Napoleon Avenue Tunnel

Napoleon Avenue Tunnel

The Napoleon Avenue Tunnel proposal would connect Uptown to a new bridge.

proposal for a napoleon avenue tunnel to a second bridge, 1970

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.

Southern Crescent 1977

Southern Crescent 1977

The Southern Crescent, heading to New York City, 3-June-1977

southern crescent

Mike Palmieri photo

Southern Crescent train to New York

The Southern Crescent train, crossing over the Canal Boulevard underpass on the “Back Belt,” 3-June-1977. Photo by Mike Palmieri. Here’s Mike’s description of the train:

Southern Railway Train No. 2 – the northbound SOUTHERN CRESCENT – was heading into the morning sun as it made its way out of New Orleans at the Canal Boulevard Underpass. The 12-car train consisted of E8A units 6905, 6902 and 6914, baggage-dormitory car 711, coaches 840, 844, 835, 834 and 3789, 10-roomette/6-double-bedroom sleeping cars 2016 ST. JOHNS RIVER and 2006 OCMULGEE RIVER, diner 3311, dome coach 1613, coach 837 and 11-bedroom sleeper 2301 ROYAL COURT.

Mike’s standing in the parking lot of Plantation Coffee House, a popular coffee shop in Lakeview.I write this from inside the successor to that coffee shop, PJ’s Coffee at 5555 Canal Blvd. The western side of the shop is all windows, making this a wonderful trainspotting location.

Crescent to Southern Crescent

southern crescent

Southern Railway operated Crescent (also known as the “Crescent Limited” in the 1920s and 1930s) from 1925 to 1970. The railroad also operated a second “name train” between New Orleans and New York City, the Southerner, from 1941 to 1970. The Crescent’s route ran from Atlanta to Montgomery, Mobile, then along the Gulf Coast to New Orleans. While the train ran on Southern Railway trackage from NYC to Atlanta, it continued to New Orleans on Louisville and Nashville tracks. So, because the train traveled on L&N, it arrived in New Orleans at that railroad’s terminal, on Canal Street at the river.

Southern Railway lost its mail contracts with the US Postal Service in 1970. As a result the company discontinued the Crescent. Southern merged the Crescent with the Southerner, branding the train the Southern Crescent. The merged train operated exclusively on Southern trackage. After Atlanta, the train traveled to Birmingham, then inland across Alabama and Mississippi, crossing Lake Pontchartrain on the “Five-Mile Bridge,” then into Union Passenger Terminal in downtown New Orleans.

Southern Crescent to Amtrak Crescent

Amtrak took over almost all passenger rail operations in the United States in 1971. Southern Railway chose not to opt-in to Amtrak in 1971. The railroad continued to operate the Southern Crescent until 1978. So, this train is indeed a Southern Railway consist.

The Southern Crescent became the Amtrak Crescent on 1-February-1979.

NOPSI Bus

There’s a New Orleans Public Service (NOPSI) bus passing under the train! That’s a GM “New Look” bus running on either the Canal – Lake Vista via Canal Blvd line or the Express 80 line. I can’t tell if the amber lights on either side of the rollboard are flashing, indicating Express service. This line started at the 100 block of Canal (where One Canal Place is now). It traveled the length of Canal, then turned right for a block on City Park Avenue. From there, it turned left, continuing up Canal Blvd to Robert E. Lee Blvd. From there, it took a right turn on RE Lee, then a left on Marconi Drive, heading up to Lakeshore Drive. The bus rolled along the Lakefront to Bayou St. John, then left on Beauregard Dr., terminating at Beauregard and RE Lee (Spanish Fort).  The inbound run went RE Lee to Canal Blvd to Canal Street. That inbound route was part of my Cartier-Lake Vista-Lakeshore trip home from Brother Martin High School in Gentilly to Metairie.

 

Maison Blanche Thanksgiving

Maison Blanche Thanksgiving

Maison Blanche Thanksgiving weekend was always hectic.

maison blanche thanksgiving

Maison Blanche Thanksgiving

Ad from Thanksgiving Weekend, 1978. MB ran this ad on Sunday, 26-November-1978, after the madness of Friday and Saturday were over. Holiday season 1978 was my first at MB Clearview. I spent that weekend glued to one of those old electro-mechanical cash registers the store used at the time.

Men’s Department

The Post-Thanksgiving sales in the Maison Blanche Men’s Department included mostly grab-and-go items. Casual shirts, slacks, some jackets and coats. Mom would hit the stores while dad slept in or went fishing. So, Mom picked up stuff for dad that didn’t require his presence. That gave her time to explore the various ladies departments. From the employee perspective, it was easy. The lines stached up a bit, so shoppers didn’t come up for conversation.

