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!
Sugar Bowl dining options were extensive in 1956
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.
Happy New Year!
Stuffed Bingle hit his stride in the early 1950s.
Santa and Mr. Bingle on the front of Maison Blanche, 901 Canal Street, in 1952. Stuffed Bingles were sold on the Third Floor. (Franck Studios photo courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection)
Jingle Jangle Jingle!
The story of Mr. Bingle is Chapter 3 of my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, from Emile Alline’s preliminary doodles to the puppets, to the Big Bingle that rules Celebration in the Oaks at City Park. That story is now seventy-five years old and going strong.
Mr. Bingle was one of those marketing ideas that was a winner from the beginning. It did take some time to make that happen, though. Alline’s imagination became doodles, then sketches to pitch management. Then the ad department took over, and the little snow elf was in the corners of ads every December.
Stuffed Bingle Prototype
After Mr. Bingle took over the full-page ads, The little guy needed a three-dimensional presence. Alline ordered a fifteen-inch Bingle doll.The doll helped ad development, since he could be posed and photographed with merchandise from the store.
That prototype evolved into the puppets. Oscar Isentrout connected Alline with a German puppet-maker. They copied the prototype doll, creating two Bingle puppets. One puppet stayed at the store. Oscar went around town with the other puppet, doing shows at the branch stores. Oscar performed the voice of the Bingle puppet for those shows, along with the wonderful WDSU-TV commercials.
Bingles for Everyone
Stuffed Bingle in an ad for Maison Blanche in the Times-Picayune, 19-December-1949.
By 1949, the success of print advertising and Oscar’s puppet shows created a demand for Bingles for the kids. The prototype inspired a lasting product:
in big 16″ size
He’s in softest rayon Plush and an exact reproduction of the jolly Mir. Bingle seen in MB’s famous Puppet Show. tots adore him.
In addition to the 16″ Bingle, MB offered him in 11″ for 1.98 and 20″ for 4.98.
To encourage continued sales, MB began branding the Bingles with the year on his foot. Now, families bought Bingles for newborns, etc. As Stuffed Bingles grew in popularity, the dolls spread out to other chains owned by Mercantile Stores. That holding company owned Maison Blanche, along with a dozen other stores. I was totally mind-blown in 1996, when on a business trip to Fargo, ND. As I walked through West Acres Mall (home of the Roger Maris Museum), I stepped into DeLendrecie’s Department Store. There was Mr. Bingle! But of course, a snow elf in snowy North Dakota!
Maison Blanche Gentilly was the second store off of Canal Street.
MB Gentilly, 1948. Franck Studios via THNOC
Maison Blanche Gentilly
Franck Studios photo of Maison Blanche Gentilly in 1948. The department store opened its third store just off Gentilly Boulevard, at Frenchmen Street. This strip mall anchored a large commercial development near the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Gentilly Boulevard. Other stores in the strip at this time include Walgreens, Morgan and Lindsey (a five-and-dime store) and Capital Stores Supermarket. A huge billboard for JAX Beer stands above the Walgreens. The MB is the only two-story store.
The intersection of Elysian Fields and Gentilly Blvd grew into an important commercial area towards the end of the 19th century. The Pontchartrain Railroad operated along the length of Elysian Fields, from Chartres Street to Milneburg at the lake. The railroad marked the road along the Gentilly Ridge, Gentilly Road, the half-way point of the route. The train stopped there if a passenger notified the conductor. The train also stopped for pick-up if it was flagged down. The rail stop evolved into a local hub. The Zuppardo’s parked their produce truck there. That evolved into a brick-and-mortar store. Several Jewish congregations purchased the high ground on the ridge. They built cemeteries there, so they could bury their loved ones in-ground.
World War II
After the war, men and women came home, ready to start families of their own. Developers created subdivisions around the commercial hub. While housing remained segregated, Pontchartrain Park opened as a subdivision for Black families. So, more businesses opened. The Frenchmen strip mall reflected that demand. Residents of Gentilly appreciated the convenience. Instead of taking the Gentilly streetcar (on Franklin) or the Elysian Fields bus into the CBD, they shopped at Maison Blanche Gentilly.
T-P ad, 24-October-1953
“The Woman who works shops at MB for smart, thrift-wise wearables” in this ad in the Times-Picayune, 24-October-1953. MB enticed the working woman with nylon blousettes, wool suits and dresses, and butter calf handbags. With the Gentilly Store, woman shopped without having to schlep back downtown!
