Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles 1860 #StreetcarMonday

Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles 1860 #StreetcarMonday

Napoleon Avenue links the river to Broadmoor

Napoleon Avenue

Napoleon Avenue at St. Charles Avenue, 1860 (photographer unknown)

Napoleon Avenue in 1860

The first streetcar service in New Orleans was along St. Charles Avenue. The New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company started at Canal Street. They expanded service in stages, as demand and their capital allowed. So, by 1860, the line extended past Napoleon Avenue,

Nayades Street

Napoleon Avenue

Map of Uptown New Orleans, 1850

The street we known know as St. Charles Avenue was called “Nayades Street” for most of the 19th Century. So, architect and surveyor Barthelmy Lafon named this long street after the mythic Green Nymphs who watched over fresh water wetlands. The street ran from the Business District, out to the City of Lafayette. Finally, the line ran to the City of Carrollton. The “Route of the Nayades” connected the neighborhoods. Similarly, it connected the plantations. In 1852, descendants of Spanish planters like Francisco Bouligny continued development. So, they changed the name of the street to honor Charles III. Charles was a Saint and king of Spain. As a result, of naming an uptown-to-downtown street after a Spaniard they needed balance. Bouligny’s descendants named their north-south road after Napoleon Bonaparte. They subdivided the plantation after 1862. Streets on either side of Napoleon Avenue were named to commemorate Bonaparte’s major victories.

Streetcar Operations

The NO&CRR opened its crosstown line in 1835. By the time of this 1860 photo, the company operated “bobtail” streetcars. The Johnson Car Company sold these cars to the New Orleans company. These streetcars, pulled by mules, were a good fit for New Orleans. Therefore, when the New Orleans City Railroad opened their line on Canal Street, they ordered bobtails. The uptown company acquired the property on either side of the tracks at St. Charles an Napoleon. Because the area grew in population, they extended service on Napoleon. So, the Napoleon line ran from St. Charles, going further up the street. NO&CRR opened a mule barn and a streetcar storage barn/maintenance shop at the intersection.

Eventually, the the mule-drawn streetcars were replaced with electrics. The NO&CRR facilities closed. Streetcar operations consolidated closer to the business district.

Smokey Mary – The Pontchartrain Railroad in the 1860s #TrainThursday

Smokey Mary – The Pontchartrain Railroad in the 1860s #TrainThursday

Smokey Mary linked Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg for almost a century

Smokey Mary

The Smokey Mary at Milneburg, 1860s.

Smokey Mary

The Pontchartrain Railroad operated from 1831 to 1930. The trains ran out to the fishing village of Milneburg. A port facility developed along the lakefront at Milneburg. The railroad connected that port to the city. The Pontchartrain Railroad carried freight and passengers. After the Civil War, it ran mostly as a day-trip line. By the end of the 19th Century, it carried almost exclusively passengers.

The railroad purchased two steam engines in 1832. Those engines lasted for about twenty years. The railroad cannibalized one for parts to keep the other going. By the late 1850s, the railroad purchased the larger engine shown in the photo above. This engine operated to the end of the 1800s. The big smokestack inspired most of the stories and memories of the train.

The Smokey Mary ran simply from the Milneburg Pier to a station at Elysian Fields and the river. Eventually, the railroad added a stop at Gentilly Road, but it was only by request. The railroad terminated operations in 1930. The WPA paved Elysian Fields from river to lake in the late 1930s. Pontchartrain Beach opened in Milneburg in 1939.

Milneburg

The village of Milneburg was located at the end of what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. Shipping traffic came in from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, into Lake Pontchartrain. Ships docked at the Milneburg pier. Merchants offloaded their goods and put them on the Pontchartrain Railroad, to bring them down to the city.

Jazz on the Lakefront

By the 1910s, Milneburg’s residents lived mostly in fishing camps. Musicians rode the Smokey Mary out to Milneburg to play some of the small restaurants. They also walked the piers, playing for locals. They busked for tips. This kept them busy during the day. The musicians rode the train back to the city in the late afternoon. They then played gigs at dance halls and saloons in town.

St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Treme – Podcast!

St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Treme – Podcast!

St. Augustine Catholic Church

st. augustine catholic church

St. Augustine Church, from Snippets of New Orleans, by Emma Fick (Edward Branley photo)

St. Augustine Catholic Church – Podcast!

