Our sixth installment of NOLA History Guy December features Krauss Department Store
NOLA History Guy December – Krauss
At the end of the 19th Century, the 1201 block of Canal Street consisted of a series of single-family homes. In 1899, Businessman and real estate developer bought those buildings. Fellman demolished those buildings in 1903, building a two-story retail store.
Fellman was a well-established merchant in New Orleans. He started with his older brother, Bernard, running a dry goods shop in the 701 block of Canal. The brothers split, with Leon opening his own store in the Mercier Building at 901 Canal. When S. J. Shwartz acquired 100% of that building, Fellman moved to 800 Canal. While he saw potential for a successful store in the 1201 block, he wasn’t going that far up the street.
Leon invited his nephews, the Krausz brothers, to open their own store in his new building. The brothers changed their last name to Krauss, and opened what the Daily Picayune called “a veritable trade palace” in 1903. Krauss Department Store operated there, eventually occupying two city blocks. The store closed in 1997.
Growth and expansion
Krauss was an instant hit. Since the four Krauss brothers were bachelors, none of them had family to turn the store over to upon their retirement. So, they passed control over to Leon Heymann, their brother-in-law. Leon a New Orleanian with business interests in Houma, married Tekla Heymann. He assumed control of Krauss in 1920. Heymann acquired the entire square block behind the store, as well as the block directly behind that. With help from his son, Jimmy, and brother-in-law, Leon Wolf, Heymann expanded the store to fill the 1201 block, back to Iberville Street.
In the 1950s, J. Phil Preddy managed the store’s displays and advertising departments. Preddy, a talented artist in his own right, created works for the store ranging from ad illustrations to giant murals painted on the front of the store. What better for NOLA History Guy December than Preddy’s Christmas display mural for the 1952 holiday season.
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.
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The block at 1201 Canal was a row of houses in 1899.
Portion of Plate 7 of the Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, 1883, Courtesy of the New Orleans Notarial Archives.
1201 Canal Street 1899
Section of Plate 7 of the Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, 1883, showing square 127 of the 2nd District, 1201 Canal. This block later transformed into Krauss Department Store. Square 127 is bounded by Canal Street, N. Franklin (now Crozat) Street, Custom House (now Iberville) Street, and Basin Street. Eventually, the Krauss Corporation acquired the entire square, as well as square 124, behind it. These parcels become the main store and the warehouse buildings. The process required over half a century to complete. It began in 1899, with the purchase of the buildings in square 127 that front Canal Street. Leon Fellman bought them, setting the story in motion.
Square 127 stands just above (in river-to-lake terms) the Basin Street neutral ground. A railroad station stood there. The Spanish Fort Railroad (SFRR) originated at that station. Prior to street rail electrification, the SFRR offered day-trip service out to the amusement area next to Fort St. John. The fort guarded the mouth of Bayou St. John, at Lake Pontchartrain. After the Southern Rebellion, several incarnations of an amusement district on the east bank of the bayou developed. Steam trains (whose engines were usually disguised as trams) departed Canal and Basin. They turned lakebound on Bienville Street, making their way to the lake.
Steam service to Spanish Fort fizzled in the mid-1890s, as the popularity of the entertainment district waned. In 1910 developers resurrected the area. By 1911, New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) offered electric streetcar service. Rather than using the Bienville Street route, the Spanish Fort streetcar line operated on the Canal Street line’s tracks. The line followed the West End line’s path, to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard in Lakeview). While West End traveled to its terminus by the New Canal, the Spanish Fort’s cars turned right on Adams, ending at the old railroad station by the fort.
The original SFRR station on Basin stood unused in the late 1890s. That’s when Leon Fellman, merchant, and owner of Leon Fellman’s Department Store, at 800 Canal Street, enters the picture. Fellman acquired those Canal Street buildings in square 127 in 1899. They stood unused until 1903. Fellman then demolished them. He built a two-story retail complex on the site. Satisfied with his existing store, four blocks down Canal, Fellman invited the Krauss Brothers to lease the new building. The brothers took him up on the offer, opening Krauss Department Store.
Terminal Station, Canal and Basin Streets, 1908. Detroit Publishing Company photo via LOC.