City Park’s Miniature Railroad dates to the 1890
The Miniature Railroad at City Park
This is a 2010 photo of the current incarnation of the City Park railroad, courtesy Mid-City Messenger. A miniature railroad first operated in New Orleans City Park in the 1890s. After a couple of false starts, the park’s railroad has run since 1905, pausing only for war (fuel rationing). Trains circle the lower section of the park, starting and ending at the back of Storyland/Carousel Gardens. The train goes east, towards Marconi Drive, then follows Marconi south, to City Park Avenue, it turns west, following the lower edge of the park, turning just before the Wisner/City Park Avenue/N. Carrollton intersection. It curves north, passing the New Orleans Museum of Art, then the Sculpture Garden and Casino, returning to its station by the rides.
The first miniature railroad in the park opened in 1895. The park chose not to renew the contract for the train, saying maintenance of the track cost more than fares brought in. A second attempt, a couple of years later, yielded similar results. A contractor proposed resuming the ride in 1905. The park board of commissioners approved the plan. The railroad became a success. The railroad’s route initially consisted of about 1500 feet of track, which later expanded to 2000 feet.
The train took a temporary hiatus for a year in World War I, and closed completely during the Second World War. While the fuel rationing restrictions ended after the war, the route fell into disrepair. The park re-vamped the railroad in 1949. They laid new rail for the 2000-foot route, using crossties provided by American Creosote Works company, on Dublin Street, Uptown. All was done according to prototype railroad specifications.
The park ordered a train from the Miniature Train and Railway Company of Elmhurst, Illinois. They delivered a faithful replica of a General Motors F3 diesel locomotive and six passenger cars. That train ran on the miniature railroad into the 1970s. The current train is less to prototype, and built for a bit more comfort.
Union Passenger Terminal
When Mayor Chep Morrison completed his plans to operate all passenger trains in and out of New Orleans from a single terminal, then-President of the City Park Railroad, Harry J. Batt, Jr., took out an ad in the Times-Picayune on May 1, 1954. Batt sent Mr. William G. Zetzmann, the Chairman of the New Orleans Terminal Board (the body that built Union Passenger Terminal) his regrets that his mainiature ailroad would not be consolidating operations at UPT. Batt’s note was good-natured:
Dear Mr. Zetzmann,
It is with sincere regret that we must have the unique distinction of being the only 48-passenger train that will not enter and leave your wonderful new station. I contratulate you on this new building, but it is of of necessity that we maintain our present station.
Narrow gauge rail equipment and other factors over which we have no control bring about this condition.
I believe, too, that the kiddies would much prefer the present surroundings with the giant oaks overhead, the blooming flowers, and the other environments of nature that give childhood its greatest urge for happiness.
Harry J. Batt, Jr.
Presiednt, City Park Railroad
While this is a cute and up-beat note, it also served as a poke at Mayor Morrison, who played hardball with the railroads for ten years to get UPT.
Dan’s Pier 600 often featured Al Hirt
Pier 600 on Bourbon Street
Photo of Dan’s Pier 600 club, ca. 1955. Dan Levy, Sr., opened Pier 600 in the early 1950s. While the club stood at 501 Bourbon, corner St. Louis, it gets its name from Dan Levy’s restaurant at 600 Bourbon. Levy enjoyed success with Dan’s International Settlement, at 600 Bourbon, corner Toulouse.
Al Hirt (right), with guests, at Dan’s Pier 600 Jazz Club, 1950s.
Dan’s Pier 600 hosted a number of jazz musicians over the years. Before opening his own club, Al Hirt played Pier 600 regularly. He recorded Volume 3 of his “Swingin’ Dixie” series at the club. You can see Jumbo’s photo on the St. Louis Street side of the club. He’s wearing a crown, and the caption says, “Al Hirt – He’s the King.” Pete Fountain also played at Pier 600 in the early days of his career, both with Hirt and also on his own.
Levy’s son, Dan Jr., joined his father in the business upon his return to the city from college in 1956. Dan Jr. In addition to managing Pier 600, he managed The Al Hirt Club, The Old Absinthe Bar and Nobody Likes a Smart Ass comedy club.
Dan’s International Settlement served Chinese food at 600 Bourbon. While there was a robust Chinese community in New Orleans dating back to the 19th Century, Dan’s is regarded as the first commercial Chinese restaurant in town. Levy opened the restaurant in 1946, partnering with Frank Gee. The location is now Tropical Isle.
A number of articles over the years The street lamp in this photo of Pier 600 clearly says it’s at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon Streets. That’s 501 Bourbon. 600 Bourbon is at the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon. So, the two establishments are not just one building, re-branded over the years. Pier 600 was a shout-out to the existing restaurant. While the restaurant’s building looks much like it did in the 1950s, the Pier 600 building underwent significant renovations.
Photo is courtesy the New Orleans Jazz Museum collection. Thanks also to Dominic Massa, for his 2014 obit of Dan Jr., when he was at WWL-TV.