Algiers 1865 – New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western RR

Algiers 1865 – New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western RR

Algiers 1865, The railroads were a lifeline for the Union.

Algiers 1865

Trains at the Algiers Terminal of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad, in 1865. The NOO&GW served the Union forces after the capture of New Orleans in 1862.

The NOO&GW

algiers 1865

portion of J. H. Colton’s map of Louisiana, 1863.

The railroad was chartered in 1852. Track construction began in Algiers. Track reached Morgan City in 1857. Morgan City was the western terminus for the company. NOO&GW used “Texas gauge” of 5’6″ until 1872, when Morgan converted the tracks to standard gauge.

Because it originated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the railroad didn’t need ferries or bridges going west. Businesses using NOO&GW ferried their goods across the river to Algiers, then loaded them on trains. This made for an easy route west.

When Louisiana seceded from the Union, rebel leaders knew a blockade of the Gulf Coast was eminent. The state considered NOO&GW important as a land connection to Texas. The Union Navy captured New Orleans in late April, 1862. The Union Army moved immediately, taking control of NOO&GW in May, 1862. While rebel troops managed to re-capture some of the tracks near Morgan City in May, the Union troops regained complete control by November, 1862. From there to the end of the war, the railroad serviced the Union.

Ownership

Benjamin Franklin Flanders founded NOO&GW. He sold the railroad to shipping magnate Charles Morgan in 1869. Morgan re-named the railroad, Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company. He later sold the company to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The NOO&GW merged into the SP system, becoming part of its main line.

Algiers

Southern Pacific expanded the original NOO&GW terminal in the 1890s. SP operated a large yard in Algiers, until the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in the 1930s. The railroad moved their yard to Avondale then, taking advantage of the new bridge. Even now, many Algiers residents refer to the area between Atlantic and Thayer streets as the “SP Yard.”

 

 

 

 

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.

Streetcar Monday: the St. Charles Hotel and “bobtails”

Streetcar Monday: the St. Charles Hotel and “bobtails”

St. Charles Hotel

st. charles hotel

St. Charles Avenue, ca 1870. S. T. Blessing photo, in the public domain.

St. Charles Hotel

Two “bobtail” streetcars, manufactured by the Johnson Car Company, approaches the St. Charles Hotel in the 1870s. The St. Charles Hotel opened in 1837. The original building was destroyed by fire on January 18, 1851. Therefore, this is the “second” St. Charles Hotel. This building also burned down, on April 1, 1894. The owners rebuilt, and that building remained until its demolition in 1974. An office tower, Place St. Charles, replaced the hotel.

The Streetcars

Service began on the St. Charles line in 1834. The operator was the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company (NO&CRR). Initial service was steam-powered, but the noise and smoke forced the company to switch. They chose mule-power. Horses cannot tolerate the New Orleans heat and humidity like mules. The “bobtail” car from Johnson operated on St. Charles. It was well-accepted by riders. The NO&CRR maintained a car facility at the corner of St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues. It included a barn for the mules.

The New Orleans City Railroad (NOCRR) began service on Canal Street in 1861. They also used bobtails. So, by the 1870s, these streetcars ran all over the city.

Civil War HQ

The St. Charles Hotel was the initial headquarters for Louisiana troops in the Southern rebellion. Major General David Twiggs set up shop at the St. Charles in May, 1861. Twiggs resigned his commission in October, 1861, citing poor health. Major General Mansfield Lovell replaced him. So, Lovell kept the headquarters at the hotel.

Blessing Stereos

St. Charles Hotel

Full stereo card of the St. Charles Hotel, by S. T. Blessing, ca 1870. Public domain image.

This image is part of a collection of stereo photographs taken by New Orleans photographer, S. T. Blessing. The Blessing collection ranges from 1865 to 1892, with most of the photos taken in the 1870s. The early 1870s fits for this photo. The bobtails operated on St. Charles until 1893. That was when the NO&CRR electrified the line.

My interest in this particular photo, other than it’s a great shot of the 200 block of St. Charles, is for a fiction project. My story begins in 1861. So, the St. Charles Hotel was ten years old then. It was a focal point for social and business gatherings in the “American Sector” of the city.

 

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.

USS Hartford, sloop of war

USS Hartford, sloop of war

USS Hartford

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USS Hartford, Sloop of War

Lytle photo of the sloop of war, USS Hartford, 1863. The Boston Navy Yard built the sloop. After a shakedown cruise, USS Hartford sailed to Asia, where it carried the US Minister to China, John Elliott Ward on various diplomatic missions.

Southern Rebellion

When the Southern States rebelled against the Union, the US Navy implemented a classic, Royal Navy-style blockade on the coastlines of the rebel states. That blockade began at Virginia, curving around Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. The US Navy assigned squadrons to specific areas along the blockade lines. USS Hartford returned to the US. After refitting, she sailed to the Gulf of Mexico as flagship of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Farragut took Hartford to Ship Island in February, 1862, where he consulted with Army commanders. Plans for the attack began in earnest when Commander David Dixon Porter arrived with his squadron of mortar schooners in March.

Second Battle of New Orleans

Farragut led his squadron up the Mississippi River, making a run past Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, on the night of 24-April-1862. While the squadron got passed the forts and steamed upriver to New Orleans, Hartford was damaged by fire-rafts. Farragut’s officers accepted the city’s surrender. Major General Benjamin Butler occupied the city on 1-May-1862. So, Farragut took Hartford and the rest of his squadron up the Mississippi to Baton Rouge. He captured the city without opposition. Farragut and the Navy used Baton Rouge and New Orleans as staging areas for the various attacks on rebel positions further up the river.

This photo shows USS Hartford about a year after the Battle of New Orleans. While it’s moored at Baton Rouge, the photo shows that the damage it suffered on the night of 24-April-1862 has been repaired.

SSN-768

On a side note, the current USS Hartford (SSN-768) is a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine. It was part of the squadron based at Point Loma, CA, when my son was a junior officer on the USS Alexandria (SSN-757).

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

William Smith to his wife, 1862 (courtesy Howard-Tilton Library)

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

I’m sure most of you know that, in addition to my history books, I write fiction. I’ve written two YA novels and an Urban Fantasy story.

One of my longer-term fiction projects is a novel set in Civil War New Orleans. So, I regularly save primary sources from the period, to get a better feel for the period.

New Orleans during the Civil War fascinates me, because the city was taken out of the action/fighting early, in April, 1862. As the war raged, the city went back to being a busy port, albeit for the Union. While access to the city from the north was a challenge, waterborne commerce resumed when US Navy lifted its blockade. Therefore, goods and people came back to the city. Intrigue and excitement came with them!

From the North to Ship Island to Baton Rouge

Since I’m more interested in the “feel” of the time and the tactics of the regiments, I haven’t looked into the Smiths at all. He’s clearly in a Union regiment, since he talks about Ship Island. Ship Island, in Mississippi Sound, was the staging area for Butler’s troops. They moved up from the swamps near Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, then into New Orleans. Eight months later, this regiment fought in the area around Baton Rouge.

There are numerous stories and legends about Benjamin “Beast” Butler in New Orleans. Most of them are inaccurate, being part of the “Lost Cause” mythos. So many schools taught the Lost Cause as fact over the last 150 years, folks in the South have it backwards. While Butler is important to the story, I see him as the least interesting. Accounts like Smith’s letter here make far better stories. Since they’re part of the written record, as opposed to tall tales passed down, they’re more valid.

Source for this letter

This letter is available from the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

Heather Elizabeth Designs

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.