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.
Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.
Our second installment of NOLA History Guy December features Maison Blanche.
Maison Blanche Department Stores – NOLA History Guy December
Simon J. Shwartz was an experienced realtor. He grew up in the family business, A. Shwartz and Son. Simon was the third son of Abraham Shwartz. With two older brothers working with their dad to run the shop in the Touro Buildings, S.J. went up to New York City. He became the store’s buyer. He came home to work in the store in the late 1880s, and married the daughter of Isidore Newman, a successful banker.
After the devastating fire in the Touro Buildings (the 701 block of Canal Street) on February 14, 1892, S.J. moved the family business up the street to the Mercier Building at 901 Canal Street (corner Dauphine). The family then re-built the 701-block store. S.J. was at a crossroads.
Creating Maison Blanche
Shwartz restored the success of A. Shwartz and Son after the fire, but his brother wanted to bring the store back down the street. So, S.J. pitched an idea to his father-in-law. He wanted to open the first true “department store” in New Orleans. Up until this point, “dry goods” stores like his family’s, the Fellman’s, and Daniel Henry Holmes’ store, serviced the city. They were joined by boutiques, like the Krausz Brothers shop at 811 Canal Street. Shwartz wanted to acquire the entire Mercier building, and he needed an investor.
Newman liked S.J.’s concept and backed it. Shwartz purchased the building, evicting Leon Fellman (who moved his store to the Pickwick Hotel Building at 800 Canal). Shwartz remodeled his building’s interior. By the Fall of 1897, he was ready to open.
The “Brain Trust”
Newman’s investment had strings attached. He had Shwartz hire Gus Gus Schullhoefer, Newmman’s brother-in-law, and Hartwig D. Newman, his son. They were smart guys, and gave Newman some eyes loyal to him inside the business. When Maison Blanche opened on October 31, 1897, the Daily Picayune gave over most of their front page to the store’s opening. In addition to details on the store, they profiled the three top executives. Here’s the caption for the image in the paper from the book:
The Maison Blanche Brain Trust. Isidore Newman’s son-in-law, S.J. Shwartz, his brother-in-law, Gus Schulhoefer, and his son, Hartwig Newman, were the first management team of Maison Blanche, from a profile piece in the New Orleans Picayune in 1897.
Into the 20th century
The was a success from the start. While it would be another fifty years until their precious Christmas Mascot, Mister Bingle, made his debut, Maison Blanche quickly earned their tagline, “Greatest Store South.”
Maison Blanche Department Stores
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
From the back cover:
On October 31, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman–with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman–opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building–13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character “Mr. Bingle,” in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.
Street railways connected Algiers with Gretna and even Marrero.
I had the privilege of speaking to the Algiers Historical Society last month, on the subject of street railways on the Westbank. I’d spoken to the group on East Bank subjects in the past, so it was fun to dive into an Algiers topic.
Street Railways pod format
So, I didn’t record the original talk, I sat down this week with the Powerpoint presentation and did it as a Zoom. Zoom generates both video and audio recordings. I uploaded the video recording to YouTube. Video podcasts have been a thing for a while, so we’ll join that bandwagon.
I’ve also included a PDF of the slides, for those of you who listen to the audio format, along with images from the presentation.
Portion of the Robinson Atlas, New Orleans, 1883, showing Algiers Point
Louis Hennick map showing street rail in Algiers, 1895
Sketch of planned Algiers Coruthouse, 1896
1907 Photo of the first electric streetcar in Algiers
Louis Hennick map of Westbank street railways in 1916
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
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:
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.