NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019 Southern Rebellion

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019 Southern Rebellion

The best of “Today in New Orleans History” for this week, and unpacking a photo on this week’s NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019.

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019

Two short segments today on NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019. Take a moment from your Festing and check them out.

Rebel Surrender, 25-April-1862.

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019

“Panoramic View of New Orleans-Federal Fleet at Anchor in the River, ca. 1862.” – Illustration from Campfires and Battlefields by Rossiter, Johnson, et al. (New York, 1894)

Our pick from Today in New Orleans History’s entries this week is April 25th, the capture of New Orleans.

Flag-Officer David Farragut, United States Navy commanded the Union blockade squadron charged with invading New Orleans. In April, 1862, he took that squadron, into the Mississippi River, via Southwest Pass. A squadron of mortar vessels under the command of Captain Donald Porter followed Farragut. The invading force pounded Fort St. Jackson and Fort St. Phillip. These forts were the main defenses below the city. German and Irish soldiers in the rebel army mutinied on the night of April 24th. Farragut led his ships to that side of the river. Thirteen Union vessels passed the forts. The city woke up to Union guns aimed at the city. Farragut compelled the surrender of the city the following day. Major General Benjamin Butler arrived and occupied the city on May 1, 1862.

The loss of New Orleans demonstrated the abject incompetence of the rebel government. New Orleans was the largest port in the rebel states.

Unpacking a Photo – Pontchartrain Beach

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019

Pontchartrain Beach by Jane Brewster

Another event in Campanella’s “Today in New Orleans History” this week was the inaugural run of the Zephyr coaster at Pontchartrain Beach. The Milneburg location of the amusement park opened in April, 1939. On 23-April-1939, the park’s premier attraction, the Zephyr, opened. The wooden roller coaster operated until the park closed in 1983.

Our image for this pod is a Jane Brewster print of the main entrance of Da Beach, in the 1950s. A GM “Old Looks” bus ends its run at the beach. The Beach is fifteen or twenty years old at this time. The Zephyr coaster is visible on the right. Riders entered the coaster via an Art Deco station. They boarded one of the two trains and rode up that first section. Jane shows  a train as it reaches the top. Riders would hold their hands over their heads, at least for that first downhill pass. The coaster took riders over several hills, then made a sweeping turn, returning to the station via a series of small bumps behind the large hills.

Independent Booksellers Day

New Orleans During the Civil War Facebook Group

Pontchartrain Beach Podcast from 2016

Last week’s podcast

Missiles in Avondale – Southern Pacific Railroad #TrainThursday

Missiles in Avondale – Southern Pacific Railroad #TrainThursday

Missiles traveling through Avondale

Avondale

Southern Pacific Alco RS units passing through Avondale, LA, 1960. (Franck-Bertacci Studios photo courtesy THNOC)

Missiles in Avondale

a Southern Pacific Railroad train pulls missile parts through the railroad’s yard in Avondale, Louisiana, 7-Sep-1960. Several Alco road switcher engines pull flatcars containing the parts.

Avondale Shipyards

Avondale

Google Earth view of the Avondale shipyard and rail yard facilities.

In 1938, Avondale Marine Ways opened on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. By 1941, the barge repair facility expanded, building ships for the war. So, the company survived the transition to peacetime, landing contracts to build vessels for the offshore energy industry. The owners sold the company to the Ogden Corporation in 1951. Ogden renamed the facility, Avondale Shipyards. The shipyard landed a number of Navy contracts throughout the Cold War. Therefore, the shipyard became a big part of the metro New Orleans economy in the 1950s/1960s.

Southern Pacific at Avondale

Avondale

Containers carrying missile parts on “piggyback” flatcars. (Franck-Bertacci photo courtesy THNOC)

The railroad was an important part of the shipyard complex. So, Southern Pacific delivered raw materials to the riverfront construction facilities. The rail yard didn’t exist solely because of the shipyard, though. The Texas and New Orleans Railroad  was a SP subsidiary. So, they initially operated a large yard in Algiers. After the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in 1931, the railroad moved upriver. Trains heading west through New Orleans crossed the Huey. Then they continued over T&NO tracks. This included the SP “name trains” such as the Sunset Limited.

SP inaugurated “piggyback” service in 1953. This cargo starts on truck trailers which were then loaded onto flatcars.

Southern Pacific fully absorbed T&NO in 1961.

Missiles

SP “Piggyback” flatcars. (Frank-Bertacci Studios photo via THNOC)

It’s hard to discern the full story of these missile parts from the photos alone. Avondale Shipyards built a number of destroyers and destroyer escorts for the Navy. These ships suited the facility. Like many shipyards along the Mississippi River, this facility built ships in the river. They launched the completed ships sideways. The ships then steamed off, to the shipyard’s finishing docks, or to other locations.

