When there’s road work on Canal Street, there’s chaos downtown, to this day.
Krauss and Canal Street after the crash
From 1930, Canal Street, shot from the corner of S. Liberty. Just off the blow that was the 1929 streetcar strike, NOPSI and City Hall decided the best way to get folks back on public transit was to rip up the city’s main street. This was the “Beautification Program” of 1930. Krauss is on the left side, with Terminal Station next to it on the other side of Basin Street. So, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the “fleur de lis” lamp poles in the neutral ground aren’t there in this photo. The poles and fixtures you see here are the last thing replaced in this round of Canal Street improvements.
Saenger-Maison Blanche Radio
You can see Maison Blanche looming over the rest of Canal Street, If the MB building seems like it’s even more dominant in these photos from the late 1920s/early 1930s, that’s likely due to the big radio towers on the front and rear of the thirteen-story building. The top floor of MB was the studio for WSMB-AM. MB removed the rooftop tower a few years later, when the station moved its transmission equipment to St. Bernard Parish.
Terminal Station, right next to Krauss, was a beautiful urban passenger terminal. It was demolished in 1954. So, that year, 1954, was the first time since 1907 that shoppers could walk up Canal Street and have a good view of the Basin Street side of the store. Krauss got a boost as a result of the station just across the street.
Because of the road work and financial decisions by the company in 1929, 1930 was one year shy of some big innovations and improvements to Krauss Department Store. Air-conditioning and the Luncheonette come to the store in 1931.
We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do yet in terms of the run-up to the drop of Krauss: New Orleans’ Value Store this fall, so keep an eye here and on Facebook for photos, ad clippings, and other Krauss tidbits. Additionally, we’ll be coming up with other creative ideas to keep you anticipating the release of the book. So, stick around! It’s going to be fun. So many photos of Canal Street are shot looking from the river up towards the cemeteries. We’re going to post more Krauss-to-the-river photos, because it gets you thinking.
Be sure to “Like” our Krauss Department Store page on Facebook!
Like Krauss Department Store on Facebook
Dr. Campanella wrote a piece for da paper today on “moonlight towers”, the big structures erected in urban centers in the late 1800s, as a first step in providing electric street lighting. When Susan Granger shared it to our New Orleans group on Facebook, Froggy added a link to some photos in the Commons, showing moonlight towers.
Moonlight Towers lit up Canal
Henry Clay Monument, New Orleans, 1892
This photo of the Clay Monument is from 1892. The moonlight tower is visible in the rear. If the size of statues is any indication, Henry Clay was incredibly popular in antebellum New Orleans. The massive monument to him, located on Canal Street, at the intersection of Royal Street and St. Charles Avenue, remained in place until it was moved to Lafayette Square, in 1901.
Cotton wagon crossing Canal Street, 1890
A big cotton wagon crosses Canal Street at Carondelet Avenue, in 1890. Better view of the moonlight tower. The cupola of the Mercier Building, later Maison Blanche Department Store, is visible in the background, through an electric pole’s cross beams.
Cut down to size
Henry Clay Monument, 1895-1897
Here’s Clay again, sometime after the Canal streetcar line was electrified, and the statue was relocated. You can see the base of the monument has been removed, so tracks would run straight through the intersection. Even then, the cars passed too close to the statue.
Location of the tower on Canal
The tower on Canal Street was positioned at Canal and Dauphine, It cast its light in a 360-degree radius, extending for blocks around. This meant it illuminated the street as far back as Basin Street and the Southern Railway terminal. Even though electric lighting evolved from this format into storefront lighting and individual street lamps, most stores closed around 5pm-6pm in the evening at this time. Night hours were still decades away.
Jerome Smith was a young civil rights activist and Freedom Rider in 1963. Arthur Schlesinger, in his book on RFK, recalls that CORE described Smith as a young man beaten more than any other CORE worker at the time.
Jerome Smith stood up to RFK
It was no surprise to anyone that Smith had no kind words for Bobby or his brother:
“Mr. Attorney General, you make me want to puke. I don’t care what you think, and I don’t care what your brother thinks either.”
Smith was a man of the streets, not academia, or the entertainment world. He’d been in the streets, on the buses, working to register voters and advocate the cause. In the 1963 meeting Jarvis DeBerry mentions in his article about the film, “I Am Not Your Negro”, he was arguably the wokest person in the room.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but having seen “Hidden Lines” last weekend, it’s time I did. The movie is about Baldwin, so it’s not surprising that some things get left on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jerome Smith (assuming they shot his remarks at all. Jarvis explains it:
Because that section of the documentary focuses on Baldwin’s friendship with the playwright Lorraine Hansberry and her premature death at 34, it is Hansberry’s disgusted response to Kennedy’s hemming and hawing that is given attention. But Hansberry’s decision to snub Kennedy by standing up, bidding him goodbye and exiting the room wasn’t the most demonstrable display of disgust. The most disgusted response, which isn’t in the documentary, came from New Orleans’ own Jerome Smith.
So, it’s no deep conspiracy that the woke young man got left out of the documentary. He just got overshadowed. I learned something new today, that Smith was from New Orleans. I’d not read Schlesinger’s book (it came out in 1978) when I was teaching American History in the early 1980s. I certainly would have highlighted this encounter, if for no other reason, because Smith was a local guy.
Now I want to go back to the classroom. Gotta win dat powerball.
