The Liberty Monument defined Canal Terminal 1941
Street level view of a NOPSI arch roof streetcar circling Liberty Place, 1941 (Franck Studios/HNOC)
Canal Terminal 1941
A NOPSI arch-roof streetcar makes the turn around Liberty Place. This charming photo from 1941 shows one of our classic “green” streetcars circling around the Liberty Monument. After completing the circle, the motorman parked the car in the four-track terminal. He and the conductor took their break, then proceeded on their outbound run.
The obelisk known as the “Liberty Monument” stood at Canal and Front Streets in a small, oval-shaped green space. The New Orleans Traction Company contracted the engineering firm Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FBD), to evaluate the street rail system in New Orleans in 1893. They made a number of recommendations, including a re-design of the streetcar tracks at the foot of Canal Street.
Plan of the Canal Terminal designed by Ford, Bacon, and Davis, published by Street Railway Journal, 1905
The city completed construction of FBD’s Canal Terminal design in 1900. By this time, all the mule-drawn tracks were removed from service. While the city cut back the massive base of the Clay Monument at Royal and Canal, they left Liberty Place alone. They cut down Clay to allow the tracks to run straight. FBD designed a loop around Liberty Place. Streetcars traveled down the Uptown side of Canal Street. When they reached Liberty Place, they looped around and parked on the French Quarter side. The 1900 version of the terminal included the loop and eight tracks. In 1930, the city implemented a “beautification” program that cut back the number of tracks to four. That 1930 street program also included installation of our fleur-de-lis street lamps, also visible in this photo.
Canal and the river
The buildings on the right display advertisements for liquor and wine. “Three Feathers” was a popular blend of Scotch. So, the name refers to one of the heraldic badges for the Prince of Wales. The badge includes a plume of three ostrich feathers and the royal coronet of the prince.
The second sign visible on the right is for Franzia Wines. Franzia still has a warm spot in the hearts of New Orleanians. Supermarkets sell Franzia as a “box wine.” Box wines are popular for Carnival parades, picnics under the interstate, or out at the lakefront.
The building background right is the Port of New Orleans office building, at Eads Plaza. Those buildings were demolished to make way for the International Trade Mart building and Spanish Plaza.
Rounding Liberty Place to Canal Terminal
From the time of the Liberty Place loop’s construction to its removal in 1964, many routes used it to change directions. For example, the Canal Street/Esplanade Avenue “belt” service arrived on Canal Street at N. Rampart Street. The streetcars turned toward the river. They looped around Liberty Place, parked at Canal Terminal then headed outbound. Other lines, such as Gentilly and Desire, used the loop to change direction.
When NOPSI discontinued the Canal line in 1964, they city demolished Liberty Place. So, they placed the monument in storage. Therefore that began its tumultuous history as a civil rights flashpoint. When Canal Street service returned, NORTA constructed the current three-track terminal that exists today. NORTA connected the tracks for the Riverfront line to that terminal. Streetcars now run from the Cemeteries and City Park all the way to the French Market terminal.
Connecting New Orleans to Florida via the Gulf Wind
Combined Piedmont Limited /Pan-American/Gulf Wind train backing into Union Passenger Terminal, 1964 (photographer unknown)
From 1949 to 1971, the Louisville and Nashville operated passenger service from New Orleans to Jacksonville, Florida, via their Gulf Wind train. While the service sounded like a classic “name train,” it was actually the combination of several trains approaching New Orleans from points north.
Louisville and Nashville passenger service
Postcard of the Louisville and Nashville’s Pan-American, from the 1920s.
L&N operated from 1850 to 1982. The railroad operated freight service from the 1880s. L&N built a passenger terminal in New Orleans in 1902. So, that station stood where at the foot of Canal Street. The Aquarium of the Americas presently occupies the space.
L&N provided passenger service from New Orleans to Cincinnati, New York City, and Jacksonville, FL, while the Crescent Limited and the Piedmont Limited ran to New York.
New Orleans – Florida Express
L&N operated service to Jacksonville via the New Orleans-Florida Express, from 1925 to 1949. The railroad used “heavyweight” equipment for this train. The train offered overnight sleeper service. The trip lasted about eighteen hours. In the 1940s, railroads replaced older equipment on busy/popular trains. They substituted “streamlined” cars for the heaver steel ones. Therefore, to modernize, L&N upgraded their New Orleans to Florida service. L&N also operated the New Orleans-Florida Limited, as day service from Jacksonville, west to New Orleans. They discontinued this service in 1949.