Rocket and missile technology developed rapidly, post-WWII. The Space Race leveraged military missile technoloy. NASA’s first manned space program, Mercury is an example. They started with the Army’s Redstone missile.

So, it’s possible that this train delivered missile parts to the shipyard. Destroyers carry missiles. It’s also possible that these parts originated at, say the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. The trains heading west certainly crossed the river via the Huey, heading to Texas and points west.

Southern Railway – Pontchartrain Expressway #TrainThursday

Southern Railway – Pontchartrain Expressway #TrainThursday

Southern Railway, now Norfolk Southern, maintains the #BackBelt railroad connection.

southern railway

Plate girder bridges crossing the now-filled-in New Basin Canal, 1960.

Southern Railway

The New Orleans and North Eastern (NONE) Railroad connected New Orleans with Meridian, Mississippi, in 1883. NONE operated from Terminal Station, located at Canal and Basin Streets, when that station opened in 1908. The Southern Railway system acquired NONE in 1916. Southern Railway, now Norfolk Southern, expanded their holdings and operations in New Orleans over the past hundred years.

The Back Belt

Southern Railway

Pontchartrain Expressway meets the Back Belt, 1960

Norfolk Southern enters the metro New Orleans area from the East, on the Lake Pontchartrain Railroad Bridge. From there, NS trains travel on tracks following Florida Avenue, through Gentilly and Mid-City. NS also spins off the Back Belt connecting to the company’s Oliver Yard, between Press/St. Ferdinand Streets and Montegut Street. The Back Belt connects with CN tracks in Metairie. That route leads out of the city to the West.

The most-visible part of the NS connection is at the boundary between Mid-City and Lakeview, in New Orleans. The train tracks cross I-10 at this point.

Boats meet Trains

The New Basin Canal ran from Lake Pontchartrain to S. Rampart Street. Irish immigrants made up the bulk of the labor force that built the canal in the 1830s. The Southern Railway system needed to cross the New Basin Canal to get across the city. The railroad built a bridge across the canal just north of Metairie Cemetery (on the canal’s west bank) and Greenwood Cemetry (on the east bank). That bridge served the railroads until the city’s decision to close the canal in 1937. The city filled in the canal’s turning basin some of the canal, up to the intersection of Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. World War II delayed further work. After the war, the city filled in the rest of the waterway, from Tulane Avenue/Airline Highway, to the lake.

Waterway to Highway

Southern Railway

Run-around track at the Pontchartrain Expressway, 1960

The city planned to build an expressway over what used to be the New Basin Canal. The idea was to provide commuters from Lakeview and Metairie with an easier route into downtown. That expressway would eventually link with a bridge over the Mississippi River.

Building an expressway required a re-design of the over-water bridge Southern Railway used over the New Basin Canal. In 1960, work began on demolishing the original bridge. They replaced that bridge with a wider underpass. The first step in constructing the underpass was to re-route the train tracks. They built a “run-around” track to bypass the bridge. Once the run-around became operational, they could demolish the bridge. The new underpass structure went up. The construction crews demolished the run-around, leaving what we see now, over I-10.

Lakeview in the 1950s

Southern Railway

Metairie Road/City Park Avenue at the New Basin Canal, 1960

The construction photos show Lakeview before I-10 swallowed up the area. The filled-in canal area is empty. The Pontchartrain Expressway begins south of Metairie Road at this point. The entrance to the expressway stretched north after the completion of the railroad underpass.

All the while, Southern Railway ran across the city. After 1954, Southern passenger trains followed the Pontchartrain Expressway, turning north, then east, onto the Back Belt, to head out of town.

Hurricane Betsy demonstrated the resilience of New Orleans and MS Gulf Coast

Hurricane Betsy demonstrated the resilience of New Orleans and MS Gulf Coast

Hurricane Betsy showed how resilient and strong the Third Coast is.

hurricane betsy

Damage to the old NAS New Orleans buildings at then-LSUNO, 1965 (Courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)

Hurricane Betsy

On 10-September-1965, Hurricane Betsy hit Grand Isle, Louisiana. The storm formed as a tropical depression on 27-August-1965, in the Caribbean, near French Guinea. After Grand Isle, Betsy crawled up the Mississippi River. The wind pushed “storm surge” water from Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans. The monetary damage from Betsy surpassed $1B. Betsy was the first storm hitting that mark.

