1925 photo of the the railroad depot at Biloxi. According to the Biloxi Historical Society, the Biloxi Daily Herald reported that the plans for the depot were in the hands of T.J. Rosell & Company as of January 5, 1901. On April 3, 1901, the paper reported that the depot was expected to open in two weeks.
This photograph, by John Tibule Mendes, is listed by THNOC as “Unidentified Location.” To me, anything “unidentified” is a challenge. I put the image out on social media, and local railroad historian and expert Tony Howe replied back within minutes (thanks, Tony). So, that was enough to do a proper search. According to UNO Press:
Between 1916 and the mid-1930s, John Tibule Mendes (1888–1965) was a consistent and curious observer of life in New Orleans. His photographs are archived in The Historic New Orleans Collection.
It’s no surprise that Mendes meandered over to the Gulf Coast.
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) owned and operated Biloxi Depot. Mendes likely traveled to Biloxi on an L&N train. L&N arrived and departed New Orleans from their passenger terminal at Canal Street and the river. The Aquarium of the Americas now stands on that site.
The State of Kentucky chartered the L&N in 1850. The railroad acquired the Pontchartrain Railroad in New Orleans in 1871. That acquisition enabled the connection of L&N’s system to downtown New Orleans. The L&N operated local and express passenger trains along the Gulf Coast. Those trains also provided mail service.
After several attempts at restoring passenger service along the Gulf Coast, Amtrak extended the route of the Sunset Limited (Los Angeles to New Orleans) to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1993. The railroad discontinued that service in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Amtrak plans to restore service along the coast in stages. The first stage extends the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Mobile. With that in place, they would continue eastward.
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
Travel across the Western United States in the 1920s involved Through Cars.
Through Cars from New Orleans
Passenger railroads dominated long-distance travel in the United States in the 1920s. On 5-June-1926, the Times-Picayune newspaper presented a number of ads enticing readers to pack up and get out of town, to cooler destinations north and west of New Orleans. School was out. It was hot. Mom needed to get away, and the fishing camp in Waveland just wasn’t far enough. So, she sent away for the brochures, to make a case to the family.
Where to go?
Colorado appealed to flat-landers from the swamp. Get up in the mountains, where there was less humidity and mosquitos. The Frisco Railroad, in partnership with Southern Railway, operated the Kansas City-Florida Special and The Sunnyland trains. Both trains operated from Jacksonville to Kansas City. New Orleans passengers rode to Memphis. They changed trains there for points West. Mom contacted Frisco’s General Agent, whose office stood in the United Fruit Building, for an “illustrated map-folder.”
“Follows the Rocky Mountains for 1500 miles.” In addition to the Frisco-Southern trains, The Fort Worth and Denver Railway (popularly known as the Denver Road) offered service to Colorado. Passengers in New Orleans traveled to Dallas, via either the Texas and Pacific or the Southern Pacific. From Dallas, they transferred to the Denver Road, into the Rockies.
The magic of through cars
Typical layout of a “heavyweight” Pullman car.
While changing trains doesn’t sound like an appealing proposition, passengers didn’t mind it if their entire car changed to a new train. Passengers boarded sleeping cars that traveled on one railroad, then changed to another. For example, New Orleanians boarded a sleeping car on Frisco’s Kansas City-Florida Special. When that train reached Memphis. the through car disconnected. Frisco hooked it to a train headed for Colorado. Passengers relaxed in their compartments as the changes happened.
This system worked because The Pullman Company owned all the sleeping cars. Rather than operate their own sleepers, the railroads leased cars from Pullman. That company maintained the cars, staffing them with the now-famous Pullman Porters. Since the railroads didn’t own the sleepers, transfers were easy.
Going West today
While the days of through cars are gone, it’s still possible to easily go West from New Orleans by rail. Here’s the Amtrak City of New Orleans, passing through Old Jefferson on 5-June-2023. The train, Amtrak #58, travels to Chicago. From there, connections to Denver, California, and the Pacific Northwest are all possible.
Located on campus, Loyola Stadium was home to the university’s football team in the 1930s.
Loyola Stadium, 1938. Photographer: Dr. Edward W. Wynne, courtesy Loyola Special Collections.