SCL E-8 of the type used on the Gulf Wind
L&N re-branded the New Orleans-Florida Express in 1949. So, they gave the train the name, Gulf Wind. The new train operated “streamliner” cars. The new service offered modern dining cars, Pullman sleepers, and rounded-end observation cars. The timetable of the Gulf Wind matched up with the Silver Meteor. That train operated from New York City to Miami. It arrived at Jacksonville mid-afternoon. Passengers heading west across the Florida Panhandle changed to Gulf Wind.
Gulf Wind was diesel-powered. L&N and Seaboard Coast operated the route jointly. So, SCL engines pulled the train from Jacksonville to Chattahoochee. L&N power picked it up there, pulling the train into New Orleans.
The train’s ridership declined in the early 1960s. To maintain profitability, L&N combined service. Several routes approaching New Orleans joined together. L&N combined Gulf Wind with the Piedmont Limited, outbound from New Orleans. The train split up in Flomaton, Alabama. Gulf Wind continued into Florida. So, Piedmont headed north to Cincinnati. On the return run, Gulf Wind combined with the Pan-American, coming down from Cincinnati at Flomaton.
New Orleans Stations
The Gulf Wind operated from the L&N’s Canal Street station, from 1949 to 1954. The city demolished the station in 1954. Therefore, service re-located to Union Passenger Terminal. This also meant a slight change in the route. When departing from Canal Street, the train left on L&N tracks. It traveled to the Gulf Coast between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne via the Rigolets Pass. After 1954, trains departed from UPT. They left the city via the Southern Railway’s Back Belt. The route to Mississippi was over the Southern bridge across the lake.
Gulf Wind ended operation in 1971. Amtrak decided to discontinue passenger service when they took over that year. Amtrak revived the New Orleans-to-Florida service in the early 1980s, but dropped it after a couple of years. The company extended Sunset Limited service from New Orleans to Jacksonville. That service was discontinued in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
NOPSI 866 as a Desire Streetcar 19-December-1947
Desire Streetcar 19-December-1947
NOPSI 866, in the barn on 19-December, 1947. The note at the bottom says “Stiglets Case,” meaning Franck Studios shot the photo as part of a lawsuit. NOPSI lawyers used Franck Studios regularly to run out and shoot accident scenes. They also photographed streetcars involved in other types of lawsuits. NOPSI 866 appears undamaged. So, it’s possible the “Stiglets case” involved something like a slip-and-fall incident. Riders regularly filed legal claims against the transit operator. A lot of things happen on a moving public transit vehicle. Therefore, people claim damages. This continues under NORTA as well.
Canal Street Station
Streetcars running on Desire usually originated from Canal Station, rather than Arabella or Carrollton. Canal housed and maintained the streetars on the “downtown” and “downtown backatown” lines. Canal Station dated back to the creation of the New Orleans City Railroad Company, in 1861. That company operated most of the downtown-side lines. So, when the company merged into New Orleans Traction, the station remained in service. Canal Station serviced streetcars until 1964. NORTA demolished the original station. The A. Phillip Randolph bus facility replaced Canal Station. NORTA constructed a streetcar barn behind the bus station in 2004. The 400-series Riverfront and 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars operated from there. NORTA transferred the green arch roof streetcars to the Canal barn as well. So, Carrollton Station now maintains the streetcars, while Canal houses them.
This streetcar ran on all of the lines in the city, from 1923 to 1964. NOPSI converted the Desire line to buses in 1947. They transferred the streetcars to the Canal and St. Charles lines. The “roll boards” (the signs indicating which line the streetcar was running on) still had all the old line names. Both streetcars and buses used roll signs. In the 1950s, tourists would ask the motormen on the remaining lines to change the roll board to Desire. The riders photographed themselves with the “Streetcar Named Desire.”
NOPSI demolished all of the 800-series arch roofs in 1964. They converted Canal to bus service. Only a couple of 800s remain today.
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This week’s pic for “Today in New Orleans” on NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019
Canal Street, 7-June-1960
NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019
A Lakeview flashback for the NewOrleansPast.com pick this week, along with a photo unpack for NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019. Also, a brief farewell to the Times-Picayune.
Menu from Lenfant’s on Canal Blvd, 1940s.
John L. Lenfant began his career as a barber in the Marigny. Campanella’s entry for 25-June marks Lenfant’s application to open a bar and grocery at 2001 N. Rampart. Gotta love New Orleans, Lenfant wanted to combine a bar and a grocery. A charming cottage occupies 2001 N. Rampart (corner Touro) now.
Inside Lenfant’s in the 1940s. (courtesy NOLA.com)
John Lenfant opened a variety of businesses in the Marigny, Bywater, and Gentilly. John passed before he could open his restaurant on Canal Boulevard. The sons completed the project. It is by far the best-remembered Lenfant’s business
Lenfant’s on Canal Blvd. opened in 1941. The restaurant offered mostly seafood, in dining room styled as “Streamline Moderne.”This style is similar to Art Deco.
