42nd Massachusetts New Orleans

42nd Massachusetts New Orleans

New Orleans became a base for regiments like the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry.

42nd Massachusetts Infantry Headquarters in Gentilly.

42nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment

Illustration of the New Orleans headquarters of the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry, 1863. The regiment set up shop in Gentilly. They staged here for actions outside of New Orleans, most notably Port Hudson and Bayou Teche.

Description from The Historic New Orleans Collection:

View of a wood and log military building during the Civil War. In front of it are Union soldiers in military uniforms and horses. The building is located in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. It was headquarters of the 42nd Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteers during the occupation of New Orleans.

So, at this time, Gentilly was well outside the city proper.

Bayou Gentilly

The 42nd Massachusetts operated out of the swampy mess that was the merge of bayous in what is now Mid-City New Orleans. Bayou Metairie fizzled out when it merged with Bayou St. John. The waterway continued east, but as Bayou Gentilly. The regiment chose high ground we refer to as the Gentilly Ridge. along the water.

The Union forces recognized the importance of Bayou St. John. The combination of the bayou and the Carondelet Canal provided a navigable waterway linking Faubourg Treme and the French Quarter to Lake Pontchartrain. That waterway concerned the US Army greatly during the War of 1812. While the overall situation was different in the 1860s, the Union forces did due diligence. In the first half of 1863, the 42nd Massachusetts performed picket duties along Bayou St. John, up to the lake.

Successes of the 42nd

The 42nd provided engineering and support services to Union forces moving north and west from New Orleans. Their success in this regard demonstrates the utter failure of the CSA Army and Navy in the Gulf. New Orleans provided the Union with a well-supplied staging area. They engaged the CSA from both directions in the West.

Additionally, the 42nd contributed to the formation of the 1st Louisiana Engineers, a USCT unit.

The 42nd left Louisiana on 8-August-1863.

Palace Streetcar 1921

Palace Streetcar 1921

Palace Streetcar on a test run on Esplanade Avenue, 1921.

palace streetcar

Comfortable Streetcars!

New Orleans Railway and Light (NORwy&Lt) 605, running outbound on Esplanade Avenue, 8-October-1921. This photo is part of a set shot by Franck Studios for the Rail Department. The note references a civil court case number. NORwy&Lt purchased the “Palace” streetcars from the American Car Company in 1905. These streetcars ran at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. They impressed the NORwy&Lt’s Rail Department. They ran these cars on the Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue lines. The Palace cars also ran out to West End.

Palace Streetcar on Esplanade

While the Palace streetcars offered the most comfortable ride of any in New Orleans, operation on Esplanade Avenue was tricky. That street’s neutral ground was small. The branches of the old oak trees converged over the center. NORwy&Lt avoided cutting down the trees, but encountered close calls with branches. This run of car 605 documented the clearances along Esplanade Avenue.

The Canal and Esplanade lines operated in “belt service” at this time. One line ran continuously in one direction, the other line in the opposite direction.So, a round trip involved taking both lines. Since the streetcars didn’t have to terminate and change directions, their running time improved.

The car’s roll board shows West End, rather than the two lines running the belt. The Palace cars also ran out to West End. They traveled up Canal Street outbound, turned onto City Park, then turned up on West End Boulevard, heading out to the lake. For this run, 605’s last “revenue run” was on West End. The motorman didn’t bother changing the sign.

The man sitting at the back of the streetcar on this run is likely a Rail Department employee from Canal Station. He’s wearing civilian clothes. The other man in the photo is the conductor. He wears the standard uniform.

NOPSI

Two years after this run, NORwy&Lt re-organized into New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI). NOPSI was then acquired by EBASCO, a division of General Electric. NOPSI later became part of Middle South Utilities, which is now Entergy.

Santa Fe Restaurant Frenchmen #faubourgmarigny

Santa Fe Restaurant Frenchmen #faubourgmarigny

Santa Fe Restaurant on Frenchmen Street, before it moved to Faubourg St. John.

santa fe restaurant

Santa Fe Restaurant

Advertisement postcard for Santa Fe Restaurant, from October, 2006. Santa Fe, at 801 Frenchmen Street, overlooked Washington Square Park in Faubourg Marigny. Later, Santa Fe moved to Esplanade Avenue in Faubourg St. John.

Washington Square Park

santa fe restaurant

This patch of green space in Faubourg Marigny dates back to Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville. The heir to the Marigny Plantation, Bernard subdivided the plantation in 1806. Whether it was Bernard of his surveyors/planners that made the decision, the plan included a public park, bounded by Frenchmen, Royal, Dauphine, and Elysian Fields. So, Santa Fe offered a view of the park.

