NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019 – Streetcars and Spoons

NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019 – Streetcars and Spoons

Talking green streetcars and Benjamin Butler in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.

NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019

NOPSI 865, rounding the turn from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue in 1960

NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019

Two segments this week. We talk about our pick of the week from Today in New Orleans History. Then we “unpack” a photo from 1960.

May 1, 1862

NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019

top of the broadside printing of Butler’s proclamation of martial law and occupation, 1-May-1862

While the United States Navy compelled the surrender of New Orleans on 25-May-1862, it was the Army that did the heavy lifting from there. Major General Benjamin Butler, USA, issued a proclamation on 1-May-1862, announcing that New Orleans was under the control of the federal government. He also declared martial law.

The rebels lost the war on the night of 24-25 April, 1862. While many people died and much was destroyed before the formal armistice, it was all over when New Orleans returned to Union control. Farragut forced the rebels to retreat north of the city. Butler came over from Ship Island with his invading force and moved in. Once martial law was established, most of the occupying force moved North as well, in pursuit of the rebels.

“Spoons”

Butler was pretty much an awful person. He had a massive ego. To be fair, so did Farragut and Porter. All three commanders claimed credit for the victory in New Orleans. It’s hard to say who was the worst in this respect, but Butler received the most disparagement. The Lost Cause mythos plays out locally, portraying Butler as a venal man and petty thief. The “spoons” legend is an example. Butler and the USA had orderly procedures for occupying New Orleans. They confiscated gold and silver from residents. Butler didn’t pocket spoons, he sent his troops to loot entire houses!

Inauguration Day

May 1st is Inauguration Day in New Orleans. Two notable 1-May inaugurations were in 1978, when Ernest Nathan “Dutch” Morial officially became the city’s first African-American mayor. Last year, 2018, Latoya Cantrell became the city’s first woman mayor. It’s important to note that 1-May was set as inauguration day by the charter changes of 1954. As much as grumpy liberals who hate Mitch Landrieu want to slander him, he didn’t engineer a way to stay around through the city’s Tricentennial.

NOPSI 865, 1960

Our photo this week is of NOPSI 865, a vintage-1923 arch roof streetcar. This “Charley car” turns from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue, on an inbound run. We unpack the photo in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.

The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com

I’m working on a long-form pod about Da Paper, now that it looks like John Georges is going to vaporize it. That will go up in 2-3 weeks. Working on preserving the memories of the “digital” years.

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Screen Porch Houses harken back to before central a/c

Screen Porch Houses harken back to before central a/c

If you didn’t have air-condition or a lot of fans, you might have lived in screen porch houses growing up.

(cross-posted to Eloquent Profanity)

screen porch houses

House with a screen porch on Iberville Street in #NOLAMidCity

Screen porch houses

Before central air-conditioning became part of everyday home life, screen porch houses lined the blocks of New Orleans neighborhoods. Residents escaped the heat of summer by going outside. There were two problems with being directly outside, though. First, most folks avoided direct sunlight and sunburn. Second, the mosquitoes! So, homeowners screened in their front porches. Screens allowed the breeze in, but not the bugs. The offered protection from the sun. The wood floor gave the rocking chair a smooth surface.

Nothing to fans to a/c

It’s hard to remember a time before so many homes in New Orleans had air-conditioning. By 2011, 88% of homes in the United States were built with central a/c. Prior to the suburban expansions of the late 1960s/early 1970s, homes lacked a/c. While many were retro-fitted with wall units in bedrooms, living spaces often were not. Families believed you should go outside. Sit on the porch. Talk to the neighbors. Many a writer and literary critic supports the notion that central air conditioning dramatically changed the genre of “Southern Literature”, because people just didn’t socialize like they used to. They holed up inside and stayed cool.

There’s a lot of merit to this concept, In New Orleans, we sit outside for a few weeks in the Spring and the Fall. The rainy season (what the northern parts of the US call, “Winter”) just doesn’t accommodate outside activity. The humidity of the Summer and early Fall drain us.

New Orleans homes

Not everyone has a Spanish Colonial courtyard to retreat to on a hot day. Shotgun homes offer good airflow, but privacy concerns often outweigh the breeze running through the house. That leaves the backyard. Thing is, the backyard isolates the family from the neighborhood. Porch-sitting brings folks together.

Hurricane Betsy demonstrated the resilience of New Orleans and MS Gulf Coast

Hurricane Betsy demonstrated the resilience of New Orleans and MS Gulf Coast

Hurricane Betsy showed how resilient and strong the Third Coast is.

hurricane betsy

Damage to the old NAS New Orleans buildings at then-LSUNO, 1965 (Courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)

Hurricane Betsy

On 10-September-1965, Hurricane Betsy hit Grand Isle, Louisiana. The storm formed as a tropical depression on 27-August-1965, in the Caribbean, near French Guinea. After Grand Isle, Betsy crawled up the Mississippi River. The wind pushed “storm surge” water from Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans. The monetary damage from Betsy surpassed $1B. Betsy was the first storm hitting that mark.

