UPDATE: Here’s the link to the Facebook Live version of my talk last week at the National World War II Museum.
Come see NOLA History Guy at the National WWII Museum for a WWII Lunchbox Lecture
WWII Lunchbox Lecture
Edward Branley presents a WWII Lunchbox Lecture, this Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at the National World War II Museum. The talk will be in the Orientation Center of the Louisiana Pavilion, at Noon. The lecture’s topic is, Winning the War on the Lakefront.
Andrew Higgins and Higgins receive most of the attention in discussions about New Orleans during WWII. While his contributions to the war effort were the most important thing to come out of the city, so much more happened here. The Army Medical Corps, the US Navy, the US Coast Guard, and the Army Air Corps all operated facilities along Lake Pontchartrain. They built hospitals, air bases, supply depots, even a POW stockade. Consolidated Aircraft built flying boats. And yes, Higgins tested his landing craft and PT boats in Lake Pontchartrain.
The Orleans Levee Board drained much of the modern lakefront in the 1920s. They reclaimed the marshy land for use as residential neighborhoods. The Great Depression and the war slowed those plans. Since there was no civilian development in most of the land, the military took advantage. Hospitals appeared in what is now the East and West Lakeshore subdivisions.
Works Progress Administration
Much of the construction was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA lifted New Orleans out of the Great Depression. While the military paid to construct their hospitals and bases, WPA funded road improvements, airport upgrades, and even Pontchartrain Beach. The WPA made it easy for New Orleanians to get to jobs along the lakefront.
The US Navy needed more training facilities for aviators. They built Naval Air Base New Orleans in 1941. The site is now the main campus of the University of New Orleans.
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Two short-form pieces this week on NOLA History Guy Podcast 8-June-2019
Chalmette National Cemetery (NPS photo)
NOLA History Guy Podcast 8-June-2019
We hope you enjoyed our conversations with Derby Gisclair over the last two weeks. Back to short-form this week, with our pick from Today in New Orleans History and some thoughts on Chalmette National Cemetery.
The Industrial Canal
Our pick from NewOrleansPast dot com this week is 6-June-1918. That’s when construction of the Industrial Canal began.As a refresher, there were three connections that ran from the city to the lake over time:
- The Carondelet Canal, 1795, which ran from just above the French Quarter, out to what is now Mid-City, and the start of Bayou St. John. This canal fixed the “Old Portage” problem.
- The Pontchartrain Railroad, which ran from Port Milneburg to Faubourg Marigny. The railroad was a straight run, along what eventually became Elysian Fields Avenue. Heavier ships would come into Lake Pontchartrain from the Gulf of Mexico and would dock at the pier at Milneburg. The railroad carried goods and people from the pier to the station at the river.
- The New Basin Canal. Completed in 1838, the New Canal connected the “American Sector” to the lake. The canal began at S. Rampart Street. It ran out to Lake Pontchartrain at West End. A small portion of the canal remains at West End.
So, these three connected the city up to the start of the 20th Century. By 1910, though, the canals lacked the depth to service larger ships. In 1914, the state authorized the Port of New Orleans to build a new canal. The canal began in the Ninth Ward, just past Poland Avenue. It runs straight from there, out to the lake.
Chalmette National Cemetery
Unveiling of the USCT Memorial in Cape Girardeau MO
I saw an article about a monument to United States Colored Troops (USCT) in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. When I shared that article on NOLA History Guy’s Facebook page, I mentioned that we should have such a USCT monument, probably out at Chalmette National Cemetery. Thousands of USCT soldiers rest in that cemetery. I got some racist feedback on this, from folks who clearly were unaware of the cemetery’s origins. Here’s a quick run-down.
Krauss Department Store 1910 – the first expansion of the 1903 building.
Rendering of the first expansion to Krauss Department Store.
Krauss Department Store 1910
Leon Fellman built the two-story building at Canal and Basin Streets in 1902. He leased it to the Krauss brothers. They opened “a veritable trade palace” that operated until 1997.
