Downtown signs tell stories of families and their businesses

Downtown Signs

I’m still in the gathering phase for Fading Signs of New Orleans. Last week, I requested locations of electric signs from businesses gone by. They count as “faded” for the book. The response was incredible! Y’all gave me some great suggestions.

Ryan Bordenave of the Downtown Development District commented on the “Ain’t There No More” group on Facebook with a photo of downtown signs. The photo includes wall advertising and electric!

500 Block Baronne

Baronne Street attracted businesses in the CBD because of the streetcars. The St. Charles Avenue line originally used Baronne to access Canal. Both inbound and outbound streetcars on the line passed up and down Baronne.

The 500 block contained a movie theater and furniture store. The theater opened in 1906 as the Shubert The location declined in the 1940s and 1950s. The Shubert offered vaudeville and burlesque, rather than films. New owners renovated the Shubert in 1950. They renamed the theater. It operated until the late 1960s. The location re-opened as a disco in the 1970s . The theater changed ownership in 2012 and reopened as live entertainment venue.

Signs advertising “air conditioning” hearken back to times when the average house in New Orleans didn’t include that feature. Department stores and movie theaters enabled folks to escape the summer heat for a little while. Not every theater offered air conditioning.

Mintz Furniture

downtown signs

Mintz Furniture, 501 Baronne, 1950 (Franck Studios photo)

The Mintz family has operated furniture stores in New Orleans for generations. Their stores included the Baronne Street location, as well as a store in the French Quarter. The current incarnation of the family business, Hurtwitz Mintz, operates on Airline Highway in Metairie.

The height difference between the Mintz building and its neighbor offered the opportunity to place a wall sign on the side. While the electric sign was removed, the painted sign remains. We’ll tie in both to tell the story in the book.