Norfolk Southern Back Belt map 1918

Norfolk Southern Back Belt map 1918

The current Norfolk Southern Back Belt dates back to the beginning of the 20th century.

norfolk southern back belt

Norfolk Southern Back Belt in 1918

Map of New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) trackage as of 30-June-1918. This path across Orleans Parish became known as the “Back Belt,” in comparison to the “Public Belt” route that hugs the river and services the wharves. The NOTC acquired the land for the Back Belt in the early 1900s. While I don’t have documentation, it’s likely no coincidence that merchant and developer Leon Fellman bought the 1201 block of Canal Street. Did he know about the plans of the railroad men? NOTC later merged with the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, which in turn merged into the Southern Railway system in 1916. That’s how the route became part of the current Norfolk Southern System.

City bypass

The idea behind the Back Belt was to bypass most of the populated areas of Orleans Parish. The Back Belt originates in Jefferson Parish. It splits off of the former Illinois Central (now Canadian National) main line at Causeway Blvd. That’s the “Shrewsbury” reference on the map. It crossed the New Canal via a bascule bridge just north of Metairie Road. From there, the route crosses the city, then turns towards the river in St. Bernard Parish.

The city naturally developed in succeeding years. Lakeview and Gentilly caught up with the Back Belt by the 1920s. The Levee Board’s land reclamation projects in the 1920s opened up the area. As part of the Works Progress Administration projects of the Great Depression Era, the Back Belt expanded. WPA constructed underpasses at grade crossings throughout the city. So, once the route clears Carrollton Avenue in Metairie, there are no grade crossings for trains until they cross Lake Pontchartrain and reach Slidell.

The Terminal

The last Southern Railway train,

Terminal Station, late 1910s

NOTC connected the Back Belt to downtown in 1908. They built Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets. The route ran adjacent to St. Louis Street through Mid-City. It linked up with the Back Belt at Greenwood Cemetery. Southern Railway used this connection for their “Bernadotte Yard,” so named because the yard started just below the connection point, at Bernadotte and St. Louis Streets.

Terminal Station operated from 1908 to 1954. The city constructed Union Passenger Terminal, shifting all passenger rail operations to the new station. The city demolished Terminal Station in 1956. The link to the Back Belt re-routed to follow the Pontchartrain Expressway. Today, Amtrak’s Crescent route uses that connection. The Back Belt continues to be incredibly busy, used by Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, CSX, Canadian National/KCS and Amtrak.

Canal Street Retail 1899

Canal Street Retail 1899

May meant big sales for Canal Street Retail in 1899.

canal street retail

Canal Street Retail 1899 – Sales!

Ads for Leon Fellman’s and A. Shwartz and Son from 14-May-1899 in the Daily Picayune. Both ads promote big sales for each store. While we look back now and see what appear to be typical advertising, there’s a lot going on for both stores.

canal street retail

Pickwick Building in 1948, just prior to its demolition. Leon Fellman’s moved to Baronne and Common, changed the store’s name to Feibleman’s, then sold to Sears in the 1930s.

Spring, 1899 was a transition time for Canal Street retail. It’s less than two years since some big changes in the Canal Street landscape. After the big fire on Valentine’s Day, 1892 that burned out most of the 701 block, A. Shwartz and Son moved up the street to the Mercier Buildings at 901 Canal Street. Leon Fellman left the Touro Buildings years earlier, as one of the first tenants at 901. After the Touro Buildings were rebuilt, A. Shwartz and Son wanted to move back. The youngest brother, Simon J. Shwartz chose to stay at 901 Canal. He acquired the entirety of the Mercier Buildings and terminated Fellman’s lease in early 1897. Later that year, SJ Shwartz opened the Maison Blanche.

Fellman took his store across the street. He acquired the Pickwick Building at 800 Canal. Leon converted the hotel into a department store. Two years later, L. Fellman & Co. still reminded shoppers of the new location.