The city owns Washington Square park. So, it’s publicly accessible green space. That’s important in any neighborhood. Additionally, the city allows special events in the square. Production companies regularly use the square for films and television. The HBO series, “Treme” featured the square as a meeting place for regular characters. Musicians gathered at the square. They branched out from there, busking on corners in the French Quarter. The current show, NCIS: New Orleans, presents Washington Square as an outdoor, socially-distant, concert venue.

Santa Fe Restaurant to Faubourg St. John

Gabrielle, a popular restaurant along Esplanade Avenue in the FSJ neighborhood, closed after Hurricane Katrina. Their location at 3201 Esplanade, near the Fair Grounds racetrack, stood empty. Santa Fe Restaurant moved on that location. While the Marigny offered a historic locale, the Esplanade Avenue building gave them more parking. It also placed them directly in the path of Jazz Fest attendees.

The food

Santa Fe Restaurant offers quality Mexican/Tex-Mex fare. They also serve margaritas, by the glass or the pitcher. Their outdoor seating gives diners a great place to sit, eat, drink, and watch the world go by. Going back to Gabrielle, I’ve always found the acoustics of the building harsh. So, we jump at outdoor tables. It’s a great place for a #daydrinking lunch!

Podcast 19 – 20-April-2019 Unpacking Bayou St. John

Podcast 19 – 20-April-2019 Unpacking Bayou St. John

NOLA History Guy Podcast 20-April-2019 – Unpacking Bayou St. John.

NOLA History Guy Podcast 20-April-2019

Aerial view of the city, with Bayou St. John in the foreground.

NOLA History Guy Podcast 20-April-2019

NOLA History Guy Podcast 20-April-2019

Elmer’s Candy Truck. Undated, likely 1950s.

Happy Easter! Happy Elmer’s Gold Brick Eggs. The Elmer’s truck is from Pop Evans’ fun group, New Orleans “Black” in the Day on Facebook. Elmer’s Gold Brick was more of a year-round candy. Now, the egg-shaped version is an Easter treat.

So, there’s a group on the Book of Face, “The New Orleans Culture.” I enjoy the people and the posts, and share a good bit there. This is in addition to sharing at Ain’t There No More. While I don’t like posting unattributed photos, I want to talk about this one. If you know the photographer, please let me know, so I can get proper permission! Before the photo unpack, we’ll do the best of “Today in New Orleans History” for this week.

The Greater New Orleans Bridge Opens

NOLA History Guy Podcast 20-April-2019

Construction progresses on the Greater New Orleans Bridge 1-February-1957 (photographer unknown)

The Greater New Orleans Bridge opened to vehicular traffic on 15-April-1958. The Mississippi River Bridge Authority took bids for a new bridge across the river in 1957. They accepted one in November of that year. By the next spring, the Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson was no longer the only bridge crossing in the metro New Orleans Area. While the Huey had lanes for cars, its main role was as a railroad bridge. The GNO Bridge connected Algiers and Gretna residents with downtown New Orleans. The single-span bridge required “traffic controls” by the 1970s. MRBA police blocked traffic in the mornings at various choke points. They opened one route to the bridge at a time, in 10-15 minute intervals. This created a more-orderly flow in the mornings.

These traffic controls annoyed commuters. The state funded construction of a second span in 1984. The current incarnation of Da Bridge is named the Crescent City Connection.

Today in New Orleans History 15-April-2019

Unpacking the Bayou

We continue photo segments on NOLA History Guy Podcast 20-April-2019. Street-level photos of Bayou St. John inspire artists and writers alike. Bayou Bridge crosses at Esplanade Avenue. Magnolia Bridge (visible in this photo) crosses in front of Cabrini High School. While Magnolia appears to be a bridge to nowhere, the streetcar used to pass by on Moss Street. Therefore, folks could take the Esplanade line, get off at the bridge, and then walk across to homes in the City Park neighborhood.

Trees envelope Pitot House, on the left side of the bayou. Our Lady of the Rosary, on Esplanade Avenue, stands just outside the frame on the left. This photo shows the church’s backyard.

Down the Bayou

The second turn, on the other side of Magnolia bridge, offers a last bit of waterway. BSJ ends just out of frame on the right. The bayou leads the way to Parkway Bakery, on Hagan Street. The Faubourg St. John neighborhood flows from Esplanade, to Orleans Avenue (more or less) on the left side.

 

Last Week’s NOLA History Guy Podcast

Camp Nicholls, Bayou St. John

Camp Nicholls, Bayou St. John

Camp Nicholls – for Civil War Veterans

camp nicholls

Camp Nicholls, on Bayou St. John, in the early 1900s

Camp Nicholls along the bayou

New Orleans has always been good to its native sons returning home from wars. After the Civil War, an “Old Soldiers Home” was founded as a refuge for veterans, located on Bayou St. John. That tract of land has had interesting and historical uses ever since as an escape for soldiers from both the Civil War and World War II and then as the property of the National Guard.

