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The Touro Buildings
Touro Buildings, 1873 (public domain image courtesy THNOC)
The Touro Buildings – Canal Street Retail
This pod begins a series we’ll be presenting on the connections between Krauss Department Store and other merchants up and down Canal Street. The logical place to start is the 700 block of Canal Street, between Royal and Bourbon Streets. From it’s beginnings as the first location of Christ Episcopal Church, to the end of the 19th Century, the 700 block is the story of the Touro Buildings and the merchants who set up shop there.
Second Christ Episcopal, Bourbon and Canal (public domain image courtesy THNOC)
700 Block of Canal Street, ca 1842. (public domain image courtesy THNOC)
Christ Episcopal was founded in 1805. They built their first church on Canal and Bourbon in 1816. That church lasted about 25 years. Because Protestant Americans kept moving to New Orleans, they outgrew the church. So, the chapter demolished the first church. They built a second on the same corner. The second church looked like a Greek temple, with six massive Ionic columns. The second church serviced the congregation until 1846. The chapter needed more land for a larger church. They purchased the corner of Canal and Dauphine, in the 900 block of Canal Street.
The chapter sold the second church to businessman Judah Touro. Touro worked to buy up the 700 block of Canal. While he acquired the rest of the block, he set up Temple Sinai in the church in the 700 block. While Touro wrapped up the 700 block, he moved Temple Sinai further uptown. He demolished the buildings in the 700 block of Canal. He built the “Touro Buildings,” a set of four-story buildings with shared walls, townhouse-style. Touro opened the buildings for lease in 1852.
A. Shwartz and Sons
Sanborn Fire map of 700 block of Canal St, 1856 (public domain image courtesy Tulane Howard-Tilton Library)
Abraham Shwartz was born in 1820. He opened his store, A. Shwartz Dry Goods, in the 1840s. In 1852, he moved into the newly-opened Touro Buildings. So, the store become A Shwartz & Sons in the 1870s, when Abraham’s firstborn, Nathan, joined the company. Abram’s second son, Leon, soon followed. When third son Simon was old enough to join the company, he traveled to New York, to become the company’s buyer in that city.
Bernard and Leon Fellman
Touro Buildings, 1880s. (S.T. Blessing photo in the public domain)
Bernard and Leon Fellman came to New Orleans in the 1860s, and opened their first store in the Touro Buildings in 1873. In 1878, they expanded from the first store at 133 Canal, opening a second store down the block at 129 Canal. In 1889, The brothers split. Leon bypassed the 800 block of Canal, moving to the Mercier Buildings in the 900 block. So, Bernard closed 133 Canal, keeping 129 Canal as B. Fellman Dry Goods.
The Fire, 16-February-1892
Fire in the 700 block of Canal Street, 16-Feb-1892 (public domain photo courtesy THNOC)
Almost the entire 700 block of Canal Street, the Touro Buildings, were destroyed in a fire on February 16, 1892. The fire burned out both the Shwartz and Fellman stores. The impact of the fire was dramatic. Abram Shwartz died weeks later, of a heart attack. The family always said the loss of the store killed him. Bernard Fellman’s store burned as well. While Bernard’s health was not good before the fire, the circumstances did not improve him. He passed away on September 3, 1892. His family did continue to operate the store into the 20th century.
The MB Book!
Maison Blanche Department Stores
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.”