The Storyville debate continued past the District’s creation. .
In their edition of 9-October-1897, The Mascot re-printed a letter from “CITIZEN,” originally published in The New Orleans Item. The letter decries the establishment of the Storyville District, not so much because of the morality of brothels, but because of the behind-the-scene shenanigans taking place between property owners and the New Orleans City Council. The City Council created the District via an ordinance passed on 6-July-1897. They designated the area between Basin, Customhouse, N. Villere, and St. Louis Streets as a red-light district, where prostitution was legal.
Opposition to Storyville
Those who objected to the District did so on more than moral grounds. The neighborhood broke down into the up-scale “sporting palaces” along Basin Street, to the “cribs,” small houses going back into the District, towards N. Villere Street. The price of the evening’s activities reflected the location. So, whether the customer was punter with some money, or a working man looking for some action on a budget, the houses of Storyville met the needs. While those who objected to prostitution in any form howled, the notion of creating a red-light district appealed to many. In particular, property owners in the Vieux Carre and in Faubourg Treme on the east side of the Carondelet Canal liked the idea.
The letter writer, “CITIZEN,” decries the shifts in property values created by the ordinance:
The ordinance has not only done an unjustified injury to the property holders owning real estate, to the value of more than half a million dollars, in the former district occupied by the lewd and abandoned, but has really been a barefaced scheme to speculate to the detriment of a large portion of our population, for the benefit of a few, who are on the ground floor of city affairs, and has afforded several human vampires an opportunity for extorting for old dilapidated shanties fabulous rentals out of all proportion to the value of their properties.
Essentially, CITIZEN argues that houses in a red-light district lose value. At the same time others jacked up the rental prices. The description of “old dilapidated shanties” fits with many of the descriptions of “cribs” in the District.
The flowery prose of the letter writer, combined with the parallels of the issues surrounding short-term rentals of modern times make this a fascinating read.
L&N uptown tracks were where the railroad staged passenger trains.
L&N uptown tracks
Parlor car 395, Louisville and Nashville Railroad, on the L&N Uptown tracks near Gravier and S. Front Streets. The photo is part of the George F. Mungier Collection from the Louisiana State Museum. Photo is undated, but details in the photo place it in the mid-1890s. The Anheuser-Busch stables (left) and brewery (right) are visible, as is the Daniel Edwards Iron Works. The railroad staged passenger trains on the uptown side of Canal Street, then brought them into the station.
American railroads offered seating in parlor cars as an upgrade from coach class. While European railroads offered first- and second-class coach cars, American railroads resisted seating by class. Additionally, American railroads had to maintain “separate but equal” seating for African Americans. So, the railroads added “parlor” cars as an upgrade. These cars sat fewer passengers, and offered food and beverages in the car. The parlor car offered the passenger willing to pay extra an escape from the crowds in coach. On overnight trips, the parlor car enabled the passenger to split the difference between coach and a sleeper. While the sleeping car was the best option, the parlor car’s lower capacity and extra amenities made the trip better.
L&N Canal Street
The L&N railroad operated a station on Canal Street since the early 1890s. The railroad used terminal tracks on the uptown side of Canal Street to assemble passenger trains. They then pulled the train across Canal, up to the boarding platforms. From Canal Street, L&N trains traveled along the river to Elysian Fields Avenue. They turned north there, using the Pontchartrain Railroad tracks to head out of town to the East. L&N used the train bridge over the Rigolets Pass to cross the lake and move north-and-east. The well-known station appeared on Canal Street in 1902. So, this parlor car pulled up into the original station.
Daniel Edwards Iron Works
According to the “Standard History of New Orleans,” 1900, the Daniel Edwards Foundry opened in 1846. The business underwent ownership and management changes in the second half of the 19th Century.
Bucktown 1900 was a fishermen’s village at the end of the 17th Street Canal.
Photo of shacks along both sides of the 17th Street Canal in Bucktown 1900. Source is the New Orleans Jazz Club. While the photographer is unidentified, the note at the bottom is similar to a number of images in Doc Souchon’s collection. The photographer stands several blocks back from the entrance of the canal at Lake Pontchartrain. The plant growth in the foreground is foliage from the swampy ground in the area. The fishermen kept the canal clear for their boats from here to the lake.
The 17th Street Canal
The canal gets its name from 17th Street, in the “uptown backatown” part of New Orleans. While the city changed the street’s name to Palmetto Street in 1894, the old name stuck for the canal. Rainwater from uptown collected in smaller canals, eventually draining into this one. Since land was higher closer to the river, gravity did most of the work for decades. Water flowed into the canal, which in turn flowed out to the lake. There was little development along the 17th Street Canal in the 19th Century. So, by the time the canal reached the lake, the water dissipated into swampy ground. The city built a pumping station across the canal, near Metairie Road. Station #6 opened in 1899, using pumps designed by A. Baldwin Wood.
Connecting the canal to the lake offered an opportunity to fishermen. Even though the New Canal wasn’t that far away, that waterway was navigable. With luggers, tugs, barges, and other vessels traversed it daily. That presented challenges for the fishermen. Moving over to the outfall canal enabled the fishermen to come and go into the lake at their leisure. By the 1890s, fishermen built shacks with small piers for their boats, moving into this, the “East End” of Jefferson Parish. As the area grew, commercial buildings popped up. That lead to restaurants and nightclubs. Those businesses meant gambling and jazz, but that’s another story.
St. Aloysius Commencement in 1894 was a simple ceremony.
St. Aloysius Commencement
The St. Aloysius Commencement ceremony in 1894, as covered by the Daily Picayune, was a simple ceremony, as the school:
…closed its session yesterday without any of the special exercises which are features of the commencement season. For more than a quarter of a century, the institute has been an important factor in the commercial life of the community, sending forth hundreds of students to take positions in the business world and many of our most successful and progressive merchants and thorough bookkeepers and accountants have graduated from its halls, the foundation of their success being the splendid knowledge of mathematics and business methods inculcated at this Institute.