Five years later, in 1908, the New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) acquired the old SFRR station. They replaced it with Terminal Station, a grand passenger terminal. NOTC extended the railroad tracks down the Basin Street neutral ground to St. Louis Street. They turned north, just before the Carondelet Canal. These tracks offered an outlet for trains leaving town to the east. The New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (NONE) leased the tracks and station from NOTC. NONE merged into the Southern Railway system in 1916. Southern operated its trains from Terminal Station from 1908 until the move to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. Upon completion of Terminal Station, Krauss stood next to a major transit connection. The railroad came in on Basin Street. One block down, Rampart Street served as a streetcar and bus nexus for NORwy&Lt.
Did Leon Fellman know of NOTC’s plans when he purchased the property in square 127? It’s hard to determine. Fellman maintained a number of business and social networking connections. No doubt those included NOTC investors. Anything involving railroads takes time, and usually remains quiet until plans are solidified. Since the 1201 block was ripe for retail expansion, it’s possible Fellman saw the property as a good investment, regardless of what the railroad men did. His moves in 1899 and 1903 set in motion the opening of one of New Orleans’ retail institutions.
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store by Edward J. Branley
There’s a lot more Krauss history in my book, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store. Check it out, it’s available at all the usual suspects!
The story of Krauss Department Store has its roots in Leon Fellman’s origin story.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first installment in a series on Leon Fellman, and his business operations in New Orleans. Fellman’s story directly ties to both his store, Sears, Roebuck in New Orleans, as well as Krauss and Maison Blanche Department Stores. Additional installments in this series will be patron-only.
The Touro Buildings, 1880, by George Francois Mugnier, via LSU Special Collections.
Leon Fellman’s Origin Story
Lippman Feibelman was born in 1846, in Rülzheim,Germany. Rülzheim stands near the western border of the modern German Republic, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Feibelman emigrated to the United States in 1864, following his older brother Bernard, to New Orleans. Like his brother, he anglicized his name, becoming Leon Fellman. Bernard, who came to New Orleans a couple of years earlier, helped his brother make business connections through their synagogue. They worked for a couple of Jewish-owned businesses in the city. It’s likely they worked for the Kaufman’s at some point. So many local Jewish merchants got their start there.
By 1873, the brothers saved enough money to open their own shop. They leased space in the Touro Buildings, in the 701 block of Canal Street. These buildings, built by businessman Judah Touro, were popular storefronts for a number of businesses. Bernard and Leon leased 133 Canal Street. Their shop was in the 701 block, but the city numbered addresses by house/business, rather than block. So, Fellman Brothers, was the one hundred thirty-third address on Canal Street, when starting from the river.
Ad for Fellman Brothers, 5-March-1833, in The Daily Picayune
Fellman Brothers were dry goods merchants, In an ad in the Daily Picayune newspaper on March 5, 1878, they declared, “We hereby tender a special invitation to strangers in our city, and the public in general, only to inspect the many novelties we are displaying, and that prices that will please the most economical buyer.”
By 1881, the brothers opened a second store in the Touro Buildings, at 129 Canal. Additionally, they retained 133 Canal, stocking it with ladies’ clothing. The store established a relationship with Red Star Shoes, which was just down Canal Street, at Exchange Alley. The Fellmans continued to regularly discount merchandise and slash prices. So, many considered their business practices ruthless. They continued in this manner, creating tension between the brothers and the larger Jewish community in the city. While the store enjoyed financial success, their standing in the community diminished.
In 1888, Leon tried to convince Bernard to move Fellman Brothers to the Mercier Building, in the 901 block of Canal Street, corner Dauphine. While the Touro Buildings were solid, the Mercier Building was newer. It stood on the location of Christ Episcopal Church. The church’s chapter auctioned off the corner in 1884. The Merciers bought it, demolished the church, and built a large retail building. The Fellmans split up. They dissolved Fellman Brothers and closed the original store at 133 Canal. Bernard continued at 129 (now 727) Canal as B. Fellman Dry Goods. Leon opened Leon Fellman and Company at 901 Canal Street.
The Touro Buildings photo
This is a 1880 photo taken by George Francois Mungier. He worked for S. T. Blessing at the time. Blessing operated a portrait studio at 87 Canal. So, Blessing also sold stereo photo cards. This photo was No. 549 in Blessing’s New Orleans series.
This Rex parade photo ID is a great challenge.
Rex Parade Photo ID
Photo of a Rex parade circa 1920. Handwritten caption says “Boys School in Rex Parade N.O. La.” The photo features a high school band, marching lakebound on Canal Street. They’re crossing Canal and Carondelet Streets, passing in front of Fellman’s Department Store at 800 Canal Street. The crowds are heavy, as the band approaches the official parade reviewing stand at the Boston Club (out of frame to the right). Via Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album, LSU Special Collections. LSU notes the 1920 date as “questionable.”
