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1880s Archives - Edward Branley - The NOLA History Guy
Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus

Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus

We’re talking about the Krewe of Proteus, a Lundi Gras tradition.

proteus

Mobilius in Mobili photo

Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus.

Happy Lundi Gras! The Krewe of Proteus first rolled the streets of New Orleans in 1882. While they’re not the oldest Carnival organization, they’re the oldest that still parades. Here’s the video of the history of Proteus:

Heere’s the PDF of the presentation.

The Krewe that came back

proteus

Of the three krewes that withdrew from parading in 1992 (Comus, Momus, and Proteus), the Krewe of Proteus returned to the streets in 2000. As we discuss in the pod, Proteus had stronger reasons to return to public view. While the other two krewes hold seniority, Proteus held visibility. Momus paraded on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. That spot now belongs to the Knights of Babylon. Babylon traditionally paraded on Wednesday, and moved up in the pecking order. Or did they? After all, Thursday night now belongs to the Krewe of Muses, one of the super-krewes.

Comus paraded on Mardi Gras night. When they began in 1857, the Mystick Krewe were the only parade in town. Over a century, however, other krewes out-shone the oldest organization. By the 1980s, the Comus parade was essentially glorified transportation to their ball. Worn out from a day of marching clubs, Zulu, Rex, and the truck floats, the majority of Uptown carnival-goers gave up before dusk.

proteus

The Comus ball, held for decades on one side of the Municipal Auditorium on Mardi Gras, is still the Big Deal in “society” circles. Even Rex defers to Comus by leaving his own ball and closing out the season with Comus. So, the members of the Mystick Krewe didn’t lose much sleep over not returning to parading. That’s ironic, of course, since they eventually did prevail in court over the city.

Proteus, on the other hand, had the most prominent position of the three. Even before “Lundi Gras” was an event in itself, they embraced the anticipation and excitement of the evening, leading into the big day.

Metairie Cemetery Entrance 1880s

Metairie Cemetery Entrance 1880s

The Metairie Cemetery Entrance was at Metairie Road and Pontchartrain Boulevard in the 1880s.

metairie cemetery entrance

Metairie Cemetery Entrance

Charles Roscoe Savage photo of Metairie Cemetery in the 1880s. BYU Digital Collections reference:

A view through a vine- covered archway of two men with their luggage at the base of a small mound with a statue on the top. Hand-tinted. Note: Written on the back- Transferred from P-167.

This entrance was for pedestrians. The Metairie Cemetery Association (MCA) constructed an automobile entrance on Pontchartrain Blvd. in the 1900s. The photographer stands with his back to the New Basin Canal. The tumulus seen through the vine-covered entrance arch is that of the Army of Tennessee (Louisiana Division). The equestrian statue on top is of Albert Sidney Johnson.

Evolution

This entrance evolved as visitors arrived in automobiles more than on foot. The cemetery had an access gate just west of the Metairie Road-Pontchartrain Blvd. entrance. This allowed hearses and other horse-drawn vehicles access. Automobiles required a better entrance. The MCA added one about twenty years after this photo. Pedestrians could still enter the cemetery from here. The MCA later removed the brick archway. They replaced it with a lower fence.

The city filled the New Basin Canal, starting in 1948. By 1949, the section by the cemetery was filled. The Pontchartrain Expressway consists of an overpass over Metairie Road. Out of concern for pedestrian safety, MCA locked the entrance permanently in the 1950s. The entrance is now accessible.

Modern view

With the archway/entrance gone, the cemetery developed the entrance area for more tombs. The most notable new construction is the Benson Tomb. It now stands to the left of where Savage stood for this photo.

Army of Tennessee (Louisiana Division)

This tumulus is one of several burial sites for rebels who fought in the Southern Rebellion. The most notable veteran interred here is P.G.T. Beauregard.