1890s Diss Track?

canal street retail

The 14-May-1899 for A. Shwartz and Son took an interesting shot at younger brother Simon. After evicting Leon Fellman from 901 Canal, SJ Shwartz hit his father-in-law up for investment capital to bring the “department store” concept to New Orleans. Isidore Newman agreed with son-in-law Simon, and a local retail icon was born. The sheer size of the Maison Blanche made it a force from the beginning. Even though A. Shwartz and Son took over the corner of Bourbon and Canal Street, competing with a full department store was a challenge. Still, the original family store didn’t mind poking the bear. Since “Maison Blanche” translates to “White House,” the original store references the “White House” on Third Avenue in New York City. That allusion was what Simon had in mind when he converted SJ Shwartz Company to the French translation. He made it clear the New Orleans store was for New Orleans, with the French name. the family thumbed their nose at that.

Krauss to Fellman

Why talk about the Fellmans? Leon and his older brother Bernard (who never left the Touro Buildings) gave their nephews jobs at their store. Those nephews were the Krauss Brothers. After Leon settled in at 800 Canal Street, he purchased the entire 1201 block of Canal Street. Fellman built a two-story store there. He offered it to his nephews, who opened Krauss Department Store there in 1903.

 

The Picayune Weather Prophet in 1896

The Picayune Weather Prophet in 1896

The Picayune Frog becomes our beloved Weather Prophet.

the Picayune Frog

The 1896 Guide was the Picayune Frog

In the 1890s, the Picayune’s Guide to New Orleans served as one of the best local tourist publications for the city. The “guide” for the 1896 edition was the “Picayune Frog.” The newspaper adopted the frog two years earlier and put him to work as their Weather Prophet. His popularity grew in a couple of years. By 1896, he was your guide.

I’m the Picayune Frog;
Will you venture a jog with me?
You may foot it, or ride;
But a capital Guide I’ll be.

Our friend the Weather Prophet graced the pages of the Daily Picayune and its successor, the Times-Picayune, for almost 80 years.

Origins of the Weather Prophet

the picayune frog

end note in the 1896 Picayune Guide to New Orleans

The 1896 Guide offers some background on our friend:

The Picayune Frog is one of the institutions of New Orleans. He was discovered in the city one day early in January, 1894, and invited to take a place on the Picayune as Weather Prophet, a position which the pursuits of his early life had eminently qualified him to fill. Thursday, Jan. 11, 1894, was the memorable day on •which he first made his appearance in his new role, dressed in the identical costume represented in the accompanying cut.

“Cut” refers to “woodcut,” a common print item used to publish illustrations. The image was “cut” into wood, either by hand or using an electrostatic technique. Once cut, the printer added the images to type blocks to form a page of the newspaper. This is why the Picayune Frog adopted the same pose and wardrobe in the early years.

So, our friend the Picayune Frog made such a solid impression on the staff in two years, he became the Guide’s spokes-frog. Our friend’s popularity skyrocketed. Like modern celebrities, the Frog received one of the ultimate compliments from New Orleans society: invitations and inclusions into Carnival:

He has had music dedicated to him by composers; he has been pasted into thousands of scrap-books, and last year, by special invitation, he occupied an honorable place in the Mardi Gras parades.

The Picayune was a Mardi Gras celebrity long before Bacchus. Later, there would even be jewelry and art work featuring our friend.

 

Canal and Carondelet Streets – Two Views

Canal and Carondelet Streets – Two Views

Two views of Canal and Carondelet, fifty years apart!

canal and carondelet

Canal and Carondelet Streets

Two views of a busy part of Canal Street, the corner at Carondelet. The older image dates to the 1870s, the later one dates to the 1920s. While many things changed, there are a few constants between the views.

Canal Street, West from Clay statue

Photographer Clarence John Laughlin created this copy print of a photo from the 1870s around 1955. Here’s THNOC’s record entry:

Print of a 18th century photograph showing Canal Street with streetcars in neutral ground and businesses and houses of worship lining the street.

