Krauss and the Union Passenger Terminal New Orleans
Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans, 2016
The Union Passenger Terminal
The Union Passenger Terminal (UPT) is New Orleans’ train station. Constructed in 1952, it replaced five passenger terminals located at various points in the city. UPT has a direct connection to Krauss Department Store, in that one of the stations it replaced was Terminal Station, located at Canal and Basin Streets. Terminal Station was right next to Krauss from 1908 to 1954. When UPT was completed, the city demolished Terminal Station. Canal Street shoppers never fully realized just how big Krauss Department Store was, because Terminal Station obscured the store’s depth.
Terminal Station was still nine years away when Leon Fellman bought the buildings in the 1200 block of Canal Street in 1899, and five years away when Krauss opened in 1903. The station had a wonderful symbiotic relationship with the store for all those years. You forgot something for your trip to New Orleans, and there was this department store with absolutely everything right next door when you got off the train! The concierges and staffs at the downtown hotels also knew this, and regularly steered guests to Krauss for those last-minute essentials and other purchases.
Visitors to the City
There is so much more to the story of UPT, and we’ll go more in-depth on that at some point. When the landscape of even a few blocks changes, like the area around Krauss after Terminal Station vanished, it’s important to make the connections. Krauss had the next-door neighbor connection to the Southern Railway and Gulf, Mobile and Ohio, both of which came into the station on Basin Street. Passengers coming to Canal Street from Union Station on Howard Avenue came to S. Rampart and Canal, just a block from Krauss. The buyers at Krauss knew this, and made sure the visitors saw enticing goods as they passed by.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.