NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019 M.A.R.T. and City Park Avenue

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019 M.A.R.T. and City Park Avenue

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial stands by a M.A.R.T. “gondola,” 11-April-1985 (Morial papers, New Orleans Public Library)

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

Another short-form pod this week! Two items, “New Orleans Past” and unpacking a photo from 1951

M.A.R.T.

Our “New Orleans Past” item, from Catherine Campanella’s website, is her 11-April entry, which goes back to 11-April-1985. The Mississippi Aerial Rapid Transport, M.A.R.T. attraction at the 1984 New Orleans World Exposition attracted visitors and locals alike. Alas, it didn’t attract them in the numbers expected. But then, neither did the fair overall. As a rule, locals didn’t refer to the attraction as “MART”, but rather as “The Gondola”. The east bank station for MART was at Julia Street and the River, just to the east side of the main pavilion building. That building became the Morial Convention Center after Da Fair. The small cars ran across the river, landing next to Mardi Gras World. The theory (hope) of the Kerns was that folks would visit their year-round Mardi Gras attraction in Algiers before returning to the fair site.

This didn’t quite work out as planned. Folks rode MART like an amusement park ride rather than as transportation. Mardi Gras World figured out that the west bank location wasn’t good for attracting tourists, so they moved to the western side of the Convention Center. This was after the fiasco of riverboat casinos in that location.

The operators of MART hoped to continue the attraction as a transportation service, after the fair. While the concept was good, the gondolas weren’t in a good position for the nascent Warehouse District. MART was demolished in 1994. Some of the cars live on at various places around town, such as Poeyfarre Market.

City Park Avenue, 1951

NOLA History Guy Podcast 13-April-2019

City Park Avenue near the PontchartrainExpresway, 1951 (NOLA.com photo)

Unpacking an old photo. This is City Park Avenue in 1951. I found it on a Tumblr, attributed to NOLA.com. Not sure if it’s originally from the Times-Picayune or the State-Item. Also not sure who shot the photo. The streetcars made a left-turn onto City Park Avenue from Canal Street. The West End line continued from there out to the lake, on the eastern side of the New Basin Canal. The Canal line cars stopped on City Park Avenue. They changed for the inbound run there. The end terminal changed to Canal Street only in 1958.

 

Basin Street 1900 – Before Terminal Station #TrainThursday

Basin Street 1900 – Before Terminal Station #TrainThursday

Basin Street 1900 – Before Terminal Station on Canal Street

Basin Street 1900

View of the Storyville District, ca 1900.

Basin Street 1900

This postcard, published by C.B. Mason, shows the Storyville District, three to five years after it’s creation (legally). Here’s the note on the postcard:

“Bird’s-Eye View Of New Orleans LA. ”

View from high building on Canal Street looking towards “Storyville” district. Of particular interest is the row of buildings seen fronting Basin Street, including Tom Anderson’s Josie Arlington’s and Lulu White’s, and “the District” behind it. This is one of the few published cards showing what history recalls as “Storyville”.

There are a lot of shots of Storyville, the section of Faubourg Treme from Canal Street to the Carondelet Canal, but this one of Basin Street 1900 caught my eye for several reasons. The photographer stands on a building on Canal Street. It looks like he’s on the old Mercier Building, at 901 Canal. This was Maison Blanche, before S.J. Shwartz demolished it and built his larger store and office building. This photo shows the neighborhood just before Leon Fellman builds the 2-story retail building at 1201 Canal Street. That building becomes Krauss Department Store.

Trains before 1908

Basin Street 1900

1896 Sanborn Map, Canal and Basin Streets

Trains didn’t travel much on Basin Street 1900. The big passenger terminal opens in 1908. The first two blocks off Canal, Basin to Customhouse (now Iberville), then to Bienville, supported the excursion train to Spanish Fort. So, this 1896 Sanborn map shows the tracks and small station for that Spanish Fort train. Passengers boarded at Canal, then the tracks turned lakebound on Bienville. Note the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal. The Krauss building isn’t there yet. Furthermore, it was a lot quieter at this time, without the trains.

“Down the Line”

Basin Street 1900

Zoom of the CB Mason Postcard of Storyville, 1900ish

This zoom of the postcard shows the same area of the well-known, “Basin Street Down the Line” photo. Two horse-drawn carriages or wagons head riverbound on Custom House. First of all, that’s Tom Anderson’s Saloon behind them, on the corner. Then, in the middle of the street, there’s a passenger stand and shed, for the railroad. So, the tracks are visible.

A few doors down from Tom Anderson’s, Josie Arlington’s “sporting palace” with its distinctive cupola welcomes customers.