Night shot of Loyola Stadium at Loyola University, New Orleans, 1938. While the venue takes the name of the school, several photographs identify it as “Joseph Fromherz Stadium.” The venue opened in 1928. This photo–which is stamped on the back with, “Photography by // F. A. // McDaniels // NEW ORLEANS, LA.”–shows what is likely a night practice for the Loyola squad. There’s no crowd or support staff visible. Loyola Stadium was one of the first in the South to host night games.
The end zone clock says, “Courtesy Porter’s.” Porter’s was a menswear store in the CBD. The stadium was demolished at some point after the 1939 football season.
Coupon for discounted reserved seats to the Loyola – Chattanooga football game, 5-Nov-1932.
This article’s inspiration was a coupon printed in the Times-Picayune on 1-November-1932. Maison Blanche sponsored a deal for $1 reserved seat tickets to the Loyola-Chattanooga football game the following Saturday. I post ads from local newspapers to social media during the week, and shared this one. The ads spark conversation and help promote my books. A few people commented that they didn’t know Loyola had a football stadium. So, off to the Loyola archives I went.
Freret and Calhoun
Aerial photo of Loyola Stadium, 1924. Franck Studios courtesy THNOC.
Here’s an aerial photo of the stadium by Franck Studios from 1924. Loyola Stadium stood at the back of the campus, on Freret Street, just off Calhoun. It’s unclear who Loyola is playing here, but the image offers a good view of Freret Street in the 1920s.
Photo of a Loyola football game, 1938. Loyola University Special Collections.
This action photo shows a billboard listing the Loyola football schedule. While it’s dated by the library as 1938, the stadium appears to only be a single-deck. That doesn’t fit with other photos. I’m wondering if this is from a different location.
Loyola discontinued its football program in 1939. The stadium was demolished some time after that. In its place rose the Loyola Field House. The university decided in 1954 that their intercollegiate basketball team needed a better home. So, up went the Field House. While nothing indicates that buildings were demolished to make way for the Field House in 1954, there’s no clear record of what stood on the site between the stadium and the arena.
The Maison Blanche Snack Shop was a wonderful bakery.
Maison Blanche Snack Store on Iberville
Franck Studios photo of the corner of Dauphine and Iberville Streets in the French Quarter in 1951. Maison Blanche opened a Bakery department in 1934. That concept extended into the “Snack Store” in 1945. The original snack store opened in the rear of the ground floor of 901 Canal Street. The company acquired the building at the corner in the mid-1940s. They renovated the interior and moved the Snack Store into it in 1946. The Snack Store closed in 1957 and the building was demolished.
Times-Picayune ad for the 2nd anniversery of the MB Bakery, 7-August-1936
MB entered the bakery business on August 7, 1934. In two years, as this ad shows, the bakery offered “Strawberry preserve silver layer cakes” and Lady Baltimore cakes as anniversery specials.
Times Picayune ad for the MB Bakery, 8-May-1935
The Angel Food Cake was so memorable, Judy Walker, the Times-Picayune’s food editor/columnist, got requests for its recipe as recently as 2007.
The Bakery stood on the ground floor of the store, in the section that joined the two MB office towers. It had a separate entrance at 135 Dauphine Street.
Bakery to Snack Store
Ad in the Times-Picayune, 28-January-1949, featuring imported soups, frozen strawberries, and Danish cherry wine
MB expanded the square feet of the Bakery Department in March of 1945. They added liquor, wine and liqueurs, along with a selection of “gourmet” canned foods, such as whole ducks, chickens, and guinea fowl. After the war, as rationing policies lifted, the Snack Store offered more fresh-cooked food, such as holiday turkeys. By 1949, they even sold live lobster, acting as a retail outlet for Seafood Delivery Services.
Expanding the building
Google Maps photo of the present-day Courtyard by Marriott, Iberville and Dauphine.
The two photos of the corner of Dauphine and Iberville show how the store did not extend all the way back into the block from Canal Street. When the Merciers acquired Christ Episcopal in 1884, the property extended about two-thirds of the way back to Customhouse Street (Iberville’s name at the time). They demolished the church (which re-located to St. Charles Avenue), building the Mercier Building. Shwartz converted that building into Maison Blanche in 1897. He demolished it in 1908, building out the retail and office space that stands at 901 Canal now.