NOLA History Guy Podcast this week is a “snippet” – a short presentation on an illustration from Emma Fick’s book, Snippets of New Orleans. So, we chose Emma’s illustration of St. Augustine Catholic Church for this week While there are three “St. Augustines” in New Orleans, this is the oldest.

Bishop Blanc dedicated St. Augustine Catholic Church October 9, 1842. Therefore, it is to this day, the spiritual nexus for Creoles of Color who are Catholic.

Faubourg Treme

st. augustine catholic church

Faubourg Treme, including “Divo Augustino R.C” Church, Robinson Atlas (courtesy New Orleans Notarial Archives)

The Treme neighborhood dates back to the Morand Plantation. Claude Treme bought the land in 1792. So, shortly after this transaction, the city built the Carondelet Canal, which connected the French Quarter with Lake Pontchartrain by water, via Bayou St. John. The canal’s business opportunities attracted commercial and light industrial ventures along its banks. Residential neighborhoods grew out on either side of the canal. This area attracted a number of free people of color, who spoke French and identified more closely with the French-Spanish Creoles of the Vieux Carre’ than the Anglo-Irish in the “American Sector.”

These Creoles of Color bought lots in Treme and built homes. By the 1830s, their numbers were large enough that they went to then-Bishop (later Archbishop) Antoine Blanc, and petitioned him to create a Catholic parish for their neighborhood. Bishop Blanc agreed. Therefore, the community began work to raise money and build their own church, so they didn’t have to walk down to St. Louis Cathedral to go to Mass.

St. Augustine Catholic Church (Infrogmation photo)

The neighborhood built their church on land donated by the Ursuline Sisters. So, the nuns asked that the church be named in honor of St. Augustine of Hippo, one of their order’s patrons.

The Tomb of the Unknown Slave

st. augustine catholic church

Tomb of the Unknown Slave (Infrogmation photo)

Snippets of New Orleans

st. augustine catholic

Snippets of New Oleans by Emma Fick (Edward Branley photo)

You can buy Emma’s wonderful book at all of the usual suspects, including Octavia Books.

Trusted Talents

st. augustine catholic

NOLA History Guy Podcast is sponsored this week by Elysian Fields Press, publishers of Edward J. Branley’s latest novel, Trusted Talents.

Abraham Shwartz, Canal Street

Abraham Shwartz, Canal Street

Abraham Shwartz, Canal Street

a. shwartz and son

The Touro Buildings, ca. 1860

Abraham Shwartz, Canal Street

I didn’t research Abraham Shwartz too deeply when I wrote the Maison Blanche book. His son, Simon, was the main character there, being the founder of the department store chain. So, I made a few notes, wrote out the family tree, and got on with telling the story of MB.

A few years after the MB book, which came out in 2012, I developed an idea for a fiction project. It’s set in the 1860s in New Orleans. That idea came from an illustration I came across while researching the BOSH book. My fictional main character has encounters with fictional versions of real-life folks, and he told me that Abraham Shwartz was one of them.

Researching the shopkeeper

A. Shwartz and Son

Child’s coat, sold by A. Shwartz and Son, 1858. (Courtesy Civil War Talk user “RobertP”)

So, I needed to learn more about Abraham. I knew he was proprietor of the store that bore his name, in the 700 block of Canal Street. I knew he passed away in 1892, after that store burned in a massive fire that took out many of the shops in the Touro buildings. I needed to learn more about Abraham in 1860.

Off to the Internet I went! I still haven’t found a decent photo or portrait of Abraham. I found interesting things about the store, though. This girl’s coat was one of them. I found it on the site, Civil War Talk. Here’s the original post:

18thVa., several posts back I posted a picture of a g-g grandmother taken about 1868. Her daughter was my g-grandmother and I have a coat she wore as a child before the CW. The tie to this thread is that is was purchased by her father on a trip to New Orleans (their place was in N. La.) according to the label from A. Shwartz and Son, 161 Canal Street, NOLA, and a card pinned inside reads that she wore it in 1858 when she would have been 7 years old. The only reference to Abraham Schwartz Dry goods was after the war when he was located in the 700 block of Canal, and that it burned, he died, and his son reopened the mercantile business across the street that became Maison Blanche.