The first expansion
Krauss outgrew the original, two-story building quickly. By 1910, the brothers looked to expand. They acquired the property behind the original store and planned a five-story expansion. The New Orleans Times-Democrat reported on 20-March-1910 that:
Piledriving has begun for the handsome annex to the department store of the Krauss Company, Ltd., Canal and Basin Streets, and the work here is being pushed rapidly forward. The five-story annex to the existing building will afford the department store additional room for its rapidly growing business. It has been found absolutely necessary and will be occupied as soon as the contractor can turn it over to the company.
The Krauss brothers were savvy merchants. Their connections to the garment and retail industries in New York afforded them many opportunities to buy lots of merchandise at low costs. For example, Krauss would get word of a fire in a garment factory. Maybe five to ten percent of the merchandise received smoke damage. The factory dumped the entire lot at a cheap price. Krauss picked up those lots. The New Orleans shoppers were not aware of these New York fires!
As the store’s popularity grew, opportunities increased. Growing the floor space of Krauss Department Store 1910 meant hiring more staff. Clerks and buyers from other stores jumped to Krauss. They worked hard for the family-owned business, many remaining with the company for decades.
This expansion of the store opened in 1911, three years after the Southern Railway passenger terminal opened. Two more additions followed. The store grew all the way to Iberville Street, filling the block. In 1952, Krauss built a second building in the block behind the main store. They moved stockrooms and physical plant facilities to that building. This created more retail floor space for customers.
Buy the book!
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, by Edward J. Branley.
Streetcars Canals Baseball in Mid-City New Orleans
Heinemann Park, 1915
Streetcars, Canals, Baseball!
In one of our podcast conversations with Derby Gisclair, we discussed aerial photos of Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium. Derby explains the neighborhood around the stadium used by the Pelicans baseball club. While Heinemann Park wasn’t the first ballpark used by the AA-club, it was their home for most of their tenure.
This 1915 photo is amazing. It shows a football field, chalked out over the outfield, and a racing oval behind the fence. Derby suspects the racing oval dates from the amusement park the stadium replaced.
City Park Avenue to Tulane Avenue
Aerial view of the New Canal, running out to Lake Pontchartrain at the top, 1915
The Pelicans played ball at Crescent City Park, later known as Sportsman’s Park, until 1901. They moved to Tulane Avenue that year. Heinemann built the ballpark at Tulane and S. Carrollton in 1915. The team moved there that year.
Here’s the area behind the Halfway House, City Park Avenue and the New Canal. It’s a bit grainy, but you can see the patch of ground where Sportsman’s Park was located. NORD eventually built St. Patrick’s Park, a few blocks down, at S. St. Patrick and the New Canal.
Getting to the ballgame
S. Carrollton Avenue bridge over the New Basin Canal. It was demolished when the canal was filled in, late 1940s.
Pelican Stadium sat very close to the New Canal. A set of railroad tracks separated the park from the waterway. So, bridge crossed the Canal there. The streetcars used that bridge, then turned onto Tulane Avenue to continue their inbound run. So, baseball fans from Uptown rode the St. Charles line to get to the ballpark. Folks coming from downtown rode the Tulane line, down Tulane Avenue, to the ballpark.
So, I know we’ve talked about the Tulane line, particularly when it operated in “belt” service with the St. Charles line. It seems line some things pop up regularly. But hey, this is baseball! The area around S. Carrollton and Tulane was a nexus. The Tulane/St. Charles belt crossed the New Canal here. Passenger trains coming to town from the West rolled by, on their way to the Illinois Central’s Union Station. Folks bowled across the street at Mid-City Lanes. Therefore, the corner is important to many folks.
Especially baseball fans.
