The roots of Port Allen date back to 1809, when a settlement named La Ville St. Michel was established near the site of the current city.
While that first settlement was lost to the shifting waters of the Mississippi River in 1870, a new settlement was soon established nearby. In 1878, this settlement was renamed Port Allen after Henry Watkins Allen – a Confederate general who was elected as the 17th Governor of Louisiana in 1864.
The Village of Port Allen was officially incorporated in 1916 via proclamation of Governor Luther E. Hall – and was later designated as a city in 1923. By that time, Port Allen had already been playing a significant role in the transportation of goods throughout the region. For example, the Baton Rouge, Gross-Tete, and Opelousas Railroad was chartered in 1853 and had a terminal across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge in the area that would eventually become Port Allen. A ferry would cross the river three times each day at this location to transport goods and train cars.
It was around this junction between the railroad and the ferry that Port Allen grew. The ferry would continue to operate until 1968 – carrying both vehicles and pedestrians – until the Interstate 10 bridge made the service obsolete. However, both the depot and the old ferry landing remain as historical sites within the city of Port Allen to this day.
One of the keys to the continued growth of Port Allen was the construction of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, which began in 1954. Situated at the convergence of the Mississippi River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, it is now one of the 10 busiest ports in the country. With the construction of the port’s General Cargo Dock No.1, the Grain Elevator, and the Grain Dock, Port Allen soon became a hub of local industry.
With the opening of the port, the City of Port Allen experienced a population boom in the late 1950s – with the number of residents nearly doubling. As local industries continued to grow in the area, the city’s population also steadily increased before finally peaking in the 1990s.
Today the City of Port Allen is known as a small, friendly community that still plays a large role in business and industry in the Baton Rouge area.