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.
1201 Canal Street, the old Krauss Department Store building.
I’m pleased to announce that my proposal for a book on Krauss Department Store has been accepted by The History Press! Krauss was a beloved institution on Canal Street. The Krauss brothers opened the store in 1903, and it closed in 1997. In just the preliminary looking around that Lady Duchess of the Red Pen, the lovely and talented Dara Rochlin, worked up, we’re finding out some interesting things about the Krausz/Krauss family.
This is how the process of doing a book for The History Press goes. You come up with an idea for the book. There are submission guidelines and a proposal template on the THP website. The proposal is pretty straightforward. I’ll blog about that on my Edward J. Branley site, since that’s where I talk about writing and process. An acquisitions editor at THP (or Arcadia, for one of the company’s other imprints) contacts you back, to let you know their interest in your proposal. If they’re interested, the editor brings the proposal to the publishing committee. If the committee approves the proposal, you go to work.
The lead time on a THP book is six months at a minimum. THP wants a Christmas-season release for this book, so I’ll need to have all the images for this book ready by February. Unlike the Images of America books, there’s a lot more text to a THP title, so I’ll need to have the 30-33K words done by March. Then the acquisitions editor passes the project off to a development editor who applies the red pen. (Naturally, Lady Duchess will look over the manuscript before I give it to THP, but I’ll pay for her review myself.)
Once the book is signed and sealed by the development editor, it goes to production. The book hits the stores! The marketing and PR people work with the author on all that. That whole process is a ways away, obviously.
I need your help with Krauss stuff!
If you have Krauss stuff–photos, Krauss-logo items, etc., please let me know. The best history book are those that use and develop primary sources. There’s an extensive archive of Krauss stuff at UNO, but the book becomes more personal with your stuff. If readers make a personal connection, they’re likely to buy the book.
If you have memories of Krauss–did you shop there? Did you work there? Did family members work there? I’d love to hear the stories! There’s more words in a THP book, therefore room for telling the story in this book than there was in my Maison Blanche book (an Images of America title). Please drop me an email at email@example.com and let’s get in touch!
Maroon Monday – 1944
This week’s Maroon Monday takes us back to World War II.
Maison Blanche ad from the Loyola Maroon, October 27, 1944.
October, 1944 – The Allies invaded Europe in June of that year, and the war in the Pacific was still hot and heavy. Still, Loyola University continued its mission, educating the men and women still at home in the United States. The Loyola Maroon, the student newspaper, still went to press. Even students needed to have a “business dress” wardrobe, for school functions, social events, etc.
“Definitely collegiate” the ad says, and that makes sense. Wool herringbone pattern fabric made for a more laid-back suit than, say, classic blue serge. Herringbone tweed is the classic “professor’s” sport coat. When I was on the Brother Martin High debate team in the mid-1970s, I absolutely loved my wool-herringbone suit. It was a dark green, and just perfect for scholarly pursuits like speech and debate. The ad’s suggestions show the level of formality of the time. Wearing a suit to “spectator sports?”
Naturally, the collegiate looking for a suit in 1944 would head to Canal Street for a suit. He’d likely pass on the higher-end men’s shops, like Porter’s or Rubenstein’s, in favor of one of the big department stores, like D. H. Holmes or Maison Blanche.
MB knew their prices would be better suited to the student budget. The young man in need of such a suit could jump on the St. Charles streetcar, ride it from uptown to Canal Street, and walk from Carondelet and Canal, cross Canal Street, then head one block up Canal to Dauphine and Maison Blanche. The men’s department of the “Greatest Store South” was on the first floor. The young man would be greeted by a salesman who would take his measurments, grab the suit that caught his eye in the proper size, and then mark it up for the tailor. It would be ready in a few days, and he would be ready for that next football game, or on-campus social function.
As a writer, this triggers all sorts of inspiration for a story. A young man, at MB, buying a suit, while other young men his age are in France and Belgium, fighting the Nazis. Why was he home? Why wasn’t he in a plane over Europe, or in a Higgins Boat, landing on islands in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese? Oh, the possibilities…
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
For more on the fascinating history of Maison Blanche, be sure to pick up my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.