Hammond is home to Southeastern Louisiana University. The city was the home base for production of the first season of the NBC television series In the Heat of the Night, starring the late Carroll O'Connor .
Hammond is the principal city of the Hammond Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Tangipahoa Parish.
The city is named for Peter Hammond (1797–1870)—possibly anglicized from Peter av Hammerdal (Peter of Hammerdal)—a Swedish immigrant who first settled the area around 1818. Peter, a sailor, had been briefly imprisoned by the British at Dartmoor Prison during the Napoleonic Wars; he broke jail, made his way back to the sea, and later left his ship in New Orleans, where he used his savings to buy then-inexpensive land northwest of Lake Pontchartrain. There he started a plantation to grow trees, which he made into masts, charcoal, and other products for the maritime industry in New Orleans. He transported the goods first to the head of navigation on the Natalbany River at Springfield, Louisiana.
In 1854, the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad (later the Illinois Central Railroad, now Canadian National Railway) came through the area, launching the city's emergence as a commercial and transport center. The point where the railroad met Peter's trail to Springfield was at first known as Hammond's Crossing. Peter Hammond is buried on the east side of town under the Hammond Oak along with his wife, three daughters, and a favorite slave boy (see inset showing the spreading oak at gravesite).
During the American Civil War, the city was a shoemaking center for the Confederacy. It later became a shipping point for strawberries, so a plaque downtown gave it the title of "the Strawberry Capital of America".
The 19th-century shoemaking industry was the work of Charles Emery Cate, who bought land in the city in 1860 for a home, a shoe factory, tannery and sawmill. Toward the end of the war, Cate laid out the city grid, using the rail line as a guide and naming several of the streets after his sons.
After the American Civil War, light industry and commercial activities were attracted to the town. By the end of the 19th century, the town had become a stopping point for northerners traveling south and for New Orleanians heading north to escape summer yellow fever outbreaks.
In 1932 Hodding Carter founded the now-defunct Hammond Daily Courier, which he left in 1939 to move to Greenville, Mississippi, where he later received a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Civil Rights Movement.
During World War II, the Hammond Airport (now Hammond Northshore Regional Airport) served as a detention camp for prisoners of war from Nazi Germany. Additionally, the U.S. Army established and used the Hammond Bombing and Gunnery Range east of the city.
After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans attorney, political activist, and state government watchdog C.B. Forgotston relocated to Hammond in 2006. Lawson Swearingen, a former Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate and a former president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, resides in Hammond, where he is a professor of management at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Hammond's proximity to New Orleans and Baton Rouge - less than an hour from each - has begun to stimulate growth. Tangipahoa Parish is becoming one of the newest suburbs to both cities. Hammond and Tangipahoa Parish are now among the fastest-growing cities and parishes in Louisiana. There is an abundance of new development, both commercial and residential, as well as numerous hotels which absorb overflowing demand for rooms near major events in New Orleans.
Among the city's cultural attractions is the Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum & Black Veteran Archives. This is one of the destinations on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Southeastern's Columbia Theatre, constructed in 1928 and renovated in the 1990s for $5.6 million, is a significant cultural venue in Hammond's Historic District.