The Touro Buildings on Canal Street – Podcast

The Touro Buildings on Canal Street – Podcast

The Touro Buildings

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.

Touro Buildings

Second Christ Episcopal, Bourbon and Canal (public domain image courtesy THNOC)

Christ Episcopal

Touro Buildings

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

Touro Building

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

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

Touro Buildings

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canal Street, 1890s

Canal Street, 1890s

Canal Street 1890s.

Canal street 1890s

700 and 800 blocks of Canal Street, early 1890s

The CBD – Canal Street, 1890s – Before electric streetcars

A Mugnier photo depicts an interesting transitional period. Electricity arrived for buildings, but not yet for streetcars. That puts the photo pre-1894, but not much earlier. Mugnier stood on the corner of Canal and Baronne Streets. The left side of the photo is of the 800 block of Canal Street. Building numbers are still on the old system. So, the first address at the river was #1, then 2, etc. That’s how Kreeger’s is #149.

Notice that “S. Kuhn”, the store next to D.H. Holmes (left) has a sign that says “Kid Glove Depot. Kreegers’ sign next door says the same thing. In 1897, the Krausz Brothers specialized in gloves in their shop at 835 Canal as well.

700 Block of Canal

The Touro Buildings, in the 700 block, can’t be seen for the trees. Trees in the neutral ground of Canal Street helped beautify Canal. While they helped at the time, they cover up some of the street rail operations! So, there’s a carpet store at the corner of Bourbon and Canal. Fellman Brothers, in the 700 block, dissolved in 1892. It’s hard to tell if the Fellman store is Fellman Brothers (pre-1892), or B. Fellman. Leon Fellman split with brother Bernard in 1892. He moved his store down to the Mercier Buildings, as did S.J. Shwartz. He split with his family after the 1892 fire at A. Shwartz and Son. Abram passed away, and Simon also opened a new store in the Mercier Buildings.

Streetcars

“Bob-tail” streetcars from the Johnson Car Company sit on either side of the Clay Monument. Clay’s full base is visible. Mules provide the streetcar power. So, when the Canal Street line was electrified, the base was cut back drastically. On the right, one streetcar travels inbound, possibly turning at St. Charles Avenue. Two horse-drawn Hanson cabs sit on opposite sides of the neutral ground

 

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

Heather Elizabeth Designs

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.

800 Block Canal Street, 1864

800 Block Canal Street, 1864

800 Block Canal Street

800 block canal street

800 Block Canal Street in 1864. W.D. Mcpherson photo.

800 block Canal Street – Shopping!

The Canal Streetcar line is about three years old at the time of this photo. None of the mule-drawn, “bobtail” streetcars appear here. The greenery on the sides of the Canal Street neutral ground isn’t grown-out yet, so the tracks are visible.

The photographer, William D. Mcpherson, is upstairs in a building in the block between Carondelet Street and St. Charles Avenue. That’s Christ Episcopal in the top left, at the corner of Canal and Dauphine. It’s only seven years old in that photo. It’s the second church the congregation built, moving to Dauphine from Bourbon when Judah Touro made them an offer they couldn’t refuse for their location at Canal and Bourbon.

The anchor on the block is Daniel Henry Holmes’ dry goods store. It was twenty-four years old in this photo. D. H. Holmes wouldn’t become a full-blown “department store” for another forty years, but the Irishman already made his mark on Canal Street by the 1860s. Shopping on Canal Street wouldn’t go further up Canal for another 20 years, and wouldn’t reach the end of the French Quarter until the 1900s, with Krauss Department Store. 

Street Addresses

The addresses on the stores in the photo follow the “old” pattern for Canal Street. Rather than go by blocks (100, 200, 300), buildings were numbered individually at this time. So, D. H. Holmes was 155 Canal, James Ryback, importer, was at 149, J.A. daRocha & Co. at 147 Canal. A dress and cloak maker, Mrs. Charles Brown, was at 145 Canal.

By June of 1864, New Orleans was two years under Union occupation. The blockade of the United States Navy was long over. Trade and commerce coming in through the port was back in full swing. While the city was unable to move goods out of New Orleans because of the war, the city no longer suffered from being cut off from the rest of the world. The well-documented tensions between the Union army and the locals were in full swing, but the immigrant laborers who worked along the river were back at work.

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

800 block canal street

The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.

New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

krauss

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 Street – May 31, 1964

The “Last Streetcar” on Canal Street – May 31, 1964

The Last Streetcar on Canal (for forty years)

last streetcar

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.

35 Remained

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.

Learn more!

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.”