After 1908

Basin Street 1900

1911 view of Canal and Basin Streets

This 1911 postcard shows the changes within a decade. Krauss Department Store stands at 1201. So, Terminal Station swallows up Basin street for blocks. The New Orleans and North Eastern (NO&NE) Railroad moved over from Press Street in the Bywater to Canal Street. NO&NE became part of the Southern Railway system in 1916. As a result of the merger, the station’s main sign changed to reflect the merger.

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion #StreetcarMonday

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion #StreetcarMonday

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion – electric with no rails

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion

NOPSI Trackless Trolley on the Magazine line. Undated Franck-Bertacci photo, ~1948-1952

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion

Riders Digest flyer, 11-February-1948 (courtesy Aaron Handy, III)

New Orleans Public Service, Inc (NOPSI) discontinued streetcars on a number of lines after World War II. Magazine Street was one of these lines.  While most lines transitioned to diesel buses, Magazine Street used “trackless trolleys” from 1948 to 1964.

Mules to Electrics to Buses

The Magazine Street line began operation in June, 1861. It used mule-drawn streetcars until 1895. The line electrified in 1895. The first electrics on Magazine were open-vestibule cars that were quickly replaced by single-truck Brills. When the arch roof cars began service on Canal, the 1905-vintage “Palace” cars shifted to Magazine and other upriver-downriver lines. Eventually, the 800-900 series arch roofs operated everywhere in the city.

NOPSI planned to convert streetcars to buses in 1940, but WWII delayed that. The War Department refused the conversions, saying the increased consumption of rubber and diesel fuel were unacceptable.

The Route

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion

NOPSI 931 at Arabella Station on Magazine Street, 1947. (Franck-Bertacci Studios, THNOC)

Magazine originally ran outbound on Camp, inbound on Magazine Street. Streetcars ran up to Toledano Street. The direction on Camp and Magazine flipped in the 1920s. Since then, line runs inbound on Magazine Street to St. Andrew. The inbounds turn there onto Sophie Wright Place, then onto Camp Street at Felicity. From there, they run to Canal Street. The end of the line is on Canal and Magazine. Outbound travels all the way up on Magazine, to Audubon Park. Magazine continued past the park, up Broadway to S. Claiborne until 1933. The service cut back to the park when the Freret line opened.

After WWII

Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion

Ripping up the streetcar tracks on Camp Street, 1948 (NOPL)

The government lifted wartime restrictions in 1947. NOPSI discontinued streetcar operations as soon as possible. While West End and other long-haul lines switched to buses, The city ripped up the tracks in after trackless trolleys began operation in February, 1947. The overhead wire remained until 1964.

 

Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles 1860 #StreetcarMonday

Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles 1860 #StreetcarMonday

Napoleon Avenue links the river to Broadmoor

Napoleon Avenue

Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles Avenue, 1860 (photographer unknown)

Napoleon Avenue in 1860

The first streetcar service in New Orleans was along St. Charles Avenue. The New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company started at Canal Street. They expanded service in stages, as demand and their capital allowed. So, by 1860, the line extended past Napoleon Avenue,

Nayades Street

Napoleon Avenue

Map of Uptown New Orleans, 1850

The street we known know as St. Charles Avenue was called “Nayades Street” for most of the 19th Century. So, architect and surveyor Barthelmy Lafon named this long street after the mythic Green Nymphs who watched over fresh water wetlands. The street ran from the Business District, out to the City of Lafayette. Finally, the line ran to the City of Carrollton. The “Route of the Nayades” connected the neighborhoods. Similarly, it connected the plantations. In 1852, descendants of Spanish planters like Francisco Bouligny continued development. So, they changed the name of the street to honor Charles III. Charles was a Saint and king of Spain. As a result, of naming an uptown-to-downtown street after a Spaniard they needed balance. Bouligny’s descendants named their north-south road after Napoleon Bonaparte. They subdivided the plantation after 1862. Streets on either side of Napoleon Avenue were named to commemorate Bonaparte’s major victories.

Streetcar Operations

The NO&CRR opened its crosstown line in 1835. By the time of this 1860 photo, the company operated “bobtail” streetcars. The Johnson Car Company sold these cars to the New Orleans company. These streetcars, pulled by mules, were a good fit for New Orleans. Therefore, when the New Orleans City Railroad opened their line on Canal Street, they ordered bobtails. The uptown company acquired the property on either side of the tracks at St. Charles an Napoleon. Because the area grew in population, they extended service on Napoleon. So, the Napoleon line ran from St. Charles, going further up the street. NO&CRR opened a mule barn and a streetcar storage barn/maintenance shop at the intersection.