Funeral Procession Jefferson Davis, 1889

Funeral Procession Jefferson Davis, 1889

The Traitor Davis died in New Orleans in 1899. The city gave him a grand funeral procession.

funeral procession of the traitor davis

Funeral Procession of the Traitor Davis

Jefferson Davis died in the Garden District on December 6, 1889. They city held a massive funeral procession for Davis on 11-December. This is the Library of Congress summary for this photo of the procession:

Photo shows coffin in horse-drawn wagon as the “funeral procession for Jefferson Davis winds through the French Quarter in New Orleans on December 11, 1889. An estimated 200,000 people lined the streets. Davis died early on December 6, and over 70,000 people viewed his remains at New Orleans City Hall. The body was laid to rest in a vault in Metairie Cemetery, then was taken to Richmond in 1893 and reinterred at Hollywood Cemetery.” (Source: Papers of Jefferson Davis Web site at Rice University, 2009)

Additional notes

This is a concise summary of the event. Some additional notes:

Beauvoir

Davis’ last home was the Beauvoir Estate, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi. While he did not maintain a house in New Orleans, he was frequently the guest of White League families in the Garden District.

Metairie Cemetery

As mentioned in the LOC summary, the Traitor Davis was initially interred in Metairie, before being moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. The specific location of Davis’ vault was in the Army of Northern Virginia (Louisiana Division) tumulus. He was interred in a vault near the entrance. Davis’ signature was engraved and inlaid with gold in the marble covering the vault. When he was re-interred, that vault was permanently sealed.

Royal Street, 1889

Streetcar tracks are visible in the photo, as are electric poles. While commercial electrification began in the mid-1880s, electrification of street rail was still a few years away. The main line using the streetcar tracks at this time was the “Jackson Depot” line. this later morphed into the Desire line by the 1920s.

The Jackson Depot line ran from Canal and St. Charles Street, up to Delord (later Howard), making its way to the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad (later Illinois Central) station on Clio Street. It wound its way back to Carondelet Street, crossed to the downtown side and Bourbon Street, terminating at the Pontchartrain Railroad/L&N station on Elysian Fields. It then returned via Royal Street.

Podcast 37 – Street Railways of Algiers and Gretna #podcast

Podcast 37 – Street Railways of Algiers and Gretna #podcast

Street railways connected Algiers with Gretna and even Marrero.

Westbank Streetcars

I had the privilege of speaking to the Algiers Historical Society last month, on the subject of street railways on the Westbank. I’d spoken to the group on East Bank subjects in the past, so it was fun to dive into an Algiers topic.

Street Railways pod format

So, I didn’t record the original talk, I sat down this week with the Powerpoint presentation and did it as a Zoom. Zoom generates both video and audio recordings. I uploaded the video recording to YouTube. Video podcasts have been a thing for a while, so we’ll join that bandwagon.

I’ve also included a PDF of the slides, for those of you who listen to the audio format, along with images from the presentation.

Early Years

street railways

Portion of the Robinson Atlas, New Orleans, 1883, showing Algiers Point

 

street railways

Louis Hennick map showing street rail in Algiers, 1895

 

Sketch of planned Algiers Coruthouse, 1896

Electrification

street railways

1907 Photo of the first electric streetcar in Algiers

Louis Hennick map of Westbank street railways in 1916

Conversion to buses

 

 

St. Charles Street, 1880

St. Charles Street, 1880

St. Charles Street in 1880

St. Charles Street

Canal and St. Charles

The 100-200 blocks of St. Charles Street, looking up from Canal Street, 1880. This is one side of a stereoscope card from S. T. Blessing Studios on Canal. The foreground shows the 100 block of St. Charles. Meyer The Hatter and Kolb’s Restaurant open on St. Charles fifteen-ish years later. The St. Charles Hotel dominates the background of the photo. Two Stephenson “bobtail” streetcars travel up St. Charles. They run on the Great Northern Station line. The Carrollton line still came to Canal Street via Baronne. I decided to change my profile picture on Twitter (yes, I’m still on Da Twittah, as @NOLAHistoryGuy) to this image.

