Mid-City New Orleans: MB Carrollton, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans: MB Carrollton, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans

mid-city new orleans

Shopping center at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans

Mid-City began to grow as a neighborhood in the 1860s. That’s when the New Orleans City Railroad extended the Canal Street streetcar line to the cemeteries. By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Sicilian community outgrew the French Quarter and Faubourg Treme. So, they moved to Mid-City. The New Basin Canal attracted businesses and light industry along its banks. Consequently, those businesses made the neighborhood attractive for others who didn’t need to be on the canal but benefited from the being in the neighborhood. Naturally, workers at these businesses wanted a shorter commute. So, families left the city’s “original” neighborhoods.

Therefore, by World War II, Mid-City New Orleans was an “established” neighborhood. St. Anthony of Padua Parish, on Canal and S. St. Patrick Streets, was twenty-five years old. So, the corner of  Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue was already a commercial nexus. As the war effort began to ramp up in the first half of 1942, more folks moved to Mid-City. Higgins Industries opened several plants, in Lakeview and near City Park. More families moved closer to work.

Post-War Mid-City

New Orleans enjoyed the post-war boom, like the rest of the nation. Therefore, men and women took advantage of the GI Bill to continue their educations. They built houses in the suburbs with Veterans Administration loans. The Interstate Highway System didn’t exist in the late forties. The main access to Metairie was US 61, Airline Highway. Developers knew the city planned to fill in the New Basin Canal. That meant getting to Mid-City from Jefferson Parish via Airline was even easier. Tulane Avenue connected the CBD with Mid-City, Airline Highway connected the ‘burbs with the neighborhood. A new commercial nexus was born.

Maison Blanche recognized this connection. The store’s management knew the Airline-Tulane-CBD route made it simple to get to Canal Street. While that was appealing, going to town was still a bit of a drive. Maison Blanche expanded to Mid-City New Orleans in 1948. So, they opened the store you see in this photograph. As a result, after 51 years of operation on Canal Street, Maison Blanche became a chain.

MB Carrollton sold the same merchandise as the main store. The store’s delivery network already reached out across the metro area. The second store allowed shoppers to cut back on their drive from Metairie.

Beyond Mid-City

Maison Blanche continued to expand beyond the CBD and Mid-City. D. H. Holmes followed MB, reaching out to the suburbs as well. Krauss Department Store chose not to. Krauss remained a one-store business until is closure in 1997. Maison Blanche Department Stores no longer exist. While malls dominated in the 1960s and 1970s, MB Carrollton became a budget store. The Mid-City location is now a Nike shoe/clothing outlet. The main store on Canal Street is a hotel.

mb book

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

Maison Blanche Department Stores

On October 30, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman―with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman―opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building―13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character “Mr. Bingle,” in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Cemeteries Terminal on the Canal Street Line #StreetcarSaturday

Cemeteries Terminal on the Canal Street Line #StreetcarSaturday

The Cemeteries Terminal

cemeteries terminal

Two NORTA 2000-series “Von Dullen” streetcars at the Cemeteries

The Cemeteries Terminal – End of the line

If you ride the Canal Street line from its beginning at the foot of Canal Street, you come to the Cemeteries Terminal, 4.3 miles later. The New Orleans City Railroad Company began operations on the Canal Street line on June 15, 1861. The original route as from the foot of Canal Street to the company’s barn, at Canal and N. White Streets. By August 24, 1861, however, the company extended the line to Bayou Metairie. This is now the intersection of Canal Street and City Park Avenue. The reason for the fast expansion was that people wanted to get up to the Cemeteries located in the neighborhood. Cypress Grove Cemetery, St. Patrick Cemetery, and several Jewish cemeteries were already in what is now the Mid-City area. So, the end of the Canal Street line became the “cemeteries.”

Growth of Mid-City New Orleans

The Mid-City neighborhood grew out from the French Quarter and Faubourg Treme. Light industry and other businesses set themselves up along the New Basin Canal. Folks working in those businesses took the Canal Streetcar to work. Eventually, they bought lots in Mid-City and built houses. By the 1900s, the Sicilians expanded into Mid-City to the point that the archdiocese granted the community permission to form a new parish. St. Anthony of Padua became Mid-City’s parish in 1915. All the while, people from many communities regularly took the streetcar up to the cemeteries.