Selling in 1978

While individual/personal calculators grew in popularity, retail transactions in 1978 had not changed for forty years. Stores shifted from mechanical to electro-mechanical cash register. Credit card transactions remained the same. At MB, store charges (using one’s New Orleans Shoppers’ credit card) rung up on the regular sales ticket. Slide the ticket under the printer in the register. Push the old-style keys for department and item number. Cash, credit, or bank card. The sale rung up, then you’d make an imprint of the card, in the body of the sales ticket. Both store and bank cards required a phone call to verify the credit line, if the purchase was over a set amount. The approval process hadn’t changed much since the 1950s. Credit staff at the Canal Street store answered phones from downstairs and the suburban stores. Those phones had super-long cords (yes, folks, we’re talking about phones with cords). The salesperson at the register gave the card information. The credit staffers looked up the account numbers, calculated the customer’s limit, then approved or declined the purchase.

Suit separates for men

The big ad for Sunday, 26-Nov-1978 for MB presented men’s suit separates from Haggar. “Choose them by the piece: a sport coat, a vest, the slack,, or choose them all for a 3 piece vested look for under 100.00.” These pieces sold well with men whose measurements crossed over suit sizes. The price was right for younger men, as well. These items appear in the Sunday paper. While most people bought the Haggar stuff and brought it home to dad, some folks came in for alterations. We didn’t do alterations over the weekend, but Monday evening after was just fine.

 

 

 

 

Claiborne Terminal 1978

There’s always activity at the Claiborne Terminal.

claiborne terminal

Claiborne Terminal 1978

It was hectic at the end of the St. Charles line on 18-August-1978. Michael Palmieri captured this shot of three vintage-1923 arch roof streetcars, (l-r) NOPSI 914, 923, 962. NOPSI 923 blocks the other two streetcars. On the left, 914 can’t move forward, and 962 can’t enter the terminal. All three streetcars survived the 1964 massacre, when the Canal line transitioned to bus service. NOPSI kept 35 of the Perley Thomas streetcars for St. Charles. The route of the St. Charles line runs from this terminal, at S. Claiborne and S. Carrollton Avenue, inbound down S. Carrollton, turning onto St. Charles, where the line runs into downtown.

Here’s Mike’s caption for the photo from Facebook:

 We’re not sure what misfortune has befallen New Orleans Public Service car 923, but the big truck parked on the other end of the car and the large contingent of sidewalk supervisors indicate that something is amiss. We’re standing on South Carrollton Avenue facing the outer end of the line at South Claiborne Avenue. The car on the right has changed direction, and is ready to head back to Canal Street. The inbound car in the background is the 914. Plum Street is behind us and Willow Street is right on the other side of the 914.

Since this mishap happened on S. Carrollton, it was easy for supervisors from the Rail Department to come up to Claiborne Terminal from Carrollton Station.

Resuming service

As Mike mentions, there’s a truck behind 923. The sequence to get the line back moving would be, send 962 inbound. The streetcar is on the outbound track, but the operator will switch to inbound at S. Carrollton and Willow, by the streetcar barn.

With 962 out of the way, that big truck can push 923 forward through the crossover, onto the inbound track. If the problem was with 923 itself, the truck could push the streetcar to the switch at S. Carrollton and Jeanette Street, and into the barn. Assuming the track and overhead are OK, NOPSI 914 can then leave Claiborne Terminal and head inbound, following 962.

Stein’s Canal Street

Stein’s Canal Street

Stein’s Canal Street occupied three different locations over the years.

stein's canal street

Stein’s Canal Street

Ad for Stein’s Clothing in the Times-Picayune, September 21, 1972. Stein’s was originally located at 800 Canal Street, corner Carondelet Street, but moved up in the 800 block in 1948. By the 1960s, the store returned to the corner, but on the 700 block side of Carondelet. The store, part of a national chain, featured men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. Stein’s first came to New Orleans when Feibelman’s Department Store moved from 800 Canal to the corner of Baronne and Common Streets, in 1931.

Fellman’s to Feibelman’s to Stein’s

stein's canal street

The old Pickwick Hotel building, now Stein’s Clothing, 1940

When retailer Leon Fellman split with his brother Bernard in 1886, he opened his own store at 901 Canal. This was the old Mercier Building, which replaced Christ Episcopal Church, at the corner of Canal and Dauphine. By 1897, S. J. Shwartz acquired the entire Mercier Building for his new department store, Maison Blanche. Shwartz evicted Fellman. Leon went across the street. He convinced the owners of the Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal to let him convert their building into a department store. They agreed, and he opened Leon Fellman’s.

