Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
Cover of Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, by Edward J. Branley
The cover of the Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
And here it is! Here’s the back-cover text:
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.
Krauss book drops on 25-September
I’m excited! This was a fun story to tell. So much here–Jewish retailing families, Storyville, the Creoles of Treme, transportation…even a Pontchartrain Beach connection! From Leon Fellman to the Krauss Brothers, to Leon Heymann, his son, Jimmy, grandson Jerry, Krauss was a family operation. Like many department stores, Krauss was a large extended family. Krauss to touched many people over the years.
The book chronicles the store’s how Leon Fellman decided to buy up the 1200 block of Canal Street. He built a store that the length of the block. Fellman leased that building to the Krauss brothers. They turned the building into a “veritable trade palace” whose lifetime spanned almost the entire 20th Century. Krauss rode the highs and lows of New Orleans, including two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the post-war boom years of the 1950s and 1960s. The store didn’t pop up at once, of course, growing back from Fellman’s original building. Krauss eventually filled up the entire block from Canal to Iberville Street, then the block behind that, Iberville Street to Bienville Street! The store was right in front of Storyville, right next to the train station, as well as in the hearts of many.
The Last Streetcar on Canal (for forty years)
NOPSI 972, coming out of the barn on Canal Street for the last time. (Courtesy Tulane LaRC)
Which “Last Streetcar?”
The last day of regular service on the old Canal line was May 30, 1964. There are a number of interpretations as to which run was the “last” streetcar. Irby Aucoin’s famous photo from the night before is arguably the last “revenue” run. This car, 972, the next morning, was the last streetcar on the two-track main on Canal. That wasn’t a “regular” run, however. NOPSI started cutting down the overhead wire right behind 972. There were slowdowns to the point where that last trip took hours instead of minutes. Still, that banner on the side was big news, as 972 switched off of the Canal main track. When the car turned onto the third track that makes the turn to St. Charles Avenue, Canal service was gone.
When 972 turned onto St. Charles that morning in 1964, plans that were long-made came to completion. NOPSI kept 35 of the arch roof streetcars of the 900-series for operations on the St. Charles line. They earned the nickname “Charlie cars.” Some of the remaining 800- and 900-series cars were donated/sold to museums and private collectors. The rest were unceremoniously cut in half and scrapped. NOPSI had no interest in fighting with the so-called “streetcar activists” that appeared on the scene after the announcement that Canal would be discontinued. So, they cut down the wires, cut up the streetcars, and deployed a fleet of green, air-conditioned, modern Flixible buses.
NOPSI promised the people of Lakeview and Lakeshore “express” bus service that would enable them to get on a bus within blocks of their homes, then ride into the CBD in air-conditioning. No transfer at the foot of Canal Street, to ride a streetcar in sorry shape. No crowds bunched together in the heat, humidity, and rain of the spring and summer. Nothing the uptown folks could do or say would convince the people who actually used the Canal line at the time to change their minds.
Bus ridership changed dramatically during the forty years of no streetcars on Canal. When the red Von Dullen cars took to the street in 2004, people were ready for a ride from City Park Avenue into town. Air conditioning doesn’t hurt, either.
Check out my book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series, or check out our podcast on “Riding the Belt.”
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.
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.
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.