in Lacombe. Hippies new and old have a loose affiliation of spirit thriving on the northshore. We’ll see if it can survive the rampant development and violent loss of greenspace that’s occuring as thousands flee suburban New Orleans to build and live here.

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