Express 80 Sunk the Canal Streetcar

Express 80 Sunk the Canal Streetcar

Express 80 bus service made it easy to discontinue streetcar service.

express 80

Express 80 bus in Lakeview (NOPSI photo)

NOPSI’s Express 80

From the late-1960s, riders board a NOPSI bus on the Express 80 route. NOPSI operated this line as an “express” option to its Canal – Lake Vista via Canal Blvd line. The bus, NOPSI 251, is a General Motors “New Looks” bus. They, along with buses from Flxable, replaced the maroon and cream GM “Old Looks” buses, and similar designs from White. The sign at the top front advertises color televisions. The amber lights on either side of the roll board (the route designator) flashed, informing riders this was an express bus rather than the local.

The route

The Canal-Lake Vista and Express 80 lines shared the same basic route:

Outbound

  • Canal Street at Liberty Place
  • Lakebound on Canal Street to City Park Avenue
  • Right on City Park Avenue
  • Immediate left onto Canal Boulevard to Toussaint
  • Right on Allen Toussaint Boulevard to Marconi
  • Left on Marconi Boulevard to Lakeshore Drive
  • Right onto Lakeshore Drive to Beauregard
  • Right on Beauregard Avenue to Toussaint. (Spanish Fort Terminal)

Inbound

  • Right onto Toussaint, heading west to Canal Blvd
  • Left on Canal Blvd to City Park Avenue
  • Right, then left, onto Canal Street
  • Canal Street to Liberty Place

The difference between the local route and Express 80 was that Canal-Lake Vista made every stop along the way. When the outbound Express 80 reached Canal Street and Claiborne Avenue, it didn’t stop again until City Park Avenue. The bus resumed stops from there.

Fares

Riders paid fifteen cents for local bus service at this time. Transfers were free. NOPSI charged an additional nickel for the express lines. When I was a student at Brother Martin High, 1971-1976, I often rode home via Gentilly and Lakeview. We took the Cartier Line (Mirabeau to St. Bernard to Spanish Fort), then Canal-Lake Vista, up to City Park Avenue. I caught the Veterans bus there. Or, if the connections worked. I transferred to the Canal-Lakeshore bus at Canal Blvd and Toussaint. I rode that bus up to the old State Police Troop B station (now the OMV) on Veterans. That’s where I would pick up the Vets bus. When catching either Express 80 or Express 81 (the Lakeshore express), the drivers let me slide on the extra nickel. They knew I was getting off before they went into express service.

Fares in the 1970s went up from fifteen cents to a quarter, with the extra five cents for express.

Sinking the steetcars

How did the express lines help NOPSI discontinue streetcar service on Canal? The Lakeview and West End buses went to the Cemeteries, then turned around. Riders transferred to the green, 1923-vintage arch roof streetcars there. Look at the men in this photo, dressed in business suits. They switched from air-conditioned buses to hot, humid, open-window streetcars. There was no romance of “A Streetcar Named Desire!” So, NOPSI offered them one a/c bus from, say, Harrison Avenue and Canal (or Pontchartrain) into town. That sealed the fate of the Canal line.

Westside Shopping Center #MBMonday

Westside Shopping Center #MBMonday

Westside Shopping Center was anchored by MB’s fourth location.

westside shopping center

Architectural rendering of the re-vamped MB Westside, 1970.

Westside Shopping Center

A re-vamped Maison Blanche Westside was featured in the store’s employee magazine, “Shop Talk,” on 1-February-1970. The store, opened in 1958, as the shopping center’s anchor. After ten years of operation, MB upgraded the two-story location, bringing it into the 1970s. Westside was MB’s only location on the West Bank. The shopping center stood at the corner of Stumpf Boulevard and West Bank Expressway. The open-air strip mall extended out on either side of MB.

Growing Gretna

The Stumpf family acquired an extensive parcel of land in Gretna in 1901. It stood undeveloped for the first half of the 20th Century. In the 1950s, Dr. John F. Stumpf, a dentist planned a shopping center development. The center would front the new West Bank Expressway. The expressway was built to connect Gretna with the anticipated “new” bridge crossing the Mississippi River.