(cross-posted to YatPundit)
A New Orleans Monorail just like Disney
Concept sketches of a monorail system for New Orleans, 1960
I came across the New Orleans Monorail Project back in 2004, when I was doing research for my Canal Streetcar book. The concept was to connect the Central Business District with Moisant International Airport (MSY – now Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport). When Walt Disney debuted the Disneyland Monorail System in 1959, a number of cities investigated the feasibility of monorails in their backyards. The difference between fantasy and reality set in quickly, however, as studies showed the difficulty of building overhead rail in established neighborhoods. Disney didn’t have to contend with the numerous complications of urban mass transit. All Walt had to do was draw lines on a blueprint, and his people made magic.
City Hall Studies the idea
The monorail project never became reality, although City Hall commissioned a study, by a consulting engineer, Col. S. H. Bingham (ret), of New York. Like ambitious projects of this sort, no doubt the politicians weighed the obstacles and cost and decided it wasn’t feasible. In the long run, though, this was the sort of project that should have been taken on. Like the Louisiana Superdome project, ten years or so later, there are big payoffs. The Dome was paid off by the city’s hotel-motel tax. Had the mayor and council chosen, they could have found a way to finance a monorail that would likely still be in operation today.
Streetcars to the Airport
NORTA 2011, a Von Dullen streetcar, operating on Canal Street in Mid City
So, the city never connected the CBD and the airport via overhead rail. That didn’t stop the dreamers. When the Earhart Expressway was constructed, one of the plans was to continue the road further west. The existing expressway comes to an end at Hickory Street in Harahan. There were plans laid out to keep going, all the way to the airport. When the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) re-constructed the Canal streetcar line in 2003-2004, the notion of streetcars to the airport came up. Elmer Von Dullen, then-manager of NORTA’s Rail Department, designed the 2000-series streetcars used on Canal with a maximum speed of over 40mph. You’ll never see a streetcar on Canal go that fast! The idea was that the 2000-series would be able to handle the challenge of going out to the airport.
Alas, that project also never came to pass. Those of us who go to MSY regularly can still dream.
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Maunsel White, Irishman, planter, and veteran of the Battle of New Orleans, is the subject of our first pod of 2017.
Beyond Bourbon Street by Mark Bologna
Guest Starring on Podcasts!
Our first pod for 2017! We’re behind a bit, because @NOLAHistoryGuy started out the year doing a guest segment on another podcast. It was fun to sit and chat with Mark Bologna of Beyond Bourbon Street about the Battle of New Orleans. Mark is @BeyondBourbonST on Twitter – note the “ST” for “Street” in Mark’s Twitter handle and website.
After attending a wonderful talk by Mr. Winston Hu of the University of New Orleans Department of History (my old stomping ground as an undergrad) on the history of Chinese people in New Orleans, I went out to Cypress Grove Cemetery to photograph the “Chinese Tomb” that Hu discussed.
(editor’s note: Let’s be honest here, walking through Cypress Grove isn’t a huge sacrifice for me, since I park on Canal Street by the cemetery, then walk over to Banks Street, to go to Wakin’ Bakin’ for breakfast, coffee, and writing time.)
Maunsel White, 1851
Maunsel White and Cemetery Exploration
White family tomb in Cypress Grove Cemetery, on Canal Street
As I walked through Cypress Grove, I came across a mausoleum with “Maunsel White” carved in the top. There was a small bronze plaque at the base of the mausoleum, indicating that the senior White was a veteran of the War of 1812. I remembered the name, that he was one of Jackson’s officers on 8-Jan-1815. I shot a bunch of photos, then made a note to do an article on him for my cemetery website. Then I looked him up, and realized he was part of the bigger story of the Battle of New Orleans. Not to steal the thunder from what Mark and I chatted about on his pod, I decided that talking about White would be a good complementary discussion.
Plaque on Maunsel White’s tomb
So, have a listen to White, and his involvement in the days following the Battle of New Orleans. Be sure to add Beyond Bourbon Street’s pod to your playlist, and recommend it to your friends.
Beyond Bourbon Street and the Battle of New Orleans
Catch us on the latest ep of Mark Bologna’s “Beyond Bourbon Street” podcast this week. We had a great time talking about the Battle of New Orleans, out at The Original Fiorella’s Restaurant, in Gentilly.
Battle paintings from the 19th Century
When you go over to the show page, you’ll see Mark used the Edward Percy Moran painting of the battle as the page’s main image. It’s a fantastic depiction of a Napoleonic-era battle, but it’s got a few factual inaccuracies.
- The Highlanders at the Battle of New Orleans didn’t wear full dress on the battlefield. They’d been in the field for over two weeks, so they likely did not bring their kilts with them from the Royal Navy ships that transported them. They wore the grey, oilskin trousers they wore on campaign with Wellington in Spain.
- There was no epic, pitched battle along the rampart, like Moran shows. Jackson’s gunners raked the British line that advanced on his positions with grapeshot and chain. The battalions that came in range of those guns were all but obliterated before they got close.
So, why did Moran paint the battle this way? After the Summer of 1815, and the Hundred Days’ Campaign in Europe, painters across Europe romanticized the final battles of Napoleon’s reign as Emperor of the French. British painters focused on Wellington’s victory at Waterloo. It’s only logical to romanticize the biggest American victory of the war of 1812 in a similar manner.
The same thing happened with paintings of naval battles. Just as British artists made epic paintings of Lord Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar, American artists painted the naval victories of the United States Navy in a similar fashion.
Not that any of this talk of paintings lessens the importance of the American victory at New Orleans. As we discuss in the podcast, the implications for both North America and Europe were huge. Had the battle gone the other way, the maps of both continents may be totally different today. In fact, now I’ve got some ideas on alternate-history stories!