Podcast #2 – “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Podcast #2 – “A Streetcar Named Desire”

NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)

NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)

This weekend is the annual Tennessee Williams Festival, and tomorrow will be the festival’s “Stella” yelling contest, conjuring the spirit of “Streetcar Named Desire” in the streets of New Orleans. “Desire” was a metaphor to Williams, but the Desire streetcar line was real, and an important route, tying the Upper Ninth Ward to the rest of the city.

Show notes:

Signbox for a 900-series arch roof streetcar. "DESIRE" sign made for the box by Earl Hampton.

Signbox for a 900-series arch roof streetcar. “DESIRE” sign made for the box by Earl Hampton.

Desire!

Tennessee Williams (courtesy of Hotel Monteleone)

Tennessee Williams (courtesy of Hotel Monteleone)

Tennessee Williams, relaxing at the Hotel Monteleone, 1950s.

dirty coast

River – Lake – Uptown – Downtown by Dirty Coast

Buy this t-shirt from Dirty Coast and you’ll get oriented quickly.

desire line 1920

Route of the Desire line, 1920-1923

Desire Line route, 1920-1923. Dark = outbound, Light = inbound

desire line 1923-1948

Route of the Desire line, 1923-1948

Desire Line route, 1920-1923. Dark = outbound, Light = inbound

vivien leigh streetcar

Vivien Leigh in “A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951 (video screnshot)

“Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemetery and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields.”

722 Toulouse Street

722 Toulouse Street

When Tennessee Williams arrived in New Orleans in 1938, he took a room here, at 722 Toulouse Street. Now it’s the offices of the Historic New Orleans Collection. WGNO “News with a Twist” did a great spot on the house this week.

royal street 1951

Royal Street in Faubourg Marigny, 1951 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

The streetcar tracks are gone in this 1951 photo of Royal Street in the Marigny, but it’s a good idea of what riders of the Desire line saw on their way into town.

Looking down N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Looking down N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Looking up N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1946 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Looking up N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1946 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Two views of the Upper Ninth Ward from 1946 and 1947. These shots of N. Tonti Street at Pauline are a good illustration of the houses and buildings in the neighborhood serviced by the Desire line.

NORTA 29

NORTA 29, the last Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. (Edward Branley photo)

The first streetcars to run on the Desire line were single-truck Ford, Bacon, and Davis cars. NORTA 29 (ex-NOPSI 29) is the last FB&D streetcar.

nopsi 888 on desire

NOPSI 888, running on the Desire Line, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

The 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars operated on the Desire line from 1923, until its discontinuance in 1948.

nopsi bus desire line

NOPSI Bus on Dauphine, 1954 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

The streetcar tracks were ripped up in 1948, and “A Bus Named Desire” took over bringing commuters to and from the Ninth Ward to Canal Street.

streetcars of new orleans

The Streetcars of New Orleans, by Hennick and Charlton, 1964 (amazon link)

The Streetcars of New Orleans by Hennick and Charlton – the authoritative reference on New Orleans streetcars to 1964

streetcars hampton

The Streetcars of New Orleans, 1964 – Present by Earl Hampton (amazon link)

Earl Hampton’s book, The Streetcars of New Orleans, 1964-Present, picks up where Hennick and Charlton leave off.

My book, New Orleans, The Canal Streetcar Line. Amazon Link | Signed Copies here.

Wakin’ Bakin’ on Banks Street in Mid City

hnoc

The Historic New Orleans Collection 

Desire on Bourbon, 1947

Desire on Bourbon, 1947

NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)

NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)

This is a great image of an 800-series arch roof streetcar. Running on the Desire line, 830 is at Bourbon and St. Peter. The LOUIS record says it’s a photo shot for LIFE magazine in 1958. but there’s a problem with that. The Desire line transitioned to bus service in 1948!

To focus on the actual date of this image, let’s look at the ad on the streetcar. NOPSI 830 celebrates the 25th anniversary of WWL-AM Radio (870). The station was founded in 1922, so its 25th was in 1947.

The story of the Desire line is fascinating, and will be the subject of our next NOLA History Guy Podcast.