Unfortunately, Dr. Stumpf passed away before Westside’s completion. Other family members, notably his father, Archie C. Stumpf and uncle, State Senator Alvin T. Stumpf.

Grand Opening

westside shopping center

Full-page ad for the grand opening of “West Side Shopping Center,” 31-January-1958. Times-Picayune.

Westside Shopping Center opened on January 31, 1958. Dr. Stumpf’s daughter, Susan, dedicated the center. Governor Earl K. Long and Gretna Mayor William J. White spoke. After a flyover of jets from Naval Air Station New Orleans in Belle Chasse, shoppers filled the new stores.

westside shopping center

Maison Blanche ad for Westside in the Times-Picayune, 31-Jan-1958.

Maison Blanche welcomed old and new patrons. Additionally, three shoe stores, Rexall Drugs, F. W. Woolworth, Labiche’s Lerner’s, Stein’s, and Western Auto, among others, opened for business. A&G Cafeteria, McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppe, and National Food Store offered various foods, and a Gulf Oil Service Station stood ready to gas up the packed parking lot.

Westside versus Oakwood

westside shopping center

The Record Department at MB Westside, 1970

The Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge opened on April 15, 1958. As the west bank grew, a second shopping center opened in Gretna. Oakwood Shopping Center, anchored by D. H. Holmes, offered indoor, air-conditioned connections to its stores in 1966.

westside shopping center

Sign for Maison Blanche in the parking lot of Westside, August, 1958. Sonny Randon Photography via the West Bank Beacon.

In many ways, Westside and Oakwood operated similarly to Lakeside and Clearview in Metairie. It wasn’t difficult for shoppers to hop from MB in one to Holmes in the other. After ten years of operation, MB decided Westside needed a facelift. Oakwood presented a newer, more modern location. So, Maison Blanche upgraded Westside. The company touted those upgrades to employees, generating pride and excitement.

Thanks to the Gretna Historical Society for their article on Westside and the Stumpfs.

 

 

Maison Blanche Clearview #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Clearview #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Clearview was a huge department store.

maison blanche clearview

Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche’s store at Clearview Shopping Center, 1968

Maison Blanche Clearview

Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview, 1968. This is essentially what the store looked like when it opened a year later. This perspective is what you saw as you exited I-10 at Clearview Parkway (North), and drove towards Veterans Blvd. So, this is the western edge of Clearview Shopping Center. Sears, the mall’s other anchor, was on the opposite end. The three-story location had north and south entrances to the parking lots. The entrance on the east opened up into the mall. Clearview was Maison Blanche’s second store in Metairie, the first being at Airline Village.

Westward progression

In 1947, MB expanded beyond 901 Canal Street. The store opened a location in Gentilly, at Frenchmen and Gentilly Boulevard. They also opened a store in a new strip mall located at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. This point was the Southern terminus of US Highway 61, known as Airline Highway here. That highway originated in Wyoming, Mississippi. Before the construction of I-10, East Jefferson residents used Airline Highway to get into town. As Metairie developed after WWII, MB moved west. The store opened a location at Airline Village. By 1969, with I-10 nearing completion in Metairie, MB moved further west, to the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Blvd.

While Clearview Shopping Center fronted Veterans, the mall, extended back to the interstate’s service road. MB recognized the incredible growth in the “Above Causeway” real estate market. The Clearview store would be three-stories, larger than any of the existing suburban stores.

Into the Mall

maison blanche clearview

Shot of the mall entrance to Maison Blanche Clearview, 1971. via the Times-Picayune.

This photo shows the mall-side entrance of Maison Blanche Clearview. As the shopper walked west from Sears, they crossed a central atrium, then walked up to the MB entrance. They encountered the cosmetics counters, as was typical of many suburban department stores. After cosmetics was a central rotunda, with the escalators climbing to the second and third floors on either side. Fine Jewelery operated in the rotunda. Continue the walk west, and the Candy Department tempted you. Then came Men’s Sportswear on the right and Junior dresses on the left.