Damage to New Orleans

hurricane betsy

Classroom damage at then-LSUNO, 1965 (Courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)

Betsy damaged New Orleans on three fronts. Water pushed by the storm’s winds topped the levees along the lakefront. That flooded the “levee board neighborhoods”, subdivisions between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and the lake. Surge in New Orleans East pushed into the Lower Ninth Ward. That surge, as well as flood walls from the south slammed St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes hard. Second, wind blew down trees, utility poles, large signs, etc. Those falling objects damaged houses and businesses. Roofs fell victim to wind as well. As if this wasn’t enough, Hurricane Betsy spawned tornadoes in Metairie and Jefferson. While tornadoes are more localized, they still inflicted tremendous damage in small areas.

Aftermath

Hurricane Betsy ran up a big tab. New Orleanians paid the bills. They city was wet but not defeated. The people were windblown, but fully intended to stay.

The US Army Corp of Engineers, along with the city, learned much from Betsy. They learned the levees along the lake needed to be much higher. The Corps raised the levees. We built new floodwalls. City Hall developed new evacuation strategies. All that work protected the city for almost forty years.

Katrina

Hurricane Betsy

Flood waters from Katrina swallow the Lakeview branch of NOPL, 2005 (courtesy Loyola University New Orleans)

Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans on 29-August-2005. The preparations of the late 1960s and 1970s, for the most part, held. Some failed, most notably the levees and floodwalls on the city’s outfall canals. Evacuation strategies worked, particularly the “contraflow” lane configurations on interstate highways around the metro area.

The city got wet. The people got windblown. New Orleans and the federal government paid the bill. The people recovered from the damage. Others moved here, strengthening the city. Even the Superdome area came back strong, after serving as the “shelter of last resort”. The Katrina Diaspora continues to affect the city’s culture. While city wrestles with gentrification and “new” influences, groups and neighborhoods preserve what was here before Katrina.

Florida

Folks on the Florida Gulf Coast tell similar stories of wind and rain. National writers would be best advised to take a deep breath and consult history before writing off any town on the Third Coast as “gone”.

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Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey – Library of Congress

Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey – Library of Congress

Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey documents the old bridge.

Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey

Huey P. Long Bridge, 1968 (Library of Congress)

Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey

The first bridge to cross the Mississippi River in Louisiana, the Huey P. Long Bridge links the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish. The bridge opened in December, 1935. US Senator (and former Governor) Huey Pierce Long died on September 8, 1935. Therefore, the state named the bridge after him. So, the railroads switched from ferrying trains across the river to taking the bridge.

HAER

The National Park Service completed a HAER (Historic American Engineering Record) survey of the bridge in 1968. The Library of Congress houses HAER surveys.

There are 213 photos of the bridge in the HAER collection. The Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey is HAER LA-17. Here are the notes attached to the link:

– Significance: The Huey P. Long Bridge, the first bridge to cross the Mississippi River in Louisiana, was named for governor during whose administration it was built. is still considered a major engineering accomplishment and was recognized as the world’s longest steel trestle railroad bridge at 22,996′ (4.36 miles of structure) in length. It has two railroad tracks between two trusses and two, two-lane highways bracketed to the outside. It was built during the depression of the 1930s at a cost of $12.8 million. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
– Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N1071
– Survey number: HAER LA-17
– Building/structure dates: 1935 Initial Construction

LOC archives a number of surveys for Louisiana locations. The government also does Historic American Building Surveys (HABS). Many exist for New Orleans buildings, like the old Canal Station streetcar barn.

The Old Huey

HABS/HAER documentation is valuable. Researchers step back in time. In the case of the Huey, the bridge underwent a major expansion. The state started that expansion in 2008. They completed the work in 2012.

The expansion removed the narrow auto lanes. So, no more tales of trying to pass an 18-wheeler as they head across the river! The HAER survey preserves the old bridge and the memories.

Cor Jesu Football, 1968 – Friday Night Lights in New Orleans

Cor Jesu Football, 1968 – Friday Night Lights in New Orleans

Cor Jesu Football – fall of 1968

cor jesu football

The Cor Jesu Marching Band, Tad Gormley Stadium, 1968.

Cor Jesu Football

The “Friday Night Lights” traditions of Brother Martin High School go back a long way. The two schools merged together to form BrM, St. Aloysius and Cor Jesu, participated in prep football. St. Aloysius High had a solid and competitive athletics department.

While St. Aloysius played strong, Cor Jesu came to prep sports late. The BOSH planned Cor Jesu to be an “academic” school. So, St. Aloysius was their “holistic” school. Cor Jesu opened in 1954, without athletics. By the fall of 1964, Brother Roland, SC, then the principal, announced the formation of an athletics department. Cor Jesu fielded football, basketball, baseball, track and golf teams. The school also formed a drill team as part of the band program.

The brothers hired a St. Aloysius/LSU grad, Andy Bourgeois, as the school’s first AD and football coach. Bourgeois was a member of LSU’s “Chinese Bandits” defense in 1958. Coach hired Bob Conlin as head basketball and assistant football coach.