Name change

Leon passed away in 1920. His family dropped the Fellman surname, returning to the German version of their name, Feibelman. The family changed the name of the store from Leon Fellman’s to Feibelman’s. In 1931, the family acquired the old NOPSI building at Baronne and Common. They demolished the building (it had been severely damaged by fire) and constructed a new store there. That left 800 Canal available. Stein’s leased the building, bringing the chain to New Orleans.

Gus Mayer takes over

Stein's Canal Street

Stein’s, 810 Canal Street, 1948

In 1948, another out-of-town chain, Gus Mayer, bought the old Pickwick Hotel. Their New Orleans store was in a small building on the French Quarter side of the 800 block of Canal. Gus Mayer demolished the old building, constructing their flagship store in the city. That building remains at 800 Canal, occupied by a CVS Drugstore.

Moving out

Gus Mayer’s purchase of the Pickwick building meant Stein’s had to find a new location. They moved next door, to 810 Canal Street. The store re-located a second time, to 738 Canal. So, by the 1950s, Stein’s stood on the river side of Carondelet and Canal, and Gus Mayer on the lake side of the corner.

stein's canal street

Stein’s Gentilly Woods, 1960

In the late 1950s, Stein’s opened a second location, in Gentilly Woods. That explains the “Downtown Store Only” reference in this 1972 ad. The chain folded in the 1980s. Kid’s Footlocker currently occupies 738 Canal Street.

Cartier Bus at Carrollton?

Cartier Bus at Carrollton?

The Cartier Bus line ran in Gentilly.

Cartier bus

Cartier Bus

Photo from Aaron Handy, III, of two streetcars and a “old looks” bus at Carrollton Station in the mid-1970s. Here’s his caption from the “Vintage New Orleans Transit” group on the Book of Face: “Charley cars 951 and 961 rest at Carrollton Station And Shops, with NOPSI GM old look bus 1930, curiously assigned to Cartier!”

NOPSI 951 and 961 were two of the thirty-five arch roof streetcars that survived the slaughter of 1964. At this time, mid-1970s, the extent of the Rail Department’s operations was the St. Charles line, from S. Claiborne terminal, looping around at Carondelet and Canal Streetsl, back to St. Charles Avenue, for the outbound run.

Buses at Carrollton Station

The bay next to the streetcars has no rails. The station housed trackless trolleys until 1964. After NOPSI converted trolley bus service back to regular buses, they housed those buses at Canal Station, Carrollton, and Arabella. Aaron is right, a bus working on the Cartier line parked Uptown is curious!

Gentilly transit service

Cartier! That line was one of my ways home from Brother Martin High School. The line primarily served as school buses. Fed FW Gregory Jr High to JFK. Here’s the route:

  • Outbound from Franklin Ave. at Mirabeau Avenue.
  • Up Mirabeau to St. Bernard
  • Stop at Mirabeau and Press along the way. This was a huge stop, since it connected F. W. Gregory Jr. High, down the street on Press.
  • Up St. Bernard to Toussaint
  • Turn left on Toussaint to cross the bayou
  • Stop at Spanish Fort
  • U-turn on Toussaint, then right on Wisner (cross the bayou)
  • Down Wisner to JFK. End of route.
  • Return: reverse the direction, back to Franklin Avenue

While Cartier wasn’t the only option to get back to Metairie, it allowed me to hang out with friends who lived in Lakeview a bit longer. We’d ride Cartier to Spanish Fort, then transfer to the Canal (Lake Vista via Canal Blvd) line, or its “Express” line, 80. The express drivers didn’t charge us the extra nickel, since they knew we exited in Lakeview. The Lake Vista bus turned at Toussaint and Canal Blvd, heading inbound. We would either ride to City Park Avenue, or exit at Toussaint. The Canal (Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd) bus began its inbound run at Canal Blvd and the lake. We caught it at Toussaint, and rode up to Veterans. Then it was JeT out to Metairie.

“Old Looks”

Those GM “Old Looks” buses were long gone from most routes by the mid-1970s. NOPSI promoted/sold discontinuing streetcars on Canal by offering air-conditioned service from Lakeview, all the way into town. Since the Cartier and Lake lines were essentially school buses for JFK Senior High, the company didn’t mind retaining the old buses. At least the seats were comfortable.