Damage to New Orleans

hurricane betsy

Classroom damage at then-LSUNO, 1965 (Courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)

Betsy damaged New Orleans on three fronts. Water pushed by the storm’s winds topped the levees along the lakefront. That flooded the “levee board neighborhoods”, subdivisions between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and the lake. Surge in New Orleans East pushed into the Lower Ninth Ward. That surge, as well as flood walls from the south slammed St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes hard. Second, wind blew down trees, utility poles, large signs, etc. Those falling objects damaged houses and businesses. Roofs fell victim to wind as well. As if this wasn’t enough, Hurricane Betsy spawned tornadoes in Metairie and Jefferson. While tornadoes are more localized, they still inflicted tremendous damage in small areas.

Aftermath

Hurricane Betsy ran up a big tab. New Orleanians paid the bills. They city was wet but not defeated. The people were windblown, but fully intended to stay.

The US Army Corp of Engineers, along with the city, learned much from Betsy. They learned the levees along the lake needed to be much higher. The Corps raised the levees. We built new floodwalls. City Hall developed new evacuation strategies. All that work protected the city for almost forty years.

Katrina

Hurricane Betsy

Flood waters from Katrina swallow the Lakeview branch of NOPL, 2005 (courtesy Loyola University New Orleans)

Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans on 29-August-2005. The preparations of the late 1960s and 1970s, for the most part, held. Some failed, most notably the levees and floodwalls on the city’s outfall canals. Evacuation strategies worked, particularly the “contraflow” lane configurations on interstate highways around the metro area.

The city got wet. The people got windblown. New Orleans and the federal government paid the bill. The people recovered from the damage. Others moved here, strengthening the city. Even the Superdome area came back strong, after serving as the “shelter of last resort”. The Katrina Diaspora continues to affect the city’s culture. While city wrestles with gentrification and “new” influences, groups and neighborhoods preserve what was here before Katrina.

Florida

Folks on the Florida Gulf Coast tell similar stories of wind and rain. National writers would be best advised to take a deep breath and consult history before writing off any town on the Third Coast as “gone”.

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NOPSI Buses and the 900s on Canal Street #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI Buses and the 900s on Canal Street #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI Buses

NOPSI buses

Canal Street, late 1960s (Aaron Handy III photo)

NOPSI Buses on Canal Street

NOPSI buses and not much streetcar action in this #StreetcarMonday photo. That’s because it’s from the 1970s. The St. Charles Line operated solo from 1964 to 1988. Buses ran on all the other lines.

The appeal of buses

New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) operated the New Orleans public transit system from 1923 until 1984. NOPSI was a private corporation. Middle South Utilities owned NOPSI. A holding company owned by General Electric, Electric Bond and Share Company (EBASCO) owned MSU. So, essentially, NOPSI belonged to General Electric. The power company owning the transit system made sense when streetcars dominated. They needed electricity, after all.

There are a number of reasons transit companies adopted buses over streetcars. NOPSI switched over a number of lines before World War II. The government forbade further conversion during the war. The War Department wanted the rubber used for bus tires for the war effort. After WWII, conversion to buses resumed. Most of the remaining streetcar lines converted to buses between 1948 and 1952. That left only Canal Street and St. Charles. In the early 1960s, Air-conditioned NOPSI buses tempted riders from Lakeview with a cool ride downtown. When buses took over Canal Street in 1964, that left only streetcars on St. Charles.

Buses on Canal

From the river to Claiborne Avenue, Canal Street buses ran in the street’s neutral ground. Three lines named “Canal” and two Express lines serviced Canal Street:

  • Cemeteries
  • Lake Vista via Canal Blvd.
  • Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd.
  • Express 80 (Lake Vista)
  • Express 81 (Lakeshore)

So, all three Canal lines stopped at every stop from the river to City Park Avenue. NOPSI buses on Express lines picked up passengers until Claiborne Avenue. So, from Claiborne to City Park Avenue, they did not stop. Riders paid an extra nickel (in addition to the quarter base fare) for Express service.

When Canal-Lake Vista and Express 80 reached City Park Avenue, both lines turned onto Canal Blvd. From there the route was:

  • Canal Blvd (all stops)
  • Right turn on to Robert E. Lee Blvd. to Marconi Drive
  • Left turn onto Marconi to Lakeshore Drive
  • Lakeshore Drive to Beauregard Avenue
  • Right turn onto Beauregard to Robert E. Lee

Therefore, the inbound run began at Robert E. Lee and Beauregard

The Canal-Lakeshore and Express 81 route, from City Park Avenue:

  • Left turn onto City Park
  • Right turn onto Pontchartrain Blvd.
  • Curve along Pontchartrain Blvd, continuing on Academy Drive
  • Continue under I-10 at the 17th Street Canal, where street becomes Frontage Road
  • Left turn from Frontage Road onto Fleur de Lis Avenue
  • Fleur-de-Lis to Veterans Blvd.
  • Right on Veterans to West End Blvd.
  • Left on West End to Robert E. Lee Blvd.
  • Right on Robert E. Lee to Canal Blvd.
  • Left on Canal Blvd. to the end of the line at Lakeshore Drive.

