Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

maison blanche airline

Maison Blanche Airline, 1956 (Franck Studios photo)

The first suburban MB – Maison Blanche Airline

When S. J. Shwartz founded Maison Blanche in 1897, MB was a single store on Canal Street. It remained that way until 1947, when the company opened its second location, at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. A year later, the company went out to Gentilly, opening a store at Frenchmen Street and Gentilly Boulevard. In the late 1940s, post WWII, Gentilly was considered a “suburb” with respect to the rest of the city.

The “real” suburbs of New Orleans at that time were around, but did not have the economic significance they would have later. Jefferson Parish had three distinct neighborhoods close to the city: Jefferson, Metairie, and Bucktown. Going downriver from the city, St. Bernard Parish had Arabi, Chalmette, and Meraux. While both parishes had towns further out, these were the ‘burbs.

Getting to Jefferson Parish

maison blanche airline

Tulane Avenue in the 1950s (Morrison Collection, NOPL)

The main conduit connecting modern East Jefferson to New Orleans is I-10, but the interstate highway system was just in the planning stages in the 1950s. President Eisenhower saw the value of the autobahn system in Germany, and wanted that for the US. In the meantime, folks living outside the city proper needed routes to get back into the stores, shops, and other establishments.

mid-city new orleans maison blanche airline

Shopping center at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1952

Rather than expand out into Jefferson Parish immediately, MB opened their first store in Mid-City. The Tulane and Carrollton location appealed to the the growning Mid-City and Lakeview neighborhoods, because folks didn’t have to go all the way to the CBD. S. Carrollton Avenue was where Tulane Avenue became Airline Highway. Airline was US Hwy 61, which led out of town and northwest to Baton Rouge. As Metairie began to expand, those folks came to the edge of town to shop at MB.

Opening in the suburbs

Crescent Drive-in on Airline Highway in Metairie, 1950 (Franck Studios Photo)

The property along Airline Highway in the late 1940s was largely undeveloped and inexpensive. In 1950, the Crescent Drive-In opened, along with the Crescent Shopping Center next door. The main reason drive-ins across the country closed was rising property values. The owners would sell to developers, and they’d move the drive-in further out into the burbs. By 1955, this happened to the Crescent. Developers built the Airline Village Shopping Center on the property. The main anchor of Airline Village was Maison Blanche Airline.

MB Airline attracted shoppers from the growing subdivisions along Metairie Road. Folks who lived near St. Martin’s Episcopal and St. Catherine of Sienna churches took Metairie Road to Atherton Drive, and turned towards Airline. They’d cross the railroad tracks (the “back belt”), and ended up right in the back parking lot of Maison Blanche Airline.

Shopping at MB Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Like the stores on Carrollton and in Gentilly, MB Airline carried the same product lines the main store on Canal Street did. If there was something advertised in the paper that wasn’t available on the sales floor at Airline Village, the store gladly transferred it from downtown, or the customer could arrange for free home delivery.

My personal memories of MB Airline were when we lived in Old Metairie. I was a Cub Scout in the pack that was sponsored by Mullholland Memorial Methodist Church on Metairie Road. My parents would bring me from our house on Dream Court, up Metairie Road and that back route into Airline Village. MB was one of the “official” Scouting stores back then. So, that’s where we bought my uniforms, t-shirts, pocket knives, etc.

Clearview and decline

maison blanche airline

Architectural rendering, Airline Village Shopping Center

MB Airline was a resounding success for the chain well into the 1970s. When Interstate 10 opened and dominated the traffic patterns, Maison Blanche recognized the shift. They opened a new store in the Clearview Shopping Center. That mall is between I-10 and Veterans Boulevard, at the Clearview Parkway exit.

MB Airline declined rapidly after the Clearview store opened. New subdivisions developed between Veterans and the lake. Lakeside Mall and Clearview Mall became the focal points of retail shopping in Metairie. While MB Airline was convenient for residents of “Old Metairie”, everyone else favored the malls. Maison Blanche recognized this, and closed the Airline Village location.

Airline Village Today

maison blanche airline

Celebration Church (Darrell Harden photo)

The main anchor of Airline Village is now Celebration Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation.

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Krauss Service Building, 28-February-1951

Krauss Service Building, 28-February-1951

Krauss Service Building

krauss service building

Krauss Service Building, February 28, 1951

Krauss Service Building

While it was a huge store, Krauss Department Store wanted more space for shopping! This service building was a long time in planning. Krauss broke ground on the project in 1950. It opened for business in 1952. This Franck Studios photo, from February 28, 1952, shows the Krauss service building with its exterior complete. Management chose the R.P. Farnsworth construction company to build the expansion.