Eventually, the the mule-drawn streetcars were replaced with electrics. The NO&CRR facilities closed. Streetcar operations consolidated closer to the business district.

2-8-0 Steam Locomotives in Gentilly #TrainThursday

2-8-0 Steam Locomotives in Gentilly #TrainThursday

2-8-0 Steam Locomotives operated regularly in Gentilly

2-8-0 Steam Locomotives

Southern Ry (NO&NE) 2-8-0 near Gentilly Blvd (between NE Tower and Seabrook) New Orleans, Frank C. Phillips Photo

2-8-0 Steam Locomotives

We mentioned the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (NO&NE) last week, in our discussion of Homer Plessy’s ticket to Covington. Plessy was arrested at Press Street Station. That station was the terminal for the NONE in the 1890s. Southern Railway acquired NO&NE in 1916. Southern Railway moved NO&NE’s passenger service to Terminal Station on Canal Street. Freight service operated from NO&NE’s Gentilly Yard. The way out of town for the Southern system was their five-mile bridge across Lake Pontchartrain. So, passenger trains came out via the Lafitte Corridor, then merged onto the Back Belt. Freight trains came up Peoples Avenue from the yard, then to the back belt. The trains traveled north, alongside Peoples Avenue. The trains crossed the Industrial Canal at Seabrook. From there, they headed out of town.

Gentilly Blvd. and trains

The Back Belt more-or-less follows Gentilly Blvd. While train tracks run as much as possible in straight lines, streets tend to twist and turn. Because Gentilly Blvd intersects the train tracks several times, the railroad and the city built several underpasses. Trains stayed at the same level, going straight. Automobiles turned, curved, and dipped under the tracks.

1940s Gentilly

Tony Howe, admin of the Louisiana Railroad History group on Faceback captioned this Frank C. Phillips photo:

Southern Ry (NO&NE) 2-8-0 near Gentilly Blvd (between NE Tower and Seabrook) New Orleans, Frank C. Phillips Photo

Others in the group (which is highly recommended for railfans and rail historians) added details. The houses to the left place the photo in Gentilly Terrace. The train heads south, towards either the Back Belt or the yard. The photographer stands just south of the underpass at Gentilly Blvd. The WPA/city/railroad built that underpass in 1940.

Consolidation 2-8-0

Baldwin Locomotive Works introduced the Consolidation 2-8-0 locos in 1883. So, this type of engine was a regular workhorse by the late 1940s. NO&NE owned a number of Consolidations. Unfortunately, the number on this engine isn’t visible.

Rapp’s Luggage, 604 Canal Street #fadingsignsNOLA

Rapp’s Luggage, 604 Canal Street #fadingsignsNOLA

Rapp’s Luggage still sells leather goods and luggage in Metairie

Rapp's Luggage

Rapp’s Trunk Store sign on the side of 604 Canal Street.

Rapp’s Luggage

George Rapp came to New Orleans from Germany, just at the end of the Civil War. He got settled and entered the leather goods business. By 1865, he put together the means to purchase Mack’s Trunk Store, located on Common Street. Rapp changed the name of the business to his own, and moved it to Canal Street.

Rapp continued to refer to the business as a “Trunk Store” when he took over. That’s because “steam trunks” were a huge part of his sales. When folks from New Orleans went to Europe, they did so by taking a four to five week trip on a steamship. Since it took four weeks to get there, people didn’t just turn around and go home in a few days, or even a week. That meant they needed to bring enough clothing and accessories for a months-long adventure. So, Rapps sold those trunk. They also repaired steam trunks. Those things weren’t cheap! Customers wanted to extend their life as much as possible.

604 Canal

Rapp's Luggage

604 Canal Street, next to the JW Marriott Hotel, was the home of Rapp’s Luggage.

This building is 5 stories tall. The Merchants Mutual Insurance building at 624 Canal is four stories tall. So were the buildngs that were demolished to make room for the hotel in-between 604 and 624. So, with most of the block four stories tall, Rapp was able to paint a sign on the lake side of 604 Canal. While the building on the river side of his store was also five stories, the lake side was more important. People walked down Canal Street in the afternoon and evening, heading back to the ferry landing, or the L&N passenger termnal. The building is currently home to a store in The Athlete’s Foot chain.

Leaving Canal Street

Canal Street faced competition from suburban malls in the 1970s. Rapp’s recognized this shift. They left Canal Street, moving across Severn Avenue in Metairie. They also opened stores in The Plaza at Lake Forest, and the Uptown Square Mall. Later, the company expanded to Baton Rouge. They opened a store in the Bon Marche mall.

The faded sign remains on Canal Street!