700 Block – Touro Buildings

The original poster has the addresses confused, which is not uncommon. Until 1900, Canal Street addresses started with “1” and went by building. After 1900, the addressed followed traditional block numbers. Therefore, 161 Canal Street became part of the 700 block.

Back to the coat! While this isn’t an image of Mr. Abraham, it’s still something from the time frame of the fiction project. You just know it’ll end up in the writing.

 

Maison Blanche Department Stores

by Edward J. Branley

mb book

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

On October 30, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building 13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character Mr. Bingle, in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

st. louis cathedral, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819. Drawing by Benjamin Latrobe (public domain image via THNOC)

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

I’m working on a scene that’s a bit of a flashback to 1820 New Orleans, for my next novel. As usual, I looked around for some contemporary illustrations of the Quarter, and found two interesting drawings of the St. Louis Cathedral.

The first (top) is a drawing by architect Benjamin Latrobe. This is the 1794 construction. The original parish church burned in the fire of 1794. Andres Almonaster y Rojas, notary for the Spanish Colonial government (and father of the Baroness Pontalba), financed the construction of the church. With the appointment of the first Bishop of Louisiana in 1792, this was the first cathedral on the site.

Unknown Illustrator, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral 1819

Scene showing the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and the Presbytere, before 1820. (Public domain image courtesy THNOC)

The illustrator of this second drawing is unknown, but it’s from the same period. While Latrobe’s drawing has the precision of an architect, this sketch captures the church’s surroundings. The Cabildo is on the left. Pirate’s Alley is between the Cabildo and the St Louis Cathedral, 1819. That name for the alley wouldn’t come into common use for decades. Therefore, the cathedral is center, then another alley (to later become Pere Antoine Alley). Trees obscure the Presbytere on the right.

Place d’Armes

The square in front of cathedral was not yet Jackson Square. It was the parade ground, the Place d’Armes, or Plaza das Armas, in Spanish. So, the Cabildo was the seat of the Spanish Colonial government. When the Americans took ownership of Louisiana in 1803, the building remained the seat of government. W.C.C. Claiborne kept his office as Territorial Governor. He also stayed there as governor of the State of Louisiana.

1830s Expansion

The cathedral chapter and the diocese decided the church needed to be more prominent. So, it was expanded in the 1830s. Unfortunately, the extensions to the towers put too much pressure on the structure. By late 1840s, the building was in danger of collapse. The diocese re-built the cathedral into the building we know today.

 

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.

Elysian Fields House, 1842

Elysian Fields House, 1842

Elysian Fields House 1842

elysian fields house 1842

House at the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Levee Street, from an 1842 Plan Book. (Courtesy New Orleans Notarial Archives)

Elysian Fields House 1842

This is a house on Elysian Fields Avenue, between Levee and Victory Streets. “Levee Street” was the earlier name of Decatur Street. “Victory Street” is now Chartres Street. The house is in the French Colonial style. The property is fenced-in, with out-buildings surrounding a formal garden. The block is now a light industrial facility.

The train tracks in front of the house were part of the Pontchartrain Railroad. The railroad ran from a station at Elysian Fields and Chartres, out to Milneburg, at Lake Pontchartrain. So, the Pontchartrain Railroad depot is just behind where the artist stood for this illustration.

Plan Books

This image is a great example of the rabbit holes I fall into when researching something for a fiction project. I’m writing two stories that are set in 19th Century New Orleans. While one takes place in 1820, the other at the outbreak of the Civil War,  I’m always browsing various sources for inspiration. There’s a version of this image in the Commons. It’s a photo reproduction from the book, New Orleans Architecture, Volume IV, the Creole Faubourgs (Pelican Publishing Company, 2006). I own a copy of the ebook, so I used the image from that source, enhancing it a bit with GIMP.

The illustration is part of a “Plan Book,” a set of drawings done as a legal record of a piece of property at the time of a sale. So, Plan Books were a part of real estate transactions going into the 1890s. After that, photographs were used. Nowadays, an appraiser photographs the property with a smartphone. In addition to documenting legal transactions, the Plan Books give us great insight into life in 19th Century New Orleans.

Background

The surveyor for this plan book was Benjamin Buisson. The illustrator was Charles A. de Armas, The New Orleans Notorial Archives, maintain the plan books. The Archives are part of the Clerk of Civil Clerk’s office. This item is Plan Book 21, Folio 23.