So, the plan for the expansion called for a building occupying the block directly behind the store. A multi-story connector joined the main building to the new expansion. The connector enabled Krauss to move physical plant services, such as electrical and air conditioning to the expansion. Combined with moving stockrooms, the new building freed up over 95,000 square feet of space in the store building. That increase in retail sales space was a major boon for Krauss.

Long Time Coming

Leon Heymann began making real estate moves to secure the block from Canal to Iberville Streets, and the block from Iberville back to Bienville Streets in the 1920s. He didn’t want to create a situation where property owners would have him over a barrel. Therefore, buying up the blocks was a slow process. By 1940, Heymann acquired all of the necessary property, and was ready to start the expansion process. He tapped his brother-in-law, Leon Wolf, and his son, Jimmy Heymann. The pair discussed building back into the second block with architects, and contractors. Wolf and Jimmy traveled to other cities, checking out the physical plant facilities other stores used. Their goal was to create a modern expansion building for Krauss that would turn the main building into more floor space for shoppers.

While the management team was ready to go, their plans ended up on hold in 1941. The United States entered World War II. It wouldn’t be until 1950 before things settled down enough that the Heymanns and Wolf felt the capital expense was practical.

1201 Canal Condominiums

The Krauss service building remained in operation until the store closed in 1997. It was converted to condominiums as part of the 1201 Canal development.

So, the book is coming! It’s titled, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store hits stores on September 25th. It’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.

800 Canal Street: So long Feibelman’s, hello Gus Mayer

800 Canal Street: So long Feibelman’s, hello Gus Mayer

800 Canal Street

800 Canal Street

The corner of Carondelet and Canal, January 12, 1949. The old Pickwick Hotel building is gone. The New Gus Mayer building replaces it. The Pickwick Hotel gets its name from the Pickwick Club. The club is a private social club that was closely associated with the Mystic Krewe of Comus carnival organization. The building went from hotel to department store in 1897. The 800 block of Canal Street has long been a significant part of New Orleans’ retail scene.

Leon Fellman and Company

In the 1890s, the two main tenants of the Mercier Building at 901 Canal Street (corner Canal and Dauphine) were dry goods stores owned by Simon Shwarz and Leon Fellman. In 1897, Simon Schwarz pitched a concept for New Orleans’ first department store to his father-in-law, Isidore Newman. Newman bought into the idea. As a result, he put up the money to back Schwarz’s concept. All Simon had to do was acquire the entire building. He succeeded, at the expense of his competitor, Leon Fellman. Fellman split with his brother in 1892, leaving the shop they owned in the Touro Buildings (the block of Canal between Royal and Bourbon Streets). Leon opened his own store with a junior partner. They did well in the 900 block, right up until Schwarz got them evicted. Fellman received notice in March of 1897 that he had to be out by October.

Move to The Pickwick

While the Pickwick Club sold the hotel years before, the name stuck. Fellman negotiated with the current owners to convert the building into retail space. He held a going-out-of-business sale over the summer of 1897, and opened on the other side of the street. While Schwarz’s Maison Blanche was flashier than Leon Fellman’s, the latter store offered quality merchandise at discount prices. Fellman rolled with the change.

Fellman to Feibelman

When Leon Fellman passed away in 1920, his family changed the name of the store from Fellman’s to Feibelman’s. Leon Fellman came to the United States from Germany as Lippman Feibelman. The family operated the store as Feibelman’s on Canal Street until 1931. They moved the store to Baronne and Common that year. In 1936, the family sold their stores to Sears, Roebuck, and Company.

Gus Mayer

With Feibelman’s now around the corner, the Pickwick Hotel building became Stein’s Department Store. So, after WWII, Gus Mayer wanted to open on Canal Street, but wasn’t interested in the time and expense involved in renovating the 800 Canal building. Gus Mayer purchased the property and demolished the building. Construction began in January, 1949. The Gus Mayer Building is still there. It’s a CVS Drugstore now.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
by Edward J. Branley

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.

American Standard Gentilly: Warplanes to Plumbing

American Standard Gentilly: Warplanes to Plumbing

American Standard Gentilly: Manufacturing

American Standard Gentilly

1944 Times Picayune photo of the Consolidated plant in Gentilly

When the United States entered World War II, New Orleans stepped up immediately. The Lakefront became the nexus of war manufacturing. Higgins Industries and Consolidated Aircraft (now Convair) led the way. The US Navy built a Naval Air Station on the lakefront, in MIlneburg. Therefore, it made sense to build aircraft manufacturing near the base. Gentilly  was about the PBY.

