American Standard Gentilly: Manufacturing
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
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.
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, 1948
American Standard Gentilly was a major contributor to the local economy into the 1980s.
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, 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.
Terminal Station fades into history
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.
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Pontchartrain Beach, 1940
Labor Day is considered the traditional end of summer. In New Orleans, that meant it was the last weekend of the year for Pontchartrain Beach, the beloved local amusement park.
Main Gate of the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park, 1929
Pontchartrain Beach opened on the east side of Bayou St. John in 1929. Harry J. Batt, Sr, had observed the highs and lows of the Spanish Fort venues on the other side of the bayou. His family’s ice manufacturing business supplied ice to many lakefront businesses, and Batt decided to start his own amusement park.
At Pontchartrain Beach
Bath House built by the WPA at Pontchartrain Beach
The Great Depression actually gave Pontchartrain Beach a customer base, as locals didn’t have a lot of money to take out of town vacations. Works Progress Administration construction projects helped improve the infrastructure of the city, including a new bath house on Lake Pontchartrain at the end of Elysian Fields. That bath house prompted Harry Batt to move his amusement park from the bayou to Milneburg.
Works Progress Administration badge in the sidewalk at Marigny St. and Gentilly Blvd.
Not only did the WPA build the bath house at the end of Elysian Fields Avenue, but they also improved many streets in Gentilly. The WPA turned Elysian Fields Avenue from a shell road into a 4-lane boulevard with a wide neutral ground, leading right to Pontchartrain Beach.
Because Pontchartrain Beach was a segregated facility that used Federal funds, the city was required to build a “separate but equal” facility for African-Americans, Lincoln Beach, in what is now New Orleans East.
NAS New Orleans, on Lake Pontchartrain
World War II saw a huge amount of development along Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. One of the big facilities on the lake was Naval Air Station New Orleans. It was right next to Pontchartrain Beach. While the base was important to the war effort, it was not very useful for the Cold War. The base is now the main campus of the University of New Orleans.
Margie Johnson Thienemann, 3-June-1949 (Courtesy K. G. Thienemann)
While the Batts traveled the world to find quality rides for The Beach, the mile-long beach area was one of the main attractions. Hanging out on the beach was a great way to relax on a summer weekend. Margie Johnson Thienemann was one of many folks who soaked up the summer sun at the Beach.
The Bali Hai at Pontchartrain Beach
Since food at The Beach was basically carnival-midway fare, the Batts also operated the Bali Hai, a “Tiki” restaurant next to the amusement park.