Key ID factors
The photo contains three items that bring the 1920 date into question. Or do they? Let’s look.
Boys High School
The caption, “Boys High School” likely refers to what is now Warren Easton Charter School. The school stands at 3019 Canal Street, between N. Salcedo and N. Gayoso Streets in Mid-City. It’s been there since 1913. The city founded the school in 1843. In 1911, they changed the name from “Boys High School” to “Warren Easton High School.” The new name honored the first Supervisor of Education of the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans.
So, by 1920, the school had been Warren Easton for seven-ish years. While that’s ample time to change all the legal documents, old habits die hard. You can hear someone say, “What’s that band? Oh, that’s ‘Boys School.'” Additionally, the caption is handwritten, so we’re relying on someone’s recollection.
Leon Fellman moved his store from the Mercier Building at 901 Canal Street to the Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal Street in 1897. He died in 1920. Fellman’s family returned to the German version of their name, Feibleman, upon his death. They also re-organized the structure of the corporation, changing the store’s name to Feibleman’s.
Again, legal changes don’t always jive with what people say. Additionally, it takes time to change signage and such. Still, that the storefront on Canal says “Fellman’s” here, it’s likely the photo is earlier than 1920.
OK, this is a deep dive, but there’s an interesting sign in the bottom right corner. It says:
AND TELEGRAPH CO.
Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph offered telegram and long distance telephone services at their “pay stations” in the south. Southern Bell merged with Cumberland in 1911. So, this sign likely stood there in the late 1910s. I haven’t seen the sign in photos of the 800 block from the 1920s.
I got nothin! The Islandora record for the photo says:
The photograph album (unbound) contains 103 black and white prints mounted on paper. The images show scenes from several locations in Louisiana during the 1920s. Photographer unknown.
Given the “Fellman’s” sign at 800 Canal Street, it’s certain the photo is no later than 1920. That re-branding was fast and severe. The telephone company wouldn’t have been so intent on replacing their sign. The caption is human.
What do you think?
The Fellmans and Marks Isaacs contributed to the formation of Maison Blanche Origins.
The Pickwick Hotel, 800 Canal Street, 1895. Two years later, Leon Fellman moved his store to this location.
Maison Blanche Origins
The “Greatest Store South,” Maison Blanche Department Store, opened in 1897. These three ads, from The Daily Picayune on 16-February-1890, present a segment of the New Orleans retail scene at the time. L. Fellman & Co., operated in the 901 block of Canal Street. Leon’s brother, Bernard, continued solo in the 701 block. The Kaufmans and Marks Isaacs dominated the Dryades Street corridor. These men shaped the decisions made by S. J. Shwartz as he planned the Maison Blanche.
L. Fellman & Co.
“Dry Goods and Fancy Goods!” Leon Fellman immigrated to New Orleans in the 1870s, following his older brother, Bernard. He adopted Bernard’s anglicized surname, going from Feibelman to Fellman. After working for other established retailers, the brothers opened a store of their own in the 701 block.
In 1884, the chapter of Christ Episcopal sold their church at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Streets. The The Mercier family constructed what became known as the Mercier Building. They sectioned into separate retail spaces. That’s why L. Fellman & Co. lists 173, 175, and 177 Canal Street as addresses.
Leon Fellman operated a “Dry Goods” store that sold “Fancy Goods” as well. He sold fabrics and accessories for women and men. The concept of a “department store” selling ready-to-wear clothing was not yet a thing in the South. So, Leon’s advertising focused on the tried and true:
The many friends, patrons, and strangers would do well to pay a visit to our Grand Emporium before going elsewhere. Having the advantage of procuring all of our merchandise from the “Fountain Head” — the Center of Manufactory — be they Foreign or Domestic — we can with pride declare that our assortment CANNOT BE EXCELLED, OUR PRICES NOT LOWERED, this side of Mason and Dixon’s Line. We shall mention only a few prices. EVERYTHING WILL BE REDUCED!
Competition with Shwartz
Fellman occupied the lake-side of the Mercier Building, “Next to the Grand Opera House.” After the devastating fire in the Touro Buildings in February, 1892, Simon Shwartz moved his family’s business, A. Shwartz and Son, to the other half of the building. Shwartz, backed by his father-in-law, Isidore Newman, acquired the entire Mercier Building. Leon moved out in the Spring of 1897. Shwartz opened the Maison Blanche that October..