Since New Orleans was spared most of the ravages of war experienced by other cities, locals were able to look to the future of the post-war world. Caring and housing returning veterans was already on the minds of folks in 1866. The State of Louisiana appropriated funds to establish a home for these men. As Reconstruction politicians acquired control of state government, however, the continuing appropriation for the home was cut off. The home continued as a privately-funded institution, but struggled.

Francis T. Nicholls

camp nicholls

Governor Francis T. Nicholls, former CSA Brigadier and patron of Camp Nicholls

The cause of a Confederate Veterans Home grew by the 1880s. Veterans’ associations petitioned the state for financial assistance. The state re-enacted the original 1866 legislation. The project was funded. In 1883. The leader of the project’s board was Francis T. Nicholls. Nicholls served a term as governor, and was a lawyer in New Orleans. During the war, Nicholls was a CSA Brigadier. He lost his left foot at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.

This board purchased a large lot, located on Bayou St. John. Joseph R. DeMahy sold the property DeMahy was, a former Lieutenant in the Confederate Navy. The board worked with several veterans associations, parish police juries and private citizens for money, They held fund raising events such as battle re-enactments on the property. They raised enough money to hire architect William A. Freret. Freret designed a complex of several buildings.

The home accepted its first inmate, James Adams, on February 5, 1884. Adams was a veteran of the 1st Louisiana Infantry. Dedication of the site as “Camp Nicholls” took place on March 14, 1884. Over 600 people attended that ceremony, including the daughters of CSA Generals Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, and D. H. Hill. Nicholls’ success in fund raising for the home became a model for other veterans’ associations in various states, and helped propel him back into the Governor’s office in 1888.

The Submarine

camp nicholls

CSA “submarine” found in Lake Pontchartrain, after the war, at Camp Nicholls in the early 1900s

The Old Soldiers Home then became a fixture in Faubourg St. John. So, it received listing in tourist guides as a place to visit along the bayou. In 1909, construction workers discovered a prototype “submarine” in Lake Pontchartrain, by the mouth of Bayou St. John. They raised the wreck and cleaned it up. The salvage company donated the vessel to the Camp Nicholls. The home displayed the submarine for years. When Camp Nicholls was in decline, the home donated the boat to the Louisiana State Museum. LSM displayed it at the Presbytere in the French Quarter. It’s now on display at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

With so many of the Confederate veterans passing away, Camp Nicholls lost its original purpose. While the US Army ramped up for war in 1917, Camp Nicholls changed control. The complex housed the First Louisiana Infantry, the Washington Artillery, and the First Separate Troop Cavalry. After these units deployed to Europe, the home calmed down once again, housing just old veterans.

Camp Nicholls

Cover of a pamphlet documenting the use of Camp Nicholls prior to WWI. (Photo courtesy of Tulane University Howard-Tilton Library)

Rebel Yell

The tradition of the “Lost Cause of the South” remained strong in New Orleans, and the former Confederacy as a whole, even going into the 1930s. In 1932, as part of an effort to preserve the oral histories of surviving Confederate veterans, the Times-Picayune newspaper arranged to gather a number of veterans together at Camp Nicholls and film them doing the infamous “Rebel Yell.” The group gathered along the bayou on February 11, 1932, and a number of veterans, clad in their Confederate uniforms, stepped up to a microphone and did the battle cry.

Transition/Repurpose

Camp Nicholls

Letterhead from Camp Nicholls, 1901 (Courtesy LaRC, Tulane University)

There were no living Confederate veterans at Camp Nicholls by 1940. The Old Soldiers Home formally closed. The Louisiana National Guard took over the complex. The Guard used Camp Nicholls as an armory and vehicle depot throughout World War II. The Guard turned the facility over to the City of New Orleans in the 1960s, who used it to house the NOPD’s Police Academy and 3rd District Headquarters until the 1990s.

Camp Nicholls site today

Camp Nicholls

Camp Nicholls property, as it is today. (Photo courtesy of Mid City Messenger)

The complex sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Katrina. In 2009, after determining that the remaining buildings all dated from the 1950s, the city was granted permission to raze the site, and it’s been an empty lot since. Last year, Deutsches Haus, a non-profit organization whose mission is the preservation of German culture in New Orleans, leased the property. They plan to build the “new Deutsches Haus” along the bayou.

The Camp Nicholls property is fenced off and not accessible to visitors, but if you take the Canal Streetcar Line to City Park, you can cross over Bayou St. John and look through the fence. Maybe you’ll even feel the spirit of one of the “old soldiers,” as many have reported in the past.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

Heather Elizabeth Designs

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.