The original photographer (Blessing Studios, perhaps?) stands at the Clay Statue at St. Charles Street and Canal, looking towards the lake.The Canal Streetcar line opened in 1861. So, the mule-drawn streetcars dominated Canal Street by the time of this photo. The 700 block contains Moreau’s Restaurant, a book store, and a “Wig Manufactory.” The building with the corner turret and cupola is the Pickwick Hotel. It housed the Pickwick Club, a private businessman’s club with close ties to the Mystick Krewe. The hotel provided meeting and dining space to the club, and adopted their name.

The neutral ground contains a number of Stephenson “bobtail” streetcars. These mule-drawn cars operated on most lines in New Orleans, most notably the Carrollton, Canal, and Esplanade routes. To the right, the 801 block includes the D. H. Holmes dry goods store, mid-block.

The third incarnation of Christ Episcopal Church stands a block up, at 901 Canal. The church put their beautiful gothic building up for auction in 1884. The Mercier family purchased it. They demolished the church (which moved uptown to St. Charles and Sixth Streets), building a retail/office building. Mule-driven hack cabs stand in the foreground on the right, waiting for customers.

Carondelet in the 1920s

canal and carondelet

John Tibule Mendes shot a photo of the Louisiana Club in the 700 block of Canal in 1920. Here’s the second photo’s record entry at THNOC:

 View made from downriver side of Canal Street looking into Carondelet Street and the Central Business District. Buildings, mostly along the 700 and the corner at the 800 block, are visible, as are facades along the 100 block of Carondelet. The Louisiana Club, started around 1879, located at the corner of Canal and Carondelet for many years, is seen in mid-view. This club sponsors the High Priests of Mithras carnival ball. Pedestrians, a streetcar, and various business signs are also seen.

The record notes that the Louisiana Club started in the late 1870s, just after the date of the first photograph. While much at the corner has changed, the Pickwick Hotel building remains. In the interim, the Pickwick Club moved across the street to the 1000 block, then to its current location at St. Charles and Canal. Like the Pickwick Club, the Louisiana Club (now most closely associated with the Knights of Momus Carnival organization) is still around.

The right-hand side of Mendes’ photo shows the transition of streetcars from the earlier shot. The streetcar is a “single-truck,” Ford, Bacon & Davis model, operated by New Orleans Railway and Light Company. (NOPSI doesn’t form for another three years.) The turret of the Pickwick Hotel is visible, but the building is no longer a hotel. Local merchant Leon Fellman acquired the building in 1897. He moved his store from the Mercier Building in the 901 block to 800 Canal that year. By the time of the photo, 1920, Fellman passed away. His family returned to the German spelling of their last name, and the store changed its name to Feibleman’s.

We’ll unpack these photos in individual posts in the future. The compare/contrast here fascinated me, so we’re starting with that .

Later changes

Changes to buildings on Canal continued to change. While Feibleman’s moved to Baronne and Common streets in 1931, the building remained until 1947. Gus Mayer demolished it, building a larger location for their store. That building remains as the CVS Drugstore.

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal #TrainThursday

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal #TrainThursday

Trains for Kansas City Southern operated from the L&A Terminal South Rampart Street.

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal

Franck Studios image of the Louisiana and Arkansas passenger terminal. The terminal stood at 705 S. Rampart, corner of Girod. It opened in 1923. Kansas City Southern took over the terminal in 1939. So, while this Alexander Allison photo is undated, it’s likely from 1940-41. What’s particularly interesting is the sign on the front. Earlier photos of the terminal don’t show the sign. The station was small, with only two tracks leading up to it. L&A operated a yard up from the station at (now) Norman C. Francis Parkway. Trains used a wye to turn around and back into the station. So, once passengers got off, trains ran up to the yard. Crews cleaned the cars and serviced the road locomotives. Switchers staged the next train on the station tracks.

 

Traffic to the terminal grew in 1928, as L&A acquired the Louisiana Navigation and Railway Company. That railroad operated from New Orleans to Shreveport. L&A inaugurated an overnight train, The Hustler, from New Orleans to Shreveport, in 1932. L&A investors started purchasing KCS in 1937. They gained control of the railroad in 1939. KCS absorbed L&A, but the subsidiary railroad remained on the books until 1992.

