Lighting Lee

Lighting Lee

The White League engaged in terrorism by lighting Lee.

lighting lee - lee monument in 1916

Lighting Lee Circle

Photos of Lee Circle at night. The first, set back from the monument, is a John Tibule Mendes shot taken in 1916. The second is from New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated, from 1928. Caption for the 1916 photo (via THNOC):

Poorly-exposed night view of the Lee Monument at Lee Circle in the Central Business District looking along Saint Charles Avenue towards Uptown. Streetcar tracks are visible in the foreground. The Lee Monument honors Confederate General Robert E. Lee and was dedicated on February 22, 1884. John Roy of New Orleans designed the mound and column while Alexander Doyle designed the bronze likeness of Lee that stands atop the column.

Accordingly, New Orleans Railway & Light Company provided the electric power for lighting Lee in 1916.

lighting lee - lee monument in 1928

The second photo shows the monument from a closer perspective.

Why Lee?

The purpose erecting a statue to the traitor Lee was simple: assertion of white supremacy in New Orleans. So, Confederate sympathizers terrorized the population of New Orleans from the start of the Union occupation in 1862. Unionists, mostly Irish and Germans, went to the river levees to greet the Union squadron under the command of Flag-Officer Farragut. Despite their defeat, white men shot and killed them, forcing others to retreat from the levee. Confederates held the Irish and Germans responsible for the loss of the city. During the attack, the Irish and German troops at Fort Jackson mutinied, sealing the city’s fate. Local lost-causers formed the White League, formalizing their opposition to a Union-controlled state government. Therefore, the White League was, for all intents and purposes, a terrorist organization.

So, fast forward to twenty years after the conflict. The White League pressed their control of the city. hey used Carnival organizations and social clubs to bolster the terrorist violence of their militia. The city’s demographics changed radically in the 1880s, with the influx of Sicilians into New Orleans. The Sicilians brought their own criminal element with them. The Mafia challenged the White League’s control. This required a response from the established criminals.

The monument

To emphasize the economic control the White League held, they commissioned a column of “white Georgia marble” to be placed at the center of Tivoli Circle. They topped that column with a statue of the traitor Lee. Sculptor Alexander Doyle crafted that statue. it was dedicated on Washington’s Birthday in 1884. While the outward forms of support for the monument stated it was built to recognize the sacrifices of the Confederacy, its underlying purpose was asserting power.

The lights

The White League experimented with illuminating the monument almost immediately. The first attempts involved burning magnesium in the urns around the column. This lit up Lee Circle for miles. Of course, the magnesium burned out and had to be replaced. By the 1910s, urban electrification extended into residential areas of the city. First came the streetcars, in the 1890s, Power lines extended from the streetcar routes. With Lee, it was a matter of someone willing to pay the light bill.

Why bother with lighting? The monument stood at the Western end of the Central Business District. Tourists rarely ventured past Poydras Street. In the early part of the 20th century, most buildings in New Orleans were three or four stories. The monument towered over the neighborhood. Light it up at night, and Lee was visible for miles. That pleased the White League. It communicated to everyone their ownership and control of the city. That made the light bill worth it.

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.