The store’s angle put the exit from the Men’s department in the back, leading to the parking lot behind the mall. There was a four-story office building separating the mall from the interstate’s service road by the early 1970s. That building housed WRNO-FM radio. Remind me to tell you some stories about that another time.

Intiial design

maison blanche clearview

Early architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview

This rendering was an earlier concept for Clearview. The dark panels on the exterior were similar to the Gentilly Woods store. MB dropped that idea, giving us the look at the top.

Humming Bird to Cincinnati #TrainThursday

Humming Bird to Cincinnati #TrainThursday

The Louisville and Nashville operated the Humming Bird train.

Humming Bird

The Humming Bird

“The Humming Bird crossing Biloxi Bay – Louisville and Nashville R. R.” – Linen postcard printed in the late 1940s. L&N operated the Humming Bird (the two-word name is correct) between Cincinnati and New Orleans, from 1947 to 1969. While the route originally ran as a no-frills train, L&N added Pullman sleepers by 1953.

Like the other L&N passenger trains, the train operated out of the railroad’s terminal at the end of Canal Street (where the Aquarium of the Americas stands now). They moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, along with all the other railroads.

Blue Humming Bird

humming bird

The train’s cars originally had a stainless-steel sheathing. After a few years, the railroad removed the stainless because of corrosion issues underneath it. They then painted the cars blue. L&N re-shot the stainless-steel version of the postcard, updating it for the blue cars. These postcards were available on the train for passengers.

Consist

When it first rolled in 1947, the train consisted of 7 cars: five coaches, a tavern-lounge car, and a diner. American Car Foundry delivered 48 cars to L&N. The ran two sets of seven on the Humming Bird. Additionally, cars from that ACF order ran on the Georgian.

While the route’s popularity was in its speed and simplicity, L&N expanded the consist in 1953. They added sleepers, “6-6-4” cars from Pullman. The cars contained six open births (“sections”), six “roomettes,” and four double bedrooms. The sections were open areas. You had your bed and that was that. The roomettes were walled rooms containing one bed. Section and roomette passengers used communal toilets and sinks. Bedrooms included en suite toilet and sink.

New Orleans Stations

humming bird

Humming Bird departing the L&N terminal on Canal Street, 1947

Humming Bird operated in and out of the L&N terminal from 1947 to 1954. Operations moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the Canal Street terminal after UPT opened. This photo shows the Humming Bird departing the Canal Street terminal.

End of an era

L&N discontinued the train in 1969, saying it was no longer profitable. This was two years before the creation of the national passenger rail corporation, AMTRAK.

 

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche – The first store away from Canal Street.

tulane carrollton maison blanche - the strip mall at tulane and S. carrollton, prior to Maison Blanche

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche

Two photos of the corner of Tulane and S. Carrollton, one prior to the opening of Maison Blanche Carrollton and the other as the store’s life was winding down. The strip shopping center at this corner dates back before World War II. After the war, it becomes Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche, as the department store expanded past 901 Canal Street. As the chain grew, the original Carrollton store moved to up Airline Highway. That store later re-located to Clearview Mall, where it remained until Dillard’s acquired the chain.

Tulane and Carrollton before MB

The earlier photo here shows the strip center with an A&P grocery store. While this photo, from Franck Studios (via HNOC), is undated, the A&P puts it between the construction of the center in 1940 and the closure of the grocery in 1946. Mid City Lanes opened in 1941. The bowling alley operated on the second floor of the lake side of the center. The ground floor contained a Morgan and Lindsey “dime store.” The ground floor, lake side appears to be unoccupied.

Walgreens

Even though the venerable drugstore chain Katz and Besthoff continues to own the hearts of locals, Walgreens opened its first store in the city in 1938. From that first location at 900 Canal Street, the chain branched out into other neighborhoods. Walgreens opened their Mid-City store here at Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche, in 1941.

Regal Beer leased the roof space above the Walgreens. Their sign, which included a clock, towers over the intersection. The city’s minor-league baseball team, the Pelicans, played in their ballpark across the street. The St. Charles/Tulane Belt streetcar lines turned here, heading up and down Tulane Avenue. Behind the strip center, to the west, Tulane Avenue morphed into Airline Highway (US 61). Airline Highway connected New Orleans with Baton Rouge and other points west.

