The origins NO&CRR date back to the early 1830s.
Origins of the NO&CRR
I spoke to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides at their monthly meeting this past Monday. They had me in to discuss the origins of the NO&CRR (New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad), which evolved into the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. I’ll be presenting the talk via blog posts here. We’re starting at the beginning.
If you didn’t know how to get ahold of me online, here you go. @nolahistoryguy on all social media, and there’s my email. Please keep in mind, I may not see your question as the high priority you do!
The image you see is of Canal and Rampart, 1915ish. I use it on my business cards.
Tour Guide Talking Points
These are important to the guide-on-the-street. While the FOC guides are very smart people, it’s important for me to give them a quick gist of the subject they can use for answering questions.
- NO&CRR was founded in 1833 and the railroad began operations in 1835
- The railroad route (and later streetcar line) was named “Carrollton,” not St. Charles.
- It’s the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the United States. While NYC and Philly had streetcar operations before New Orleans, St. Charles still runs.
- Connected Downtown to the City of Carrollton
- First streetcar line to electrify
- The company operated the single-truck Ford, Bacon & Davis electric cars
- Upgraded to double-truck arch roof cars in 1915
- Belt service from 1900-1950
- Current route dates to 1951
- Only streetcar line in New Orleans from 1964 to 2004
- Current line is approximately 13.2 miles in length
We’ll get into the details of these points in this series.
Building railroads was a new thing in the 1830s. Businessmen in New Orleans recognized this. A group planning a navigation canal from Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg at the lake opted for a railroad line (the Pontchartrain RR) instead. Others looked at the City of Carrollton as an opportunity.
The Washington Hotel in Milneburg attracted guests and groups from across New Orleans.
The hotel opened in 1832. Pontchartrain Railroad operations began two years earlier. The railroad connected Faubourg Marigny with Port Pontchartrain (Milneburg). The straight-line route followed what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. This photo, from the 1890s, is captioned:
Milneburg had many famous hotels and restaurants. One of the most famous is pictured above, the “Washington Hotel”. Their French restaurants won international fame.
So, ownership of the hotel came to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The L&N demolished the hotel in September, 1920.
Milneburg received its name from the area’s first owner, Alexander Milne. He built Port Pontchartrain, in Gentilly. MIlne’s facility enabled ships to come to New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico. They traveled, via Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain. The Pontchartrain RR made Milne’s facility a solid alternative to the river.
New Orleanians enjoy spending time on the lakefront. The area offers respite from the heat. Locals found this essential in the days prior to air conditioning. So, taking the train out to Milneburg became a weekend diversion. Over time, Port Pontchartrain diminished. The Pontchartrain Railroad carried more passengers than freight by the 1880s. The L&N, the last owners of the railroad, discontinued it in 1930.
While there were over a number of hotels out at Milneburg, the Washington Hotel stood at the top. For example,the Societa Italia di Mutua Benefienza, held an anniversary dinner at the hotel in June of 1890. According to the Daily Picayune,
About 100 members and their wives and families were seated at the dinner, and a feast of national dishes were disposed of. All passed off most pleasantly, and the anniversary proved to be most successfully observed.
Additionally, in June of 1894, the Third District Benevolent Association held a large picnic at the hotel and its acre of gardens. In the late 1890s, groups often hired jazz combos for entertainment.