St. Charles Street

No, that’s not a typo. At this time, the city listed the portion of St. Charles between Canal Street and Tivoli Circle as a “street.” Above Tivoli Circle, it morphed into “Naiads Street.” The New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company named their streetcar line for its destination, the City of Carrollton. Carrollton served as the seat of Jefferson Parish. Orleans Parish later annexed the area. So, the line ran up Naiads to Carrollton Avenue. It cnnected the CBD with the eastern end of Jefferson.

Tivoli Circle

The circle was named after Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. During the Southern Rebellion, it was used as an encampment for both Union and Rebel soldiers. The White League erected their monument to the traitor Lee in 1884. That statue was removed by the city in 2017, and the circle is now known as Harmony Circle, renamed by a unanimous vote of the City Council in 2021.

The hotel

This photo shows the second incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel. It opened in 1853, after the first incarnation (the one with the dome and rotunda) burned down. This building burned down in 1894. The third incarnation replaced it. That hotel was demolished in 1974. The Place St. Charles office building (now the Capital One Building) replaced it in the 200 block.

 

 

Cemetery Curses Revisited

Cemetery Curses Revisited

Cemetery curses revisited: is the Caesers Superdome really cursed?

cemetery curses revisited

Map of the area around Caesar’s Superdome. The red rectangle shows the outline of Girod Street Cemetery.

The Saints: Cemetery curses revisited

cemetery curses revisited

Portion of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing Girod Street Cemetery

As we approach Halloween, fans of the New Orleans Saints often return to the topic of the Superdome and the Cemetery. While much research exists on the boundaries of Girod Street Cemetery and the Superdome, the curse theory always returns. The talk always gets serious when the Saints aren’t playing well.

We’ve discussed this before and in detail: Girod Cemetery isn’t under Da Dome. Still, folks find remains in the vicinity of the stadium that are outside the perimeter of the cemetery. This happens all over the city, and there are reasons for burials outside established cemeteries.

Indigenous burials

Indigenous burial mounds in the city come as no surprise. The native tribes were here before the colonizers, after all. Most of these mounds stand on high ground. When the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority discovered human remains near Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue as part of bus/streetcar terminal construction, it made sense. The area is on the Metairie Ridge. It’s high ground. Since cemeteries surround the intersection, those remains were a combination of indigenous people and colonizers.

Initial Disorganization

It takes years for government to green-light cemetery construction. While the wrangling takes place, families often buried loved ones in the general vicinity of the proposed site. It’s not like they could wait for things to shake out, after all. So, figuring close was better than not, they did what they felt they had to do.

Affordability

cemetery curses revisited

Section of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, along Claiborne Avenue in Faubourg Treme

Even after a cemetery opened for business, people often couldn’t afford the price of a plot, much less an above-ground tomb. The same thinking as initial disorganization applied. Let’s get the departed close. A walk through the cemetery connected those still living with the dead, even if they couldn’t put flowers on a grave.

Cemetery Disintegration

When a cemetery falls into disrepair, things get messy. This was the case with Girod Street. The chapter of Christ Episcopal did not adequately prepare for long-term maintenance of the cemetery. By the 1950s, the cemetery was in ruins. Grave robbers discarded coffins and remains all over the cemetery, in search of valuables. Naturally some of the remains ended up outside the cemetery walls.

Consecrated Ground

This is also a complicated subject. It was important to Christians that those buried in “holy ground” were free of serious sin. For example, if a spouse committed adultery, but did not seek forgiveness for the mortal sin, the family who owned the plot might refuse that person burial. A priest might refuse to preside over the rites of burial. Those close to the deceased were told to find someplace else. Another reason for exclusion from consecrated ground was suicide. Clergy and family would reject any connection to a person who took their own life.

In most of these cases, there were relatives who disagreed with this harsh treatment. While they were unable to get the departed inside the walls, they buried their loved one close by. Therefore, numerous reasons exist to explain remains outside the cemeteries.