Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche – The first store away from Canal Street.
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.
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
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.
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 took advantage of the Pontchartrain Expressway.
“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.
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.
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.
Canal Street 1960 featured Hitchcock at the movies.
Canal Street 1960.
Unpacking a photo from “N.O.L.A. – New Orleans Long Ago” on Facebook. This color shot features the 1101 to 901 blocks of Canal Street. The photographer (unidentified) stands across the 140′ street. the angle indicates they’re at Elk Place. A green arch roof streetcar travels inbound, on the Canal line. A second streetcar travels outbound, a block down the street. The marquee of the Saenger features Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Woolworth’s at N. Rampart Street, the Audubon Building, and Maison Blanche Department Store are visible, along with numerous billboards and other advertising.
While this photo is undated, the marquee of the Saenger Theater tells us it’s from the Summer of 1960. Paramount and Hitchcock released “Psycho” nationwide at the end of June. An interesting tidbit about the film: it was the first movie released in the United States with a “no late admission” policy. While Paramount opposed the notion, it turned out that moviegoers lined up well in advance to see the film.
Like other movie houses in New Orleans in 1960, the Saenger observed Jim Crow laws and restrictions. The theater operated the balcony separately from the rest of the building. They walled off the balcony as a “colored” theater, the Saenger Orleans. The theater merged back to one after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Rubenstein’s store, on the Sanger’s corner at Canal and N. Rampart, was not connected to Rubenstein Brothers, the venerable men’s store still at Canal and St. Charles Avenue. This Rubenstein’s was part of a chain of women’s stores. They later moved to the 1000 block. That corner storefront of the theater became a Popeyes in the 1980s.
F. W. Woolworth Co.
Woolworth’s operated one of its two Canal Street stores on the other side of N. Rampart. This location became a nexus for Civil Rights protests just two years after this photo. As in other cities, protesters focused on the Woolworth’s lunch counter. While there were no major incidents, Civil Rights leaders, most notably the Rev. Avery Alexander, led pickets and protests on Canal Street.
Woolworth’s closed the store in the 1990s. The building remained vacant until 2011. Developer Mohan Kailas acquired the store. He demolished the building (which stood on the corner since the 1930s). Kailas partnered with Hard Rock Cafe to build a hotel on the site. In 2019, construction failures caused the development to collapse, killing three.
The 901 block of Canal Street stands as it has since 1910. The Audubon Building was an office building at the corner of Canal and Burgundy streets. It was later converted into a hotel, The Saint. Next is the S. H. Kress store, then Maison Blanche Department Store. MB the store occupied the first five floors. The upper floors were leased as office space. WSMB radio stood atop the building, on the thirteenth floor.
A 1923-vintage arch roof streetcar heads inbound on Canal Street. It approaches the corner of Canal and Rampart streets. I can’t make out its number – if you can, let me know! New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) operated the transit system in New Orleans at the time.
The “beautification project” of 1958 cut back the number of streetcar tracks on Canal from four to two. Streetcar lines heading inbound to Canal Street used the outside tracks to turn around and return to their origin points. By the late 1950s, the only remaining streetcar lines were Canal and St. Charles. So, since those turn-arounds were no longer necessary, the city cut down the size of the neutral ground. Additionally, they increased the number of auto lanes in the downtown section of Canal. planters and palm trees appeared as part of the project. By the summer of 1960, the palm trees survived a couple of winters.
Rex Dumbo 1960 – the flying elephant appeared in the big parade.
Rex Dumbo 1960
“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” in the 1960 Rex parade, 1-March-1960. This photo, by Howard “Cole” Coleman, offers a great “unpack.” It features several Canal Street stores, Maison Blanche, Katz and Besthof, Chandler’s Shoes. The K&B had been converted to the “Camera Center” by this time. The parade rolled down St. Charles Avenue from Uptown. It turned left going the wrong way up Canal, then made a u-turn at Rampart. Rex then rolled down to the river.
901 Canal Street
Maison Blanche dominates the 901 block. The store boasted five floors of retail space. The two towers of the “Maison Blanche Office Building” rose up an additional seven floors. The store’s entrance was at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Street (right behind Rex Dumbo 1960 here). The “office building” entrance stood at the other side of the building. A separate set of elevators lifted you up to a myriad of doctors, dentists, and other businesses above the store. The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans uses the old office building entrace as the main entrance of the hotel.
Katz and Besthof
K&B opened their store in the 800 block of Canal in the 1920s, to service those going to doctors in the MB building. By the late 1950s, the store became redundant, as the chain also operated a store across the street. So, K&B created the “Camera Center.” They sold cameras and photographic supplies on the second floor. The Camera Center grew in popularity, to the point where it took over the first floor as well.
Chandler’s to Baker’s
The Edison Brothers opened the first in their chain of Chandler’s Shoe Stores in 1922. By the 1930s, they expanded to New Orleans. They opened a Chandler’s in the 800 block, next to Lerner’s, just up from Gus Mayer and D. H. Holmes. The Edisons opened a second chain they called Baker’s Shoes. The New Orleans Chandler’s became a Baker’s in the 1970s. Baker’s eventually moved out to the malls. The chain closed the CBD location. The retail front of the building is now a spa/massage place.
