It’s not just contemporary–falling concrete was a problem in 1958.
Falling concrete in the CBD
A story on the front page of the Times-Picayune on 26-January-1958 has contemporary ring to it. “Falling Concrete Nearly Hits Pedestrian, 2 in Auto.” The location was the Maritime Building, at 800 Common (corner Carondelet). While the outcome is similar to the falling concrete at the Plaza Tower building in recent years, this incident appeared to be a one-off. The building, which is still there, opened in 1895. The concrete originated from a cornice on the eighth floor corner. Like the modern incidents, NOPD blocked the corner off until it was determined to be safe for autos and pedestrians.
Page one of the Times-Picayune, 26-January-1958.
The article details what happened:
A large piece of concrete fell from the eighth floor balcony of the Maritime Building Saturday about 10 a. m., barely missing a male pedestrian and a woman motorist and her two-year-old son.
The cornice-work fell from the extreme corner of the balcony and struck a neon sign, only one in that block on that side of the street. breaking the concrete into several smaller pieces.
The story goes on to say how those smaller pieces hit an automobile. A pedestrian, one Oscar D. Larre, who lived in Lakeview.
Similar to the various incidents at the Plaza Tower, NOPD’s repsonse was to block things off:
Police at the scene blocked all traffic between Carondelet and Baronne and were diverting pedestrians to the downtown side of the streets in the possibility of more falling concrete.
So, further investigation by NOFD and others was inconclusive. While they couldn’t say if more concrete would fall from the building, the police re-opened the street and things returned to normal. Turns out this was indeed an isolated incident.
The Hennen Building
The Hennen Building, article in the Semi-Weekly Times-Democrat, 1-September 1895.
The Martime Building opened as the Hennen Building in 1895. It is a “Chicago style” skyscraper. The building claimed the title of tallest building in New Orleans from its opening until 1904. The Morris Land and Improvement Association constructed the Hennen Building. The association took its name from John A. Morris. They named the building for Mrs. Morris’ father, Mr. Alfred Hennen. The firm of renown New Orleans architect Thomas Sully (designer of the Maison Blanche Building) designed the Hennen Building. The building stands eleven stories high.
The Hennen Building opened with “225 offices, renting from $15 to $35 each.” It housed a wide variety of tenants. New ownership converted it into condos in 2010. It was sold again in 2020, and is now a timeshare facility, the Holiday Inn Club Vacations New Orleans Resort.
My morning started off with me looking for ads from this date (26-January), to share on social media. The process is very scientific–I wake up and follow my nose. I did 25-January-1959 yesterday, so I decided to stay in the 1950s today, with 1958. With the hot mess that is the Plaza Tower, well, here we go. That’s the fun part of this gig!
Tip of the hat – to New Orleans Architecture Tours – a google search of the Hennen Building produced a link to the Times-Democrat article from 1895. That was my jumping-off point to go look at the original article. Thanks!
NORTA 922 carrying the Phunny Phorty Phellows on Twelfth Night.
NORTA 922 and the Phunny Phorty Phellows, Twelfth Night, 2023. Kerri Becker photo.
Seeing NORTA 922 carrying the Phunny Phorty Phellows is a treat.
The Phunny Phorty Phellows (PPP) announce the arrival of the Carnival season. While there are other organizations parading on Twelfth Night, PPP are the senior members of the cohort. We’ve written a bit about PPP here, but the star of this post isn’t the krewe. It’s the streetcar! NORTA 922 is one of the remaining vintage 1923-24 arch roof streetcars designed by Perley A. Thomas. They dominated the New Orleans transit landscape from their debut to the conversion of the Canal Street line to buses in 1964. There are 35 remaining 900-series cars.
A streetcar numbered 922
While any of the “green streetcars” is more than capable of transporting PPP on their run, NORTA 922 adds a bit of flair to the proceedings. It’s the streetcar from the streetcar movie. The film adaptation of Tennesee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire required a streetcar. The rail department of New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) chose car 922 to be the streetcar. The movie opens with it, and the rest is, well, less history and more legend.
So, NORTA 922 was a movie star. By the 1970s, however, an imposter took credit for 922’s starring role! NOPSI 453, a wood-frame Brill streetcar, received the appelation, “Streetcar Named Desire.” This streetcar functioned for decades as the “training car.” NOPSI installed it at their facility on Tchoupitoulas Street and Napoleon Avenue. They rigged the operator’s console with the same equipment as the 900-series. New-hire motormen (and the “motorettes” during WWII) trained on 453. It was set up to rock and bump. Senior motormen taught the new folks.
As streetcar service in New Orleans dwindled, so did the training needs. NOPSI 453 stood idle. The story of how this streetcar became identified with the movie is fascinating. I invite you to go read this article by Earl W. Hampton, Jr. and H. George Friedman, Jr., for details and lots of photos.
