Prytania and Fourth in the Garden District. WPA photo from the 1930s. The entry in the LOUIS database is amusing for the Lafitte reference:
B&W photo, date unknown. An Antebellum mansion in the New Orleans, Louisiana Garden District. Also known as the “cornstalk fence” house. Written on photo: This antebellum mansion is a grand example of the opulence of the sugar boon before the Civil War. This wrought-iron fence is famous for its corn stalk design. Local legend says that Jean Lafitte forged this iron work in his blacksmith shop which was located on the corner of Prytania and Fourth Streets.
The contrast between the architecture of the French Quarter and the Garden District is stark. The Quarter has lovely houses whose courtyards and interiors rise to the same level of opulence as these large homes in the Garden District. The Spanish/Moorish design hides that opulence behind large walls facing the streets. You have to get past the wall and gatehouse and enter the courtyard, then you realize you’ve stepped into a place of elegance. The walls conceal the beauty from passersby on the street.
There were many reasons the Anglo-Irish chose to settle into neighborhoods upriver from Canal Street. House design was one of them. The neighborhood is very British. Big front lawns, Most of the houses have low fences that allow those walking by to admire the lawn and garden. The homes display the owner’s tastes for all to see. There is a good mix of house types in this area. Some shotguns and creole cottages pop up on the smaller lots, but the big houses are, for the most part, English-influenced.
There so many wonderful stories about these homes. A guided tour of the Garden District is great, so you can learn some of the stories behind the houses. Grey or Loki can tell you all about it if you book one of their tours.
The Southerner was the last train to leave Terminal Station on Canal Street. (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)
Terminal Station on Canal Street
Tulane’s Louisiana Resource Collection shared some important photos in Louisiana railroad history for April 16. The first photo is of Southern Railroad’s Train #48, better known as “The Southerner.” The Southerner was a “limited” train that ran from New Orleans to New York City. The train began operation in 1941, using EMD E6 engines and brand=new, corrugated-sided cars from Pullman-Standard.
The photo above shows the last Southerner leaving Terminal Station, on April 16, 1954. The Illinois Central and Kansas City Southern railroads had already moved their operations to Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola. When The Southerner departed on April 16th, Southern Railroad’s inbound trains were re-routed to their new home on Loyola Avenue.
The Southerner, on its way to New York (Wikimedia Commons)
Terminal Station was built on Canal Street in 1908. It serviced the Southern and Gulf, Mobile and Ohio railroads. So, in the black-and-white photo above, the photographer stands on the Basin Street neutral ground, behind the stations’s platforms. Krauss Department Store is visible on the right.
“The Pelican” backing into Union Passenger Terminal, April 16, 1954 (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)
The first Southern Railroad train to enter Union Passenger Terminal was “The Pelican.” The Pelican also ran from New Orleans to NYC, but its consist was an luxury affair. It used sleeper cars owned by Pullman-Standard. There were no coach cars. The tracks coming into UPT include a “wye” track. While the incoming trains came in engine-first, they turned around on the wye. Then the engines backed into the platforms.
The Pelican at Union Passenger Terminal, April 16, 1954 (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)
The Mayor of New Orleans in the 1950s was deLessepps Story Morrison. He was one of the biggest proponents of a single train station for the city. New Orleans had five stations around the city. Union Passenger Terminal remains in use by Amtrak and the Greyhound Bus company today.
This image, from the New York Public Library Digital Collection, is interesting for its caption.
“Butler’s Victims of Ft. St. Philip” indicates that this was a Confederate-friendly publication, rather than one like Harper’s. A Union publication would have referred to these men as “prisoners” or “rebels.”
Flag-Officer David Farragut’s squadron passed Ft. Jackson and Ft. St. Philip on 23-25 April, 1862. The city of New Orleans surrendered on April 25th. Major General Benjamin Butler’s army followed behind Farragut’s ships. They occupied the forts, then moved north to the city. By May 1, 1862. New Orleans was occupied, and Butler was in command. Farragut moved his force further up the Mississippi to prevent any attempt to re-take the city.
One of the greatest miscalculations of the Civil War was the decision by the Navy Department of the Confederacy to rely almost exclusively on the two forts to defend New Orleans. Jefferson Davis endorsed the notion that an attack from upriver was much more likely than an assault coming up from Southwest Pass. The Union Navy came to New Orleans with a squadron of mortar-vessels. They bombarded Ft. St. Philip and Ft. Jackson for days. Farragut then brought his ships upriver, passing the forts. Once passed the forts, the Union Navy was in a position to reduce New Orleans to rubble. The Confederate Army in New Orleans retreated to the north. The Union forces demanded the city’s surrender. The city leaders had no choice but to give it.
Battle at the forts continued
Even after Farragut passed the forts, Brigadier General Johnson Duncan refused to surrender them. While the officers were defiant, the men were not as sure of their cause. The men defending Ft. St. Philip were volunteers from militia units formed in Southern Louisiana. Most of the more-established units had already gone north, to join the Army of Tennessee or the Army of Northern Virginia. The men left defending New Orleans hoped they would be safer in the forts. These battalions also included Irish and German volunteers. These immigrants were not heavily invested in a Confederate victory. They just wanted the port re-opened so they could return to paying jobs.