So, that left the other third of the block, with its three-story building. Like several of the other big Canal Street stores, it took MB some time to acquire all of the space. They accomplished this by the 1940s. The Snack Store (along with the Bakery) was a good candidate to outright move into the new space. The corner building offered a separate entrance. Additionally, the move freed up retail space in the main store.
The company’s ultimate goal, however, was to expand the main store. They did so by demolishing the Snack Store building in 1957. MB extended the five-story retail space all the way to the corner. So, the store finally ran the length of the block. (By comparison, it took Krauss until 1952 to grow their store all the way to Iberville in the 1201 block.)
When new ownership converted the store into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, they planned to open the section facing Iberville as a separate concept. They planned to make the 1950s back section into luxury condos/short-term rentals. The market rejected that concept. The owners re-modeled those units into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
Bywater streetcar complications involve the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
NOPSI 1005, ca. 1935. Franck Studios via HNOC
St. Claude Line Bywater streetcars
NOPSI 1005, running on the St. Claude Avenue line, approximately 1935 (Franck Studios photo via HNOC). The car is heading outbound from N. Rampart Street. The 1000-series were the pinnacle of engineering development for the arch roof streetcars. The 1000s kept the original Perley A. Thomas design, with additions under the carriage. While the 400, 800, and 900s operated with two motors, the 1000s had four, one for each set of wheels.
Railroad versus Streetcar
Norfolk Southern train crossing the Industrial Canal, 13-Dec-2019, via Commons user Bl20gh114
St. Claude Avenue and Press Street, in the Upper Ninth Ward, is one of the few locations where streetcars and railroad equipment meet at grade. While the railroads own the Riverfront, the streetcar line operates in parallel to the New Orleans Public Belt RR tracks. The “Back Belt,” originally constructed for the NO&NE and Frisco by the New Orleans Terminal Company, includes a number of automobile underpasses. Once the Back Belt hits Orleans Parish, there are no grade crossings until Slidell.
After the consolidation of passenger rail into Union Passenger Terminal, those trains operated away from automobiles. The tracks run more-or-less parallel to the Pontchartrain Expressway. They merge into the Back Belt just past Greenwood Cemetery.
NOPSI 1371, a trackless trolley, inbound over the Industrial Canal at St. Claude Avenue, approaching Press Street, ca. 1950. City photo.
So, the most significant point of contention between railroad and streetcar was St. Claude and Press. NO&NE/Southern connected to the Public Belt from their Gentilly yard via tracks at Press Street. NOPSI streetcars crossed the train tracks there with few problems for decades. The overhead catenary presented no issues for the railroad. This continued after NOPSI discontinued the 1000-series streetcars in 1949. They scrapped those beauties, replacing them with trackless trolleys. The electric buses received power through the catenary, like the streetcars. They ran across Press, across the Industrial Canal, all the way down to the sugar refinery.NOPSI converted St. Claude from trackless trolleys to diesel buses in 1964. They cut down the overhead wires.
TTGX “tri-level” auto carrier, on the Norfolk Southern Back Belt, 22-Sep-2022.
While streetcars never left New Orleans, NOPSI reduced operations down to the St. Charles line in 1964. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority expanded streetcar service, introducing the Riverfront line in 1988. The success of Riverfront led to returning streetcars to the Canal line in 2004. Economic stimulus money from the federal government offered an opportunity to further expand streetcars in 2010. NORTA constructed a partial return of the St. Claude line. The line operates from Canal Street, along N. Rampart, then St. Claude, to Elysian Fields.
The line stops at Elysian Fields because NORTA and Norfolk Southern can’t come to terms on running the overhead wires over Press and St. Claude. Since the overhead departed almost sixty years ago, it’s on NORTA to change the status quo. The railroad argues that modern rolling stock, such as tri-level auto carriers, are too high for streetcar wires. NORTA disputes this, and they’re right. Still, Norfolk Southern continues to oppose restoring a grade crossing at this intersection.