Inbound run started at Lakeshore Drive.

One block of streetcar track

NOPSI 972, at the left of the photo, runs outbound on the single block of streetcar track remaining on Canal Street. The streetcars turned right onto St. Charles from Canal, for their outbound run to S. Claiborne.

Canal Street Architecture – S. H. Kress – classic to “modern” and back

Canal Street Architecture – S. H. Kress – classic to “modern” and back

Canal Street Architecture

canal street architecture

S. H. Kress Building, 921 Canal Street, 1959. (Franck Studios photo)

Canal Street Architecture – S. H. Kress

The S. H. Kress store on Canal Street opened in 1913. It filled the niche between the Maison Blanche building, built in 1908, and the Audubon Building, built in 1910. The store operated from 1913 until 1981. It is now, along with the Maison Blanche building, part of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Canal Street architecture passed through several phases, but the hotels return to the classic looks.

Kress – “five and dime” stores

Samuel Henry Kress opened his first store, selling “stationary and notations” in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, in 1887. The store was a success, enabling Kress to expand. He took the concept of “5-10-25 cent” stores to the Main Streets of America, such as Fifth Avenue in New York City, Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, and Canal Street, in New Orleans. While the upfront investment was considerable, the stores were successful. Kress made a good bit of money. He established a family foundation to give some of it back.

The 900 Block of Canal Street

new orleans architecture

900 Block of Canal, 1883. Robinson Atlas Plate 6 (courtesy New Orleans Notarial Archives)

In the 1880s, the 900 block of Canal Street consisted of the Christ Episcopal Church on the corner of Canal and Dauphine. Next was the Grand Opera House. Then several smaller buildings, leading up to the corner of Canal and Burgundy. In 1884, the chapter of Christ Episcopal auctioned their church to the highest bidder. The Mercier family bought the property. The church moved up to St. Charles Avenue and Six Street. This shift brought major changes to Canal Street architecture.

canal street architecture

900 Block of Canal, 1910. The Audubon Building is on the left, then the gap that used to be the Grand Opera House, then the MB Building. (courtesy LOC)

The Merciers demolished the church and built a five-story retail building. Simon J. Shwartz acquired the building in 1897. The Grand Opera House was demolished around 1900. In 1908, Shwartz demolished the Mercier Building. His “new” Maison Blanche opened in stages. Construction finished on it in 1909. A year later, investors acquired the buildings between the Grand Opera House and Burgundy Street in the 900 block.  They built the Audubon Building.  The Grand Opera House was demolished. A gap existed between the Audubon Building and MB for a couple of years. S. H. Kress bought the site of the Grand Opera House, 921 Canal Street. They filled in the gap with one of their five-and-dime stores.

Civil Rights and Kress

S. H. Kress segregated its lunch counters in Jim Crow states. Protesters in Greensboro, NC, targeted Kress as part of their first sit-ins. Protests and boycotts followed in other Southern cities, including Nashville Jackson, MS. Protesters in Baton Rouge targeted Kress for their initial protests.

The Kress store at 921 Canal avoided the protests of other cities. Civil Rights activists focused on the F. W. Woolworth store down the street. While I have no documentation here, I suspect Kress wasn’t targeted because it was next to Maison Blanche. The entrance to the Maison Blanche Office Building was right next to the Kress entrance. Blocking the MB entrance meant blocking access to the offices of a number of doctors and dentists, along with other professional offices. Perhaps activists considered this when choosing to picket Woolworth.

The front facade

Canal street architecture

The 900 block of Canal Street in 1976. The white porcelain covering on the Kress building is visible on the right.

Kress remodeled the Canal Street store in 1960. They covered the original building’s facade with a white, porcelain overlay. The original facade remained underneath. New owners removed the porcelain overlay in 1983. The building returned to its 1913 look.

Sale to Genesco

In 1964, the Kress family sold out to Genesco, Inc. The new owners dropped the Kress business model. So, they expanded the chain, moving into suburban shopping malls. Genesco closed Kress stores, starting in 1980. The Canal Street store closed as part of that first wave. The building passed through several owners. In 2000, the building became part of the footprint of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. While the front facade remains, the interior is now the parking garage for the hotel.