Witnessing the graduation of these young men were a number of Brothers of the Sacred Heart:
- Rev. Brother Justin, President of the Institute
- Rev. Brother Jerome
- Rev. Brother Auastatius
- Rev. Brother Symporium
- Rev. Brother Louis Alphonse
- Rev Brother Anthony
- Rev. Brother Louis
- Rev. Brother Theodius
- Rev. Brother Louis Americ
Rev. Brother Justin addressed the St. Aloysius commencement of 1894, followed by Rev. Brother Jerome, who admonished them that “money was only a means to an end, and that the highest good lies in being faithful to the promptings of conscience and God.”
Esplanade and N. Rampart
The graduates received their diplomas in the General Study Hall of the school, located on the corner of Esplanade and N. Rampart. The school originally opened in a house on the corners of Barracks and Chartres Streets in the French Quarter. The Archdiocese sold that house, originally the officers’ quarters for the Spanish Colonial military, to the BOSH in 1869. St. Aloysius outgrew that facility. In 1892, they acquired the old Ursuline school on Esplanade Avenue, at the corner of N. Rampart Street. The Ursulines moved their convent to the Ninth Ward by then. So, St. Aloysius occupied that corner for only two years of the quarter century of the school’s operation.
Railroad connections in New Orleans via the Clio streetcar lines.
The 100-200 blocks of St. Charles Avenue, seen from Canal Street, 1890. The Crescent Billiard Hall is foreground, left, with a tailor shop in the retail space on the first floor. The second incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel looms over the scene in the 200 block. A mule-pulled buggy with three men approaches the photographer. Three streetcars stand in the street, with men crossing Canal Street in both directions. Detroit Publishing Company photo, via the Library of Congress.
This is the story of going down a historical rabbit hole, where you look at an image, or read a document, and find deeper story. I came across this photo and thought, what a great slice-of-life moment. This is a weekday scene, during work hours. Businessmen come-and-go, as the streetcars converge and connect them with other parts of town. While there are other hotels, even in this scene, the St. Charles Hotel dominates. The hotel served as a transit hub, with street rail passing by and most of the railroads operating in the city maintaining ticket offices in the first floor shops of the building. Lots to unpack and observe!
So, I shared the photo on social media. A while later, my friend Drew Ward messaged me. He pointed out the sign on the top of the bobtail streetcar on the right side. It says:
“ILL CENTRAL SO PACIFIC & PONT RR”
Three Railroads, Illinois Central, Southern Pacific, and Pontchartrain Railroad. Knowing my interest in the Pontchartrain Railroad, Drew double-checked to see if I caught that. I hadn’t. It got me thinking. The IC terminal was on Locust (S. Robertson), between Clio and Calliope Streets. The Southern Pacific also operated from this terminal. The Pontchartrain, however, operated from it’s long-time terminal, on Elysian Fields at Decatur Street.
So, one railroad terminal in Faubourg Ste. Marie and the other in Faubourg Marigny, and a single streetcar line tying them together? But that meant crossing Canal Street.
Yes, that’s how it worked. The Clio line went across Canal Street. Very few lines in the history of street railways in the city made that connection. Usually, streetcars came to Canal, turned around, and returned on outbound runs.
Rabbit hole. Questions. Maps. Stories. Soon I had an outline for a 3000-word piece.
Substack and Bloggery
I’ve been wanting to do more long-form pieces, possibly to submit to other publications, or just put on the blog. I’m taking my patrons along for the ride, with shorter articles like this. These articles will serve as extended captions to the maps and photos I discover for the long piece.
And we’re off!
Pumping Station 6 drains 17th Street Canal.
Pumping Station 6
Drawings from Historic American Building Survey LA-1235, Pumping Station 6, Orpheum and Hyacinth Streets. This pumping station spans the 17th Street Canal, just north of Metairie Road. Built in 1899, it’s the oldest station in service today. Wood-screw pumps designed by A. Baldwin Wood replaced the original pumps in the early 1900s.
The 17th Street Canal
The 17th Street Canal separates Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, from just south of Metairie Road to Lake Pontchartrain. The city changed the name of 17th Street to Palmetto Street in 1894. While the street changed, the name of the canal stuck.
The 17th Street Canal connected several Orleans Parish drainage canals to Lake Pontchartrain. Pumping Station 6 sits just north of Metairie Road because the land beyond the station was essentially undeveloped. Canals in Uptown and Uptown-backatown drained into 17th Street. Water accumulated in the station’s intake basin. The pumps pushed water further along the canal, out to the lake.
Evolution over time
While this design made sense in 1899, growth on both sides of the 17th Street Canal presented complications. Pumping Station 6 kept the water in the canal flowing, but it wasn’t able to lower water levels north towards the lake. Additionally, residents of Bucktown on the Jefferson Parish Side of the canal resisted changes at the lake end. A small fishing community developed along the canal. Those fishermen provided seafood to restaurants and shops in Bucktown and West End. Construction of a new pumping station would close access to the lake from the canal.
So, by 2005, the 1899 design failed to properly defend neighborhoods north of Pumping Station 6 from flooding. Water levels in the canal rose. The US Army Corps of Engineers built higher levees. Since there was insufficient easements to further raise the levee height, USACE build floodwalls. When Hurricane Katrina forced water from the lake into the canal, the floodwall gave way, drowning most of Lakeview and a significant portion of Mid-City.
The Historic American Building Survey series provides a valuable service. There are a number of HABS sets available for buildings and other structures in and around New Orleans.