The Original Terminal

cemeteries terminal

Cemeteries Terminal, 1964. (courtesy Mike Strauch, www.streetcarmike.com)

The end of the Canal Line was a two-track terminal until 1964. At various points, the streetcar tracks turned left and right onto City Park Avenue. The West End line went to the foot of Canal, then turned left, to continue to the lake. The Canal line ran as belt service with the Esplanade line, streetcars turned right onto City Park Avenue. The Canal line ran down City Park Avenue to Esplanade. They crossed the bayou at Esplanade Avenue, and continued down to N. Rampart Street. The Cemeteries Terminal was a busy place!

The Modern Terminal

Cemeteries Terminal

NORTA 2003, outbound, pauses before the Cemeteries Terminal, to let NORTA 2019 leave.

When the Canal line returned in 2004, so did the Cemeteries Terminal. Canal Street was one lane wider on either side, though. That meant there was only room for one track at the end of the line. When a streetcar leaves the terminal, it travels in the street for two blocks, before re-entering the neutral ground.

If there’s a streetcar in the terminal when a second car arrives, the new car pauses just before the switch that merges the tracks. The now-inbound car heads out, the outbound car pulls in. At busy times, two cars will enter the terminal. They’ll both leave at the same time. This usually happens on days when a big event happens downtown. A lot of folks take advantage of free parking around the cemeteries. They hop the streetcar and head to the river. Additionally, two cars double-up in the terminal when one of them gets way behind schedule.

Operations

Here’s a pair of 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars at Cemeteries. The now-lead car (which was the last one in) pulls out. By the time I finished recording this car, the one behind it pulled out as well!

Cemeteries Terminal

The modern Cemeteries Terminal

That left me standing in an empty terminal.

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New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line (Arcadia’s Images of America Series)

cemeteries terminal

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

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.

Cemetery Sunday – Angelo Brocato, Sr, Metairie Cemetery

Cemetery Sunday – Angelo Brocato, Sr, Metairie Cemetery

Angelo Brocato, Sr, founder of Brocato’s Ice Cream

Angelo Brocato

Brocato Family tomb, Metairie Cemetery

Angelo Brocato, Sr – Ice Cream and Pastries

Angelo Brocato, Sr, was born in Cefalù, Sicily, on May 25, 1875. At the age of twelve, he apprenciced in an ice cream shop in the Sicilian city of Palermo. Brocato emigrated to the United States, coming to New Orleans, where he plied his trade. He soon opened his own shop, on Decatur Street. At this time the Italian groceries like Central and Progress were anchors on Decatur Street. The French Market was across the street. So, this combination was perfect for an ice cream shop. That shop grew in popularity. By 1905, Brocato needed a bigger location. He moved the shop to the 500 block of Ursulines Street. Brocato’s clientele kept growing, to the point where Angelo moved the shop in 1921, to 612-614 Ursulines. This location is now occupied by the Croissant d’Or coffee shop. You can still Angelo Brocato’s name in the tiles at the front door.

From the French Quarter to Mid-City

Brocato’s sold their ice cream and pastries at 612-614 Ursulines from 1921 to 1978. The family purchased a building on N. Carrollton Avenue that year. Much of the Sicilian community moved away from the French Quarter to Mid-City in the early 1900s. Still, Brocato’s stayed for over fifty years. Now, the shop is a Mid-City institution. Angelo Sr’s ice cream, along with his Italian Ices, fig cookies, cannolis, and other goodies define Mid-City. The French Quarter store closed in 1981. The family returned to the Quarter in 1984. Brocato’s opened a second store in the Lower Pontalba Building, at the corner of Rue Chartres and Rue St. Ann. This shop closed after the 1984 World’s Fair closed.

Angelo Brocato, Sr passed away on July 25, 1946. He was buried in Metairie Cemetery. His son, Angelo, Jr, continued to run the business until his death in 1982. Angelo Jr is also buried in the family tomb.

The Brocato tomb is typical of many “double tombs” in New Orleans. The BVM statue is a common addition on tombs owned by Catholic families.