922 back at work
In the meantime, NOPSI 922 went back to work on the St. Charles line. It’s done its duty well, coming up on a century of service. One of those duties is charter rides, like the PPP. On Twelfth Night, the news folks and photographers head to Carrollton Station to see off the year’s designated driver. They file their stories and go home, as the streetcar rolls the krewe down S. Carrollton Avenue, turning onto St. Charles Avenue. They announce the start of Carnival along St. Charles. When the streetcar reaches Tivoli Circle, the streetcar circles around. It becomes an outbound car, returning to the barn.
On a side note, streetcar 922 started live as NOPSI 922, and was designated as such from when it first rolled out of the barn. In 1983, NOPSI transferred its transit division to a new entity. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority assumed control of the city’s transit routes and assets. So, those 35 green streetcars switched to the new notation.
A 1943 Willys MB jeep at the National World War II Museum has a 75mm recoilless rifle.
1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle. Edward Branley photo.
The Freedom Pavillion
On our recent trip to the National World War II Museum, we walked through The United States Freedom Pavillion. My firstborn, LT Branley, USN (Ret), wanted to see the various airplanes hanging above us. As we walked in, something else caught my eye, a jeep. Jeeps are pretty common, but this particular one caught my eye. It has a rocket launcher mounted in the back seat. The configuration reminded me of the old television show, “The Rat Patrol.” In the show, set during the North Africa campaign, the jeeps the “patrol” used had machine guns mounted in the back seats. I always thought this was a Hollywood thing. That’s why my eyes turned when I saw this rocket mounted on a jeep.
1943 Willys MB Jeep
1943 Willys MB with 75mm recoilless rifle. Edward Branley photo.
While “The Rat Patrol” was fiction (it was based on a British SAS unit in North Africa), the Willys MB is authentic. Here’s the Museum’s description of the jeep:
Finally, a 1943 Willys MB is on exhibit in The United States Freedom Pavilion, The Boeing Center. This jeep, like other vehicles in the pavilion, runs; and it is moved on a regular basis to accommodate Museum events. This jeep is marked to represent the 155th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion with the 17th Airborne Division during Operation Varsity. This unit received two 75mm recoilless rifles for use in that operation. This type of weapon was just being deployed at the end of the war and proved very useful in anti-tank operations. In addition to the recoilless rifle, the jeep features a wire cutter commonly found in the European theater and a limited collection of other accessories. The jeep has appropriate unit markings. The W number is painted in white, as is typically observed after a vehicle has spent time with a unit.
So, the MB jeep sports a 75mm recoilless rifle. In addition to the memories of the television show, the tube-like gun on the back reminded me of the Cold War board wargames we played in the 1980s. A common weapons system of that time was the BGM-71 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missile. It was interesting to see the evolution of vehicular weapons systems.
1942 Ford GPW in the North Africa Exhibit. Thomas Czekanski photo, Courtesy of The National WWII Museum.
In the North Africa exhibit of the Road to Berlin Gallery, another jeep caught my eye. The display contains a 1942 Ford GPW painted and weathered to look like it had been at Kasserine Pass. Back when I taught American History at Redeemer High School in Gentilly, I used to show the movie, “The Big Red One.” That movie features the battle at the pass. What impressed me about this jeep was the weathering. This jeep’s weathering includes mud spatters as if it traveled a lot of desert miles. No machine gun mounted in the back, just a hard-working vehicle. The National WWII Museum are masters in creating the “immersive experience.”
Ride the bus or streetcar to the game, come back to the French Quarter for fine dining.
Enjoying Sugar Bowl Dining
With fans from Baylor University and the University of Tennessee in town for the Sugar Bowl game on New Year’s Day, even the established, “old line” restaurants took out ads in the Times-Picayune.
Beakfast at Brenna’s, all day.
Brennan’s French Restaurant served “Breakfast At Brennan’s,” with Eggs Hussarde or Eggs St. Denis, all day long. They also recommended Lamb Chops Mirabeau, as well as the rest of a very popular menu of French cuisine. Brennan’s, Still There More at 417 Royal Street, across from the Louisiana Supreme Court building.
“the gourmet’s choice…The House of Antoine for 117 years…National polls have placed Antoine’s top on their list of fine restaurants of America and the world. Antoine’s Restaurant, 713 St. Louis Street in the French Quarter. Roy L. Alciatore, Proprieter.
Arnaud’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.
Germaine Cazenave Wells, Owner and Manager of Restaurant Arnaud’s, and daughter of Count Arnaud, the founder, welcomed Sugar Bowl visitors. “The Paris of the South,” Arnaud’s, still at 813 Bienville Street.
Commander’s Palace in the Garden District
“a command performance for generations, the toast of Kings and Queens of Mardi Gras, Commander’s Palace where each meal is a command performance–delicious french cuisine expertly prepared and graciously served.”