Leon moved his store across the street, to the Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal Street. His store evolved into a department store in the style of Maison Blanche.
While Leon’s involvement with Shwartz and MB was as a competitor, his investments sparked other Canal Street retail. Fellman bought the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal in 1899. He demolished those buildings. In their place, a new, two-story store rose, in 1903. Since Fellman’s store at 800 Canal (corner Carondelet) was well-established and successful, he invited the Krauss Brothers to lease 1201 Canal. Thus began the 94-year run of Krauss Department Store.
Leon’s older brother preferred to stay in the Touro Buildings (701 block of Canal Street). Maybe it was his age, perhaps his health, but the brothers parted. Bernard operated his dry good store, declaring it, “The Pioneer Of Low Prices.” So, Bernard competed not only with his brother, but with Abraham Shwartz. A. Shwartz and Son stood at the lake-side corner of the 701 block, Canal and Bourbon Streets. This ad lists an extensive inventory of dry goods. He also advertises “over 2000 Jackets, Cloaks and Wraps, from the lowest ordinary to the best.” A half-off sale always garners attention!
Charles Kaufman’s first store opened on Poydras Street in 1877. Charles partnered with his older brother Simon in the venture. In 1889, Charles joined with Marks Isaacs in a partnership. They opened Kaufman and Isaacs. The partners encouraged shoppers to “Join the Procession of Wise and Discerning People” to their store, on Dryades, Euterpe, and Polymnia Streets. They leveraged their proximity to the Dryades Public Market.
In 1901, Marks Isaacs left the partnership. He joined S.J. Shwartz at Maison Blanche. Charles Kaufman passed in 1917. The family continued operation of the store until 1961. They closed the store and sold the building, in the midst of a great deal of strife related to the Civil Rights Movement. The Kaufman’s building is now the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. Dryades Street now bears the name of Civil Rights pioneer Oretha Castle Haley.
So many connections among the Jewish retailers of New Orleans! You’ll find more history on MB and Krauss in my books:
Maison Blanche Department Stores
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
Additionally, lots of photos of Canal Street in my history of the most important streetcar line in New Orleans:
New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line
800 Canal Street started as the Pickwick Club, then the Pickwick Hotel
The Pickwick Hotel
Photo of the Pickwick Hotel, 800 Canal Street at Carondelet Street, from New Orleans the Crescent City, as it Appears in the year 1895. The Pickwick Club build their “clubhouse” on that corner in 1884. The “Pickwickians” operated a social club whose members formed the Mystick Krewe of Comus. Comus changed Carnival in New Orleans in 1857. They presented the city’s first “modern” Carnival parade. The building later became Leon Fellman’s department store, then Feibleman’s. It was demolished in 1948.
The Pickwick Club
In 1880, the Pickwick Club called a building at Canal and Exchange Alley home. So, they leased the corner of Canal and Carondelet Streets, just down the street from Boston Club. The club moved into their new home in 1884. They remained on the corner for about ten years. A fire broke out in the club in 1894, causing severe damage. The Pickwick Club abandoned the building, moving up the street to 1028 Canal Street.
Col. R. E. Rivers acquired the Pickwick Club building after the fire. He repaired the damage and opened a hotel on the property. New Orleans the Crescent City… described the hotel thusly:
The beautiful Pickwick Hotel is located at the corner of Carondelet and Caral streets , in the very heart of the retail business portion of the city , near the Cotton Exchange and every place of interest . Almost every street car line passes the door . The building itself is one of the handsomest in the city. This house is a bijou resort and only caters to the very best trade. It is furnished throughout in the most elaborate manner, costing nearly S300,000 to outfit. The restaurant attached is without an equal in the South , either in furnishings or the table. The Pickwick is the property of Col. R. E. Rivers , who has succeeded in making it the most popular hotel in the South . The house is always filled with guests.
While the hotel and its restaurant enjoyed critical acclaim, it only lasted for two years. In 1897, S. J. Shwartz acquired all of the Mercier Building, just up the street at 901 Canal. He evicted Leon Fellman and his store from the building. Fellman proposed converting the Pickwick Hotel into retail space. Rivers accepted the proposal, and Leon Fellman’s re-opened at 800 Canal in late 1897.
Leon Fellman’s re-branded to Feibleman’s in 1920, when Leon passed. So, the store remained at 800 Canal until 1931. The family re-located Feibleman’s to a new building they constructed at Baronne and Common that year. The Gus Mayer store chain bought the building in 1948. They demolished it and moved their store from the other side of Canal to that corner.
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