Bourgeois and Conlin started from scratch on Elysian Fields. Cor Jesu posted a winless record in 1965. The team came along naturally. Gentilly was a baby-boomer neighborhood in the 1960s. So, more of the first wave of boomers chose Cor Jesu. It wasn’t hard to get to St. Aloysius via NOPSI. For Gentilly families, Cor Jesu was even easier. Therefore, the athletics teams improved.

Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius – the legacy

Cor Jesu came a long way from their rocky football start in 1965. So, the team that merged with St. Aloysius to play as Brother Martin in 1969 was solid. Two seasons later, those “men who never say die” won the LHSAA 4-A state championship.

Football Halftime

Cor Jesu’s music program lacked only one thing in 1964–a marching band. That changed as football debuted. Brother Virgil Harris, SC, put his band on the field with for halftime shows in that first season.

This photo shows the Cor Jesu marching band performing at a football game in 1968. The band forms a “CJ” on the field of Tad Gormley Stadium.

Thanks to Brother Neal Golden, SC (CJ ’57) for all his research documenting BOSH athletics.

 

 

Canal Street Architecture – S. H. Kress – classic to “modern” and back

Canal Street Architecture – S. H. Kress – classic to “modern” and back

Canal Street Architecture

canal street architecture

S. H. Kress Building, 921 Canal Street, 1959. (Franck Studios photo)

Canal Street Architecture – S. H. Kress

The S. H. Kress store on Canal Street opened in 1913. It filled the niche between the Maison Blanche building, built in 1908, and the Audubon Building, built in 1910. The store operated from 1913 until 1981. It is now, along with the Maison Blanche building, part of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Canal Street architecture passed through several phases, but the hotels return to the classic looks.

Kress – “five and dime” stores

Samuel Henry Kress opened his first store, selling “stationary and notations” in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, in 1887. The store was a success, enabling Kress to expand. He took the concept of “5-10-25 cent” stores to the Main Streets of America, such as Fifth Avenue in New York City, Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, and Canal Street, in New Orleans. While the upfront investment was considerable, the stores were successful. Kress made a good bit of money. He established a family foundation to give some of it back.

The 900 Block of Canal Street

new orleans architecture

900 Block of Canal, 1883. Robinson Atlas Plate 6 (courtesy New Orleans Notarial Archives)

In the 1880s, the 900 block of Canal Street consisted of the Christ Episcopal Church on the corner of Canal and Dauphine. Next was the Grand Opera House. Then several smaller buildings, leading up to the corner of Canal and Burgundy. In 1884, the chapter of Christ Episcopal auctioned their church to the highest bidder. The Mercier family bought the property. The church moved up to St. Charles Avenue and Six Street. This shift brought major changes to Canal Street architecture.

canal street architecture

900 Block of Canal, 1910. The Audubon Building is on the left, then the gap that used to be the Grand Opera House, then the MB Building. (courtesy LOC)

The Merciers demolished the church and built a five-story retail building. Simon J. Shwartz acquired the building in 1897. The Grand Opera House was demolished around 1900. In 1908, Shwartz demolished the Mercier Building. His “new” Maison Blanche opened in stages. Construction finished on it in 1909. A year later, investors acquired the buildings between the Grand Opera House and Burgundy Street in the 900 block.  They built the Audubon Building.  The Grand Opera House was demolished. A gap existed between the Audubon Building and MB for a couple of years. S. H. Kress bought the site of the Grand Opera House, 921 Canal Street. They filled in the gap with one of their five-and-dime stores.

Civil Rights and Kress

S. H. Kress segregated its lunch counters in Jim Crow states. Protesters in Greensboro, NC, targeted Kress as part of their first sit-ins. Protests and boycotts followed in other Southern cities, including Nashville Jackson, MS. Protesters in Baton Rouge targeted Kress for their initial protests.

The Kress store at 921 Canal avoided the protests of other cities. Civil Rights activists focused on the F. W. Woolworth store down the street. While I have no documentation here, I suspect Kress wasn’t targeted because it was next to Maison Blanche. The entrance to the Maison Blanche Office Building was right next to the Kress entrance. Blocking the MB entrance meant blocking access to the offices of a number of doctors and dentists, along with other professional offices. Perhaps activists considered this when choosing to picket Woolworth.

The front facade

Canal street architecture

The 900 block of Canal Street in 1976. The white porcelain covering on the Kress building is visible on the right.

Kress remodeled the Canal Street store in 1960. They covered the original building’s facade with a white, porcelain overlay. The original facade remained underneath. New owners removed the porcelain overlay in 1983. The building returned to its 1913 look.

Sale to Genesco

In 1964, the Kress family sold out to Genesco, Inc. The new owners dropped the Kress business model. So, they expanded the chain, moving into suburban shopping malls. Genesco closed Kress stores, starting in 1980. The Canal Street store closed as part of that first wave. The building passed through several owners. In 2000, the building became part of the footprint of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. While the front facade remains, the interior is now the parking garage for the hotel.