So, when Duncan refused to surrender, the Union bomb-vessel squadron resumed its attack. The garrison at Ft. Jackson mutinied on 29-April. Butler’s troops moved in on both sides of the river.
The Louisiana militiamen who did believe in the rebellion were kept as prisoners of war at Ft. St. Philip. That’s the point where this illustration was drawn.
Elizabeth Olds flourished during the Great Depression
This is a wonderful lithograph by Elizabeth Olds, done as part of a WPA-funded project in New York. From Olds’ bio on Wikipedia:
From 1935 until the early 1940s, Olds was a nonrelief employee for the Works Progress Administration-Federal Art Project (WPA-FAP) in the Graphic Arts Division in New York, where she helped younger artists in the silkscreen unit. She also joined the American Artists’ Congress, Artists Union, and other groups with similar interests. Olds became friends with Harry Gottlieb, another nonrelief artist who also focused on industrialism. Together, they observed the mining and steel industries of New York, and their research lead to Olds’s creation of her award-winning print, “Miner Joe.” Olds used both silkscreen and lithography for the prints for ‘‘Miner Joe,’’ but it was her lithograph that won first place for the Philadelphia Print Club competition in 1938.
Jazz speaks to us in many ways. Olds, working with younger artists in New York, She’s teaching them how to do silkscreen and lithos, is inspired by a jazz band. The traditional brass band is an archetype; this scene could be from NYC, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, or here in New Orleans.
Jazz isn’t New Orleans-centric
I hesitate to say “especially New Orleans,” because sometimes we forget just how far jazz spread after Bolden. The musicians who left during the Great Migration went far and wide. We hear about King Oliver, Dutt, Pops, and the other icons of jazz, but there were journeyman musicians and others who left, bringing their horns to factories and other jobs in the north. They played casually, maybe on a stoop, passing the music on to others in their new neighborhoods.
I like to think this is what Elizabeth Olds captured, as she did her own part in passing on skills that encourage art and creativity.
The WPA kept a lot of folks going in dark times. It wasn’t about just roads and bridges, and our culture is much the better for that.
The Irish-Italian connection/tradition originates with the two cultures merging in New Orleans after WWII.
In terms of numbers and influence, the Irish were first in New Orleans. O’Reilly is an outlier on this; the Irish influence begins in the 1820s. That first wave of Irish immigrants provided the manpower to build the New Basin Canal.
Crescent City Living’s video on the Irish Channel, produced by Crista Rock, with commentary from NOLA History Guy.
These are articles about the Irish I’ve written over the years. This podcast doesn’t go into a ton of detail, since its focus is how all these folks ended up in the same parade. 🙂 Don’t let that deter you from looking further into the Irish. Their story is an important part of the bigger story of New Orleans.
In many ways, the Italians get more exposure in the touristy writing than the Irish. That’s mainly because the Italians all but took over the French Quarter. This was in the 1880s and 1890s. The Italians left a lasting mark on the French Quarter. It’s the one neighborhood just about every visitor sees. Naturally, this is going to leave an impression. The Italian groceries, St. Mary’s Italian church (next to the convent), so many other Italian-owned businesses. Even the building the Louisiana State Museum currently uses as a warehouse for their massive collection was at one time a pasta factory!
Anyway, I wasn’t kidding about going to the Beauregard-Keyes House, either. The mafia connection is fascinating!
It’s not all about the Quarter, though, for the Italians.
So, the Italians migrated from the Downtown side of Canal Street. They went to Gentilly, Metairie, and St. Bernard Parish. The folks who went out to Metairie teamed up with the Irish for the big parade.
Home Furnishings were an important part of the Krauss product line. While many dry goods stores at the turn of the 20th Century specialized in clothing, linens, etc., the Krauss brothers expanded out, offering a wider range of products. Rugs made perfect sense, since they were a fabric product, and the buyers were able to make the right connections in New York to get them. So, the store wasn’t satisfied with that, moving into other flooring options, like linoleum. Linoleum was common throughout the late 1800s. Invented in 1855, good linoleum was a practical and tough floor covering. The product is organic. Modern-day plastic flooring is often called “linoleum,” but that’s more a connection made by older folks who remember walking on the real thing.
Many of the same manufacturers who made rugs also made big blankets. After all, the setup of the production line isn’t all that different. The usually buying method used by Krauss was to negotiate with a factory for product. They’d go looking for one thing, identify other items out there at good wholesale prices, and bring them back to New Orleans. Sometimes they were marked as a special lot and sold as such. Other times that first purchase turned out to be a good thing for all, and the products entered the regular store inventory.
Krauss in 1921 looked a bit different than the big building at 1201 Canal Street now. The brothers expanded the original building back about fifty feet in 1911. That addition went up five stories. All of the expansions after that added on at five stories, goign to six in the back later. There were no escalators in 1921, so shoppers got to the upper floors via elevators.
Newspaper ads were the main way the store had to communicate with shoppers, even after radios became widespread.