The Southern Belle

louisiana and arkansas terminal

1940s brochure for the Southern Belle train.

With the acquisition of L&A (although arguably it was the other way around), KCS inaugurated the Southern Belle in 1940. This “name train” ran from New Orleans to Kansas City. The Southern Belle, along with other KCS trains, operated from the L&A terminal until 1954, when all passenger operations in New Orleans moved to Union Passenger Terminal.

The corner store

Louisiana and Arkansas Terminal

Corner store at the L&A/KCS Terminal, 1930s

I’m particularly interested in the store on the corner. It stood right on the corner of S. Rampart and Girod. While the earlier Trice photo shows the store Coca-Cola branded signage, the later Allison photo shows an awning. Since the store has an external, outside entrance, it likely serviced the neighborhood. This part of S. Rampart Street, just before the turning basin of the New Canal, contained a number of Jazz nightclubs and saloons. It’s hard to make out details on this image. So, we’ll be looking for better resolution and other photos.

louisiana and arkansas terminal

Leon Trice photo of the station from the 1930s.

Like other railroad-related locations, the L&A Terminal is an ongoing research project.

 

 

 

Hanes Once-a-year sale at NOLA stores

Hanes Once-a-year sale at NOLA stores

Hanes hosiery co-op ads at various NOLA stores.

nola stores

NOLA stores and Hanes

In the 1970s, Hanes, known for ladies hosiery and underwear, held a “once-a-year” sale. Various NOLA stores, Maison Blanche, D.H. Holmes, Labiche’s, and Gus Mayer, participated in the sale. They leveraged ad budgets by placing Hanes-specific ads for the sale. These “co-op” ads were paid for mostly by the manufacturer. So, the store promoted their brand and the product brand at the same time.

The sale in 1973 took place over the weekend of 13-January. NOLA stores enticed women to come in for the pantyhose and other items on sale. It’s fun to look at the styles from the advertising and art departments of the local stores.

Maison Blanche

westside shopping center

Sign for Maison Blanche in the parking lot of Westside, August, 1958. Sonny Randon Photography via the West Bank Beacon.

OK, yes, I’m a homer. I wrote a book on MB, so we start there. “Hanes sheer-madness annual sale of fashion hosiery in popular shades.” Note the mail-order form as part of the ad. Stores in 1973 were 901 Canal Street, Airline Village, Clearview, Gentilly Woods (The Plaza wouldn’t open until 1974), and Westside.

Labiche’s

nola stores

The talented artists at Labiche’s opted for a bolder presentation than MB. A woman wearing nothing but a scarf in her hair and jewelry, and the pantyhose. Gorgeous. Stores for Labiche’s: 714 Canal Street, Carrollton (the old shopping center, where Costco is now), Gentilly Woods, and Westside.

Holmes

nola stores

Daniel Henry Holmes’ dry good store on Canal Street grew to a number of suburban locations after WWII. In addition to the flagship store, Holmes locations included Lakeside Shopping Center, Oakwood, Baton Rouge, and Houma. While Holmes didn’t have a Gentilly store, they opened a location in The Plaza in 1974.

Gus Mayer

Originally in the 801 block of Canal Street, just up from Holmes, Gus Mayer built a big store across the street in 1948, demolishing the old Pickwick Hotel building. They also participated in the Hanes sale promotion. Gus Mayer operated not only the Canal Street store, but one at Elysian Fields and Gentilly  Blvd., as well as Carrollton, Clearview, and Oakwood Shopping Centers. While Gus Mayer ATNM as NOLA stores go, they still have stores in Birmingham, Alabama.

Godchaux’s

nola stores

Godchaux’s originally occupied the 501 block of Canal, later moving to the 801 block, next to the Boston Club. By the 1970s, they expanded to Lakeside and Edgewater Plaza in Biloxi. Their take on Hanes was different than the other NOLA stores. Godchaux’s opted for a cold-weather appeal,