American Standard Gentilly – Warplanes

American Standard Gentilly

The last PBY built in Gentilly

The Consolidated Aircraft Company built seaplanes for the US Navy in WWII Gentilly. As the war went on, other planes were built at the lakefront facility, but the PBY scout planes were the plant’s big product.

American Standard Gentilly

Recruiting for Consolidated during WWII

WWII Gentilly needed workers! Not only did New Orleanians rise to the challenge, they moved out to the neighborhood. Living close to work was easy in Gentilly. Many families built homes in the area during the war. So, after the war, Gentilly experienced a serious housing boom. Men and women coming home from the war saw the area as a great area to start their families.

After the war

While the PBY was an important part of the Navy’s push forward in the Pacific, there just wasn’t the same need for the search planes. Consolidated closed the plant. WWII Gentilly needed to switch to peacetime. The aircraft plant was sold to the plumbing supply company, American Standard.

American Standard Gentilly

American Standard Gentilly, 1948

American Standard Gentilly was a major contributor to the local economy into the 1980s.

American Standard Gentilly

Interior of the American Standard Gentilly plant

The plant continued going strong for almost thirty years The high-end residential neighborhood next door, Lake Oaks managed to co-exist with the manufacturing plant next door. The folks of Lake Oaks saw the amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach to be the “noisy neighbor” in the area.

American Standard Gentilly

American Standard Gentilly, 1985

In June of 1985, a fire spread throughout the facility, burning the plant to the ground.

 

American Standard Gentilly was a total loss. The charred remains of the plant were removed. The Orleans Parish Levee District re-located their “field yard” — their vehicle maintenance yard, to the site.

 

Mid-City New Orleans: MB Carrollton, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans: MB Carrollton, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans

mid-city new orleans

Shopping center at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans

Mid-City began to grow as a neighborhood in the 1860s. That’s when the New Orleans City Railroad extended the Canal Street streetcar line to the cemeteries. By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Sicilian community outgrew the French Quarter and Faubourg Treme. So, they moved to Mid-City. The New Basin Canal attracted businesses and light industry along its banks. Consequently, those businesses made the neighborhood attractive for others who didn’t need to be on the canal but benefited from the being in the neighborhood. Naturally, workers at these businesses wanted a shorter commute. So, families left the city’s “original” neighborhoods.

Therefore, by World War II, Mid-City New Orleans was an “established” neighborhood. St. Anthony of Padua Parish, on Canal and S. St. Patrick Streets, was twenty-five years old. So, the corner of  Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue was already a commercial nexus. As the war effort began to ramp up in the first half of 1942, more folks moved to Mid-City. Higgins Industries opened several plants, in Lakeview and near City Park. More families moved closer to work.

Post-War Mid-City

New Orleans enjoyed the post-war boom, like the rest of the nation. Therefore, men and women took advantage of the GI Bill to continue their educations. They built houses in the suburbs with Veterans Administration loans. The Interstate Highway System didn’t exist in the late forties. The main access to Metairie was US 61, Airline Highway. Developers knew the city planned to fill in the New Basin Canal. That meant getting to Mid-City from Jefferson Parish via Airline was even easier. Tulane Avenue connected the CBD with Mid-City, Airline Highway connected the ‘burbs with the neighborhood. A new commercial nexus was born.

Maison Blanche recognized this connection. The store’s management knew the Airline-Tulane-CBD route made it simple to get to Canal Street. While that was appealing, going to town was still a bit of a drive. Maison Blanche expanded to Mid-City New Orleans in 1948. So, they opened the store you see in this photograph. As a result, after 51 years of operation on Canal Street, Maison Blanche became a chain.

MB Carrollton sold the same merchandise as the main store. The store’s delivery network already reached out across the metro area. The second store allowed shoppers to cut back on their drive from Metairie.

Beyond Mid-City

Maison Blanche continued to expand beyond the CBD and Mid-City. D. H. Holmes followed MB, reaching out to the suburbs as well. Krauss Department Store chose not to. Krauss remained a one-store business until is closure in 1997. Maison Blanche Department Stores no longer exist. While malls dominated in the 1960s and 1970s, MB Carrollton became a budget store. The Mid-City location is now a Nike shoe/clothing outlet. The main store on Canal Street is a hotel.

mb book

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

Maison Blanche Department Stores

On October 30, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman―with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman―opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building―13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character “Mr. Bingle,” in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Terminal Station on Canal Street fades into history – April 16, 1954

Terminal Station on Canal Street fades into history – April 16, 1954

Terminal Station fades into history

terminal station

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.

terminal station

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

terminal station

“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.

Terminal Station

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.