Maison Blanche on the corner

tulane carrollton maison blanche - the strip mall at tulane and S. carrollton, including Maison Blanche

After World War II, various retail chains in the city were free to implement expansion plans long held in check because of the war. Maison Blanche opened two “suburban” stores in 1947, in Gentilly and here in Mid-City. The store raised the height of the roof on the the A&P section of the strip. They offered shoppers the ground floor as retail space and stored stock on the new second floor.

This newer photo dates to the 1960s. While the changes to the corner around the strip center aren’t visible, they were significant. Pelican Park had been demolished. In its place rose the Fountainbleau Motor Hotel. Streetcar service on the Tulane line ended in 1951. The city ripped up the streetcar tracks and operated buses. With the New Canal now filled in, the Pontchartrain Expressway rose over the corner, leading auto traffic into town and to the Mississippi River Bridge.

Budget

MB Carrollton morphed into a “Budget Store” with the opening of MB Airline. The store sold discontinued items, markdowns, returns, etc., at its “Budget Annex,” located behind the main store, at Iberville and Dauphine Streets. When Airline opened, MB expanded its “budget” offerings to Carrollton. In Gentilly, they converted their first store in that neighborhood to a budget location, when the primary store moved to Gentilly Woods Shooping Center.

Carrollton Shopping Center 1964

Carrollton Shopping Center 1964

Carrollton Shopping Center took advantage of the Pontchartrain Expressway.

carrollton shopping center

Gus Mayer

“Keep cool, in sleeveless dresses, deftly shaped…” Summer dresses in dacron-polyester from Gus Mayer. This ad, from the Times-Picayune on 4-June-1964. The store sold these dresses in the “Career Shop-Young Moderns” at the Canal Street location, on the third floor. By 1964, Gus Mayer operated three stores in the city. The venerable main store was at 800 Canal, corner Carondelet. They moved to that location from across the street in 1948. The old Pickwick Hotel building, built in 1895, came up for sale after World War II. Gus Mayer bought the property and demolished the building. They erected the building that is now the CVS Drugstore. So, the new location doubled the size of the original store.

Carrollton Shopping Center

Gus Mayer later expanded, sort-of following Maison Blanche’s strategy. MB opened two “suburban” stores in 1947, at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues, and Frenchmen Avenue and Gentilly Blvd. Gus Mayer opened on the other side of the now-closed New Canal. When the city filled in the canal in 1949, the state built the “Pontchartrain Expressway.” The expressway originally began at Pontchartrain Blvd. near Lake Lawn Cemetery. It extended into downtown, connecting with the original bridge of the Crescent City Connection.

To get over the Illinois Central train tracks and S. Carrollton Avenue, the state built the “Carrollton Interchange,” visible in the rear of the shopping center photo. Developers constructed the shopping center on land now left unused because of the canal closure.

Carrollton grew in popularity as Metairie grew in population. Airline Highway (US 61) made it easy for suburban shoppers to get to S. Carrollton Avenue. A number of stores recognized this potential. JC Penney anchored Carrollton in the west. Smaller stores, such as Labiche’s, Mayfair, and Baker’s Shoes. The center included an A&G Cafeteria, Winn-Dixie supermarket, and a Western Auto store.

carrollton shopping center

Gus Mayer anchored the center on its eastern side. While not as large as the two-floor Penney’s, the women’s store stood off from the strip-mall design, with its own parking area.

Metairie Migration

Gus Mayer once again followed the lead of Maison Blanche in the 1970s. As Metairie development continued in the west, Clearview Shopping Center opened at Clearview Parkway and I-10. MB had already moved their Carrollton Store to Airline Village, further out. (The Carrollton store became a Budget Store.) The department store then moved to the new mall in Metairie. Gus Mayer picked up on that trend. They closed their Carrollton Store, moving to Clearview.

All of the Gus Mayer Stores in New Orleans closed in the 1990s. The company operates two stores in Birmingham, Alabama.