King of Carnival
While many of the retail outlets on Canal Street erected grandstands, the stores in the 801 block chose not to. That offered prime parade-watching spots to folks who just wandered around. Cole Coleman stood on the neutral ground to get his photos. Additionally,Coleman crossed the neutral ground to take shots of the parade on the other side of Canal. At this time, Rex toasted his queen and the court at the Boston Club at 824 Canal.
The streetcars stopped, as they do today, at Liberty Street. They “switch-back” there, beginning their outbound runs.
In 1966, newspapers offered Maison Blanche Advertising a solid platform.
Maison Blanche Advertising
The Sunday edition of the Times-Picayune for February 13, 1966 offered a target-rich environment for the department stores. The store placed numerous full-page ads, like this one for “GEORGIA GRIFFIN’S ‘TOWN and TRAVEL’ COLLECTION OF DACRON/COTTONS” – “leaves pressing business behind.” Additionally, they ran an ad for Maison Blanche auto centers,
The dresses featured three neck styles, Italian collar, Double-collar, and Cardigan neck. So, this collection sold at Misses’ and Women’s Dresses, Second Floor of MB Canal. Additionally, they went out to the “suburban” stores. Gentilly Woods, which later migrated to The Plaza at Lake Forest. Airline, which moved to Clearview Shopping Center, and Westside Shopping Center.
MB never sleeps…
With a full final shopping day on Monday, February 14, MB presented Rudy Grenreich’s “Exquisite Form “L’Intrigue” Sleepwear Collection. “(Surprise surprise! … no gossamer peakboo here. All is demure, or is it?)”
Styles from “THE LOCKE SHOE TRUNK SHOWING” by Mr. George D. Williams, stood next to the sleepwear. The “Carol,” “Cameo,” and “Pinafore” enticed women out for the showing. Shoppers ventured only to the downtown Shoe Salon for the Locke shoe. While the outlying stores attracted regular shoppers, the “get dressed and go downtown” view held.
“High-stepping, uninhibited as the season … four great fashion looks from Carmelettes take lower heels, joyous colorings, or the sparkling polish of black.” While the Shoe Department offered several styles and colors only at Canal Street, others appeared at the other stores.
“Carnival arrives at first blush of spring as Samuel Winston, not a moment too soon, proposes you wear his pink frosting spectator’s costume as a foil to the first azaleas and a compliment to a king.” The Designers’ Shop on the Second Floor offered lovely suits perfect for grandstand viewing of parades.
Pfaff’s “DIAL-A-STITCH AUTOMATIC SEWING MACHINE,” priced in the ballpark of the designer suits, contained numerous automatic features. Families with a skilled seamstress at home created their own women’s suits with sewing machines. MB sold them on the Fourth Floor. The 1966 Dial-A-Stitch sold at Canal Street only.
More MB 1966 to come! Be sure to pick up the book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.
The Napoleon Avenue Tunnel proposal would connect Uptown to a new bridge.
Napoleon Avenue Tunnel
Diagram of proposed approaches to a second bridge across the Mississippi River at New Orleans. The concept was to use Napoleon Avenue as a major traffic approach to the bridge. Instead of wiping out the neighborhood, cars would come to the bridge via a tunnel.
This diagram was published in the Times-Picayune on 17-January-1970. The traffic congestion on the original bridge grew to the point where it was clear a second bridge was necessary.
The first bridge
The Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge opened to traffic in April, 1958. New Orleanians relied on ferries for the 250 years prior to its opening. As the Interstate Highway System grew in the 1950s, a bridge across the river at New Orleans made sense. (Ironically, the Interstate system uses the bridge at Baton Rouge). While the metro area had a bridge in Jefferson Parish (the Huey P. Long Bridge), that structure was designed for railroad use, with automobile lanes tacked on.
So, with states and the federal government throwing money into highway expansion and improvements after WWII, New Orleans got a bridge. It was five lanes, two in each direction with an emergency lane in the center.
By the late 1960s, the West Bank of the NOLA metro area grew dramatically. Algiers and Gretna appealed to younger residents looking to get out of their parents’ houses in town. Housing on the West Bank was affordable. You just had to cross the bridge.
Building a new bridge
Lots of proposals came forward for a second bridge. Locations ranged from Uptown by the parish line to down in Chalmette. From an access and traffic perspective, putting a bridge at Napoleon Avenue made some sense. The Jackson Avenue ferry put people out in downtown Gretna. Put a bridge just upriver, and you split the difference between Gretna and Harvey. Folks going to Algiers would continue to use the existing bridge.
While the concept looked interesting, it never got past this diagram. A tunnel? In New Orleans? Good luck with that. And the construction! Those who argued against tearing up Napoleon Avenue for a tunnel and bridge approach were vindicated in recent years with the nightmare that was drainage upgrades on that street. Combine that with the general NIMBY factor from every neighborhood, and we ended up with a second bridge next to the first one.
Still, ideas spark discussion, and a bit of amusement after fifty years.