In addition to dining in the restaurant, folks could park in the shell lot outside. Car hops would come out and take orders.
Lenfant’s expanded in the 1950s. They opened the “Boulevard Room” next to the restaurant. This expanded Lenfant’s event and catering possibilities. I grew up hearing lots of stories from folks who went to dances at the Boulevard Room in the 1950s. Over time, the ownership of the ballroom and the restaurant separated.
Today in New Orleans History
Canal Street, 1960
Canal Street, 7-June-1960
Unpacking a cool photo from 1960. Streetcars operated on a two-track main on Canal at this time. Palm trees date the photo after the 1958 beautification project. So many signs!
According to “Streetcar Mike” Strauch, “The GMC old look [bus] is on an uptown express, 70 or 71, with the lamps turned on. Jackson trolley coach behind.”
Diesel buses replaced the trackless trolleys in 1964. The Canal Line transitioned to streetcars in 1964 as well.
The Center Theater became the Cine Royale, which ended its days as a porno house.
Last Week’s Pod
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Two short segments on NOLA History Guy Podcast 22-June-2019
Exhibit from the WWI Museum
NOLA History Guy Podcast 22-June-2019
We’re back after a week off, while we celebrated LT Firstborn’s master’s degree! The submariner earned a master’s in Military History from the US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He spent the year as a student living in Kansas City, MO. So, we went up to see him graduate and have him show us around.
On the last day of the adventure, last Monday, we went to the National WWI Museum and Memorial. While it’s natural for New Orleanians in particular to compare the museum here with the one in KC, they’re quite different.
St. John’s Eve
Clip from the New Orleans Times, 25-June-1870
Our pick of the week from Today in New Orleans History is a bit of a cheat. We picked Sunday, 23-June, because it’s St. John’s Eve. Pre-Christian religions celebrated the Summer Solstice for thousands of years. When Christianity moved into Northern Europe, the priests integrated pre-Christian celebrations into the church’s liturgical calendar. Mid-summer, the solstice, became the Feast of St. John. The night before offered pagans a chance to hold their rituals.
St. John’s Eve on Magnolia Bridge
In New Orleans, those “pagans” were Afro-Caribbeans, free and enslaved. They worked their spirits, their Loa, into the Christian framework.Those who respect the spirits of Voudon go out to Magnolia Bridge over Bayou St. John to celebrate the solstice on St. John’s Eve.
WWI Memorial in Kansas City
The memorial part of the WWI Museum and Memorial is over seventy years older than the museum. The foundation created to make the memorial broke ground in 1926. Generals, Admirals, politicians, and 60,000 members of the American Legion witnessed the event. The LibertyTower and adjacent buildings opened in 1926.
Exhibit from the WWI Museum
Until 2002, the museum portion operated from the two Beaux Arts buildings on either side of Liberty Tower. Kansas City followed New Orleans’ D-Day Museum, along with others, in upgrading. While the museum in KC isn’t as large as the WWII Museum, it’s comprehensive.
Link to my lecture from last week at the National World War II Museum.
UPDATE: Here’s the link to the Facebook Live version of my talk last week at the National World War II Museum.
Come see NOLA History Guy at the National WWII Museum for a WWII Lunchbox Lecture
WWII Lunchbox Lecture
Edward Branley presents a WWII Lunchbox Lecture, this Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at the National World War II Museum. The talk will be in the Orientation Center of the Louisiana Pavilion, at Noon. The lecture’s topic is, Winning the War on the Lakefront.
Andrew Higgins and Higgins receive most of the attention in discussions about New Orleans during WWII. While his contributions to the war effort were the most important thing to come out of the city, so much more happened here. The Army Medical Corps, the US Navy, the US Coast Guard, and the Army Air Corps all operated facilities along Lake Pontchartrain. They built hospitals, air bases, supply depots, even a POW stockade. Consolidated Aircraft built flying boats. And yes, Higgins tested his landing craft and PT boats in Lake Pontchartrain.
The Orleans Levee Board drained much of the modern lakefront in the 1920s. They reclaimed the marshy land for use as residential neighborhoods. The Great Depression and the war slowed those plans. Since there was no civilian development in most of the land, the military took advantage. Hospitals appeared in what is now the East and West Lakeshore subdivisions.
Works Progress Administration
Much of the construction was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA lifted New Orleans out of the Great Depression. While the military paid to construct their hospitals and bases, WPA funded road improvements, airport upgrades, and even Pontchartrain Beach. The WPA made it easy for New Orleanians to get to jobs along the lakefront.
The US Navy needed more training facilities for aviators. They built Naval Air Base New Orleans in 1941. The site is now the main campus of the University of New Orleans.