Since 1880, Commander’s Palace – “Dining in the Grand Manner,” Washington Avenue at Coliseum.
Lenfant’s, Poydras and S. Claiborne and Canal Blvd.
Lenfant’s operated two locations in 1956, 537 S. Claiborne and Poydras, and 5236 Canal Blvd. The Special Turkey New Year’s Dinner served to 4 P. M., a la carte after 4pm. “Plenty of Parking Space Available at Both Locations.” Lenfant’s, particularly the Canal Blvd. location, attracted locals not looking to mingle with football visitors.
T. Pittari’s, 31-December-1956
“The Famous T. Pittari’s – Directly on your route–to and from The Sugar Bowl Game” at 4200 So. Claiborne. Pittari’s aggressive marketing via downtown hotels attracted visitors. While they came for the lobster and other exotic dishes, locals went to Pittari’s for their popular Creole-Italian dishes.
Amtrak Crescent #20, 29-December-2022, departing New Orleans. AMTK 164, a GE P42-DC “Genesis” in the lead, with AMTK 514, a GE P32-8WH (commonly referred to as a “Dash-8”) behind. Crescent #20 departs Union Passenger Terminal (NOL) at 0915CST. It runs parallel to I-10, which was a navigation canal until 1949. The track continues trough Mid-City New Orleans, turning east when it reaches the Norfolk-Southern “Back Belt.” this connection is directly behind Greenwood Cemetery. Prior to the opening of UPT in 1954, Southern Railway operated the Crescent. That train operated from the L&N terminal at Canal Street and the river.
Once on the Back Belt, there are no grade crossings through the city. The train crosses Lake Pontchartrain on the NS “five-mile bridge” to its first stop in Slidell, LA. From Slidell, it’s off through Mississippi and Alabama to Atlanta, then on to DC, ending at New York’s Penn Station (NYP).
The Crescent operates “Viewliner” equipment, rather than the “Superliners” used on the City of New Orleans and Sunset Limited. The current consist is 3 coaches, 1 cafe car, 2 sleepers, and a bag-dorm. It’s used this consist since vaccinations for COVID-19 became wide spread. Prior to vaccinations, the route went down to 3-day-per-week operations with two coaches and a single sleeper. Amtrak discontinued dining car service on the Crescent prior to the pandemic.
Illustration of Amtrak Dash-8 locomotives in “Pepsi Can” livery by JakkrapholThailand93 on Deviant Art.
Amtrak replaced their EMD F40PH units with Dash-8s. GE delivered this locomotive to Amtrak in 1991. They wore the “Pepsi Can” livery for years.
AMTK 514 is based here at NOL. The NOL crew operate 514 as a switcher to stage the Crescent, City of New Orleans, and Sunset Limited. The Dash-8 steps in for a run to NYP when weather and scheduling messes up the Genesis count.
AMTK 164, a GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotive, pulling the Crescent #20, 29-December-2022. Edward Branley photo.
By the mid-1990s, Amtrak replaced the Dash-8s with GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotives like AMTK 164, shown here.
Diorama featuring a C-4 Waco glider at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Edward Branley photo.
National WWII Museum Visit
My Firstborn, who spent ten years as a submariner, always wants to go to make a National WWII Museum visit when he comes home (he lives in the DMV, working for the Strategic Capabilities Office these days). We gladly oblige him, as the museum is a fun way to spend the day. He walks like he’s still on a boat and needs coffee badly, so we let him go ahead. When it’s three or four of us, it’s everyone for themselves, and we text to get back together. Being a naval officer, he usually spends most of his time in the Road To Tokyo exhibit. Being an NJROTC cadet who was often chewed out by Master Chief Brennan at Brother Martin High School, I share his interest in the Navy exhibits.
So, this trip, I was surprised when my O-3 said, let’s start with the original D-Day exhibits in the Louisiana Pavillion. The museum evolved from Ambrose’s original D-Day focus to all of the war. In that first summer of 2000, though, Overlord dominated. There’s one diorama in particular that I like to stop at for a while. The scene features a CG-4 Waco glider. The glider crashed into a stone wall in the woods behind and to the west of the Normandy beaches. The US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions dropped into that area. They advanced, securing bridges and causeways connecting the beaches to the hedgerow country. While this particular Waco endured a hard landing (one wing is shown broken off), the jeep inside remains intact. Glider Infantry pushed the vehicle out, then drove off to connect with the rest of their unit.
It’s the stillness of the scene that gets me every time. It’s quiet, maybe this was one of the first gliders to land. The drops were a mess in those early hours of 6-June-1944. Someone’s managed to open the cargo hold. Hopefully the pilots survived. Crickets remind you that this is forest country. The display features no strong special effects, just the night sounds. The All-American and Screaming Eagles started their European campaign there.