The Esplanade Barn, New Orleans City Railroad Company

Detail from Plate 22 of the Robinson Atlas, New Orleans, 1881

Detail from Plate 22 of the Robinson Atlas, New Orleans, 1881

In 2004, when I wrote the book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, I did a bit of research into the company that originally built the Canal line, the New Orleans City Railroad Company (NOCRR). In addition to the Canal line, they also started the Esplanade line, and operated a car barn on Esplanade/Moss, near Bayou St. John. Based on this section of the map, it looks like block 492 is Pitot House, which was built in the 1790s. Then comes a streetcar facility, which would include a barn for the streetcars, as well as a barn for the mules that pulled them.

Google Earth view of Esplanade Aveue, Moss St, and Bayou St. John.

Google Earth view of Esplanade Aveue, Moss St, and Bayou St. John.

Here’s the present-day view of the area. You can see Pitot House, then a playground, then Cabrini High School, then Holy Rosary church.

I’ve been through the “plan book” plates and transactions from the period for this part of the city at the Notarial Archives, and I’ve come up with nothing documenting the purchase of this property by NOCRR. I’ve also got nothing on the transfer of the property back to the city (for the playground).

I would love to find a photo of this car barn, so if anyone has any thoughts on further sources to research, I’d appreciate the input.

Streetcar at the New Orleans Custom House, 1916

Ford, Bacon and Davis streetcar, operating on Canal Street, ca 1915-16

Ford, Bacon and Davis streetcar, operating on Canal Street, ca 1915-16

Streetcars on Canal

The record for this photo of the Custom House by Frank B. More (in the University of New Orleans collection) is undated, but the streetcar narrows it down a good bit. The Ford Bacon, & Davis single-truck streetcar has “NO Ry & L Co.” painted on its side. This stands for “New Orleans Railway and Light Company”, the second attempt at consolidating streetcar operations in New Orleans. The company was formed in 1915, and eventually became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated, in 1921.

The FB&D streetcars were the workhorses of the “backatown” lines at the turn of the century. While the larger, “double-truck” streetcars ran on the larger lines, such as St. Charles and Canal, the smaller “single-truck” cars spread out into the neighborhoods. Their smaller size enabled them to navigate turns on streets that would dramatically slow down the larger cars. At this time, the Custom House was undergoing extensive interior renovations. The building originally housed the federal courts for New Orleans, but what is now the John Minor Wisdom Building on Camp Street, by Lafayette Square, was just completed. The federal courts and the Post office moved out of the Canal Street building, over to the new location.

Another interesting aspect of this photo is the street vendor to the left, on Decatur Street. Unlike in the movies, I don’t have the technology to “clean that up”, and miraculously read the sign on the cart, to determine what he’s selling. Given all the federal employees that worked in the Custom House, I’m sure that cart did a brisk lunch business.

The easiest way to date most old photos is to look at the make and model of any automobiles in the photo. In the absence of automobiles, however, it can be a challenge. Streetcars were used for decades; the FB&D in this photo likely arrived in New Orleans and went into service in 1894-95. Since the iconic Union Sheet Metal light poles, with their three fleur-de-lis lamps are not visible, we can at least establish that this photo was taken prior to 1930. But the streetcar itself helps anyway for this one, because of the company name.

This photo is also in my book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line.

NOLA History Guy Podcast #1

podcastlogo1

We’re calling it #1 this time because it’s a reboot. 🙂

December 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus.

Here’s the Library of Congress article about that event. From the article:

The problem with this story is that it backgrounds all the work – the organizing, the building, the fundraising and traveling – that laid the ground work for that moment to turn into a movement and the effort that kept it going for a year. It turns the Montgomery bus boycott into an obvious event that was destined to succeed, rather than one created by the visions, efforts and continued steadfastness of ordinary people.

1928 NOPSI memo concerning “race screens”.

Franck photo of an arch roof streetcar from 1948, showing the Jim Crow "race screens"

Franck photo of an arch roof streetcar from 1948, showing the Jim Crow “race screens”

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

Order a signed copy from the author.

Buy the book on Amazon.com

 

Monday Streetcar Blogging – “Palace” on N. Rampart Street, 1918

Screenshot from 2015-10-26 08:15:10

From 1918: New Orleans Railway and Light Company’s streetcar #025 running outbound on N. Rampart Street, on the Dauphine line. This is a “Palace” streetcar, from the American Car Company of St. Louis. To the right is a single-truck Ford, Bacon and Davis streetcar, heading inbound to Canal Street. NORwy&L 025 is passing The Arlington Restaurant in the 100 block of N. Rampart.