After the streetcars
Pelican Stadium, ca 1950
Belt service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines was discontinued in 1950. So, after that time, fans from Uptown rode the streetcar to its new terminus at S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne Avenues. They transferred to the Tulane bus line from there. The Tulane line provided trackless trolley service until 1964. After 1964, Tulane used regular diesel buses. While the railroads worked with the city on the new Union Passenger Terminal, they trains still stopped right here, a convenience for Uptown passengers. The other “belt service” in New Orleans was on Canal and Esplanade, which we discuss in my book on the Canal line.
This photo is likely from 1950, because the city resurfaced Tulane Avenue. So, they removed the streetcar tracks, leaving the overhead wires for trackless trolleys.
After Pelican Stadium
The stadium became the Fontainebleau Hotel after the stadium was demolished. So, the hotel became a mini-storage facility later. Now it’s condos and storage units.
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Talking baseball! Derby Gisclair conversation on NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
We have a LONG “long-form” podcast today! It’s our second conversation with S. Derby Gisclair, author and historian, about his book, Baseball in New Orleans. I had a great chat with Derby, up at the French Truck Coffee Shop on Magazine Street in the Garden District.
New Orleans Pelicans Baseball
Pelicans manager Jimmy Brown with two Loyola players, Moon Landrieu (l), and Larry Lassalle, 1948.
Most of Baseball in New Orleans focuses on the old New Orleans Pelicans. The club was around, in one form or another, from 1887 to 1977. The New Orleans Zephyrs arrived in 1993. So, the AAA-level club in Denver had to leave that city when they got a team in The Show, the Colorado Rockies. These professional teams anchored baseball interest in New Orleans for over 150 years.
New Orleanians played baseball at several locations in the 1800s. The early Pelicans teams played at Sportsman’s Park. So, this ballpark sat just behind what became the “Halfway House,” later the Orkin Pest Control Building, on City Park Avenue. The ballpark operated from 1886 to 1900. The Pelicans moved to Athletic Park on Tulane Avenue in 1901.
Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium
In the early years of the Pelicans,Alexander Julius (A.J.) Heinemann, sold soft drinks at Pelicans games. Heinemann eventually joined the board of the club. He acquired the land at the corner of Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. So, Heinemann displaced a small amusement park called “White City.” Therefore, the Pelicans had a “serious” home. While the Pels were in the off-season, they moved the bleachers up Tulane Avenue to the new ground. The Pelicans played at Heinemann Park, later named Pelican Stadium, until its demolition in 1957. Derby has lots of stories about the ballpark in NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019.
Other Baseball Leagues
St. Aloysius and Loyola star (later Brother Martin and UNO coach) Tom Schwaner
Numerous leagues played in New Orleans. While the Pels played, amateur leagues also organized. They included workers at stores and businesses. So, these leagues played at local parks. High School and college teams also played. Derby’s books chronicle those teams. Special shout-outs to the “Brothers Boys! So, several BOSH young men appear in the book. So, one of them was St. Aloysius and Loyola Grad Tom Schwaner. Schwaner also coached Brother Martin and UNO. So, Gisclair also mentions the strong teams at Brother Martin High School in the early 1980s.
The Books of NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Publication Date: March 24th, 2004
Series: Images of Baseball
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Publication Date: January 2007
Series: Images of Baseball
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Publication Date: March 15th, 2019
Last Week’s Podcast, where we talk with Derby about Early Baseball.
During World War II, NOPSI Patriotic Support traveled the street rails.
NOPSI 832 running on the Desire line, 1942. (New Orleans Public Library)
NOPSI Patriotic Support
When America went to war in Europe, New Orleans stepped up and did her part to support the cause. In World War I, the retailers on Canal Street regularly used their advertising space to promote the sale of war bonds and war stamps. Those bonds and stamps paid for the war. Americans bought bonds. The government paid troops, and contractors with that money. After the war, the government paid bond holders back.
Streetcars carried advertising regularly. The mule-drawn “bobtails” of the 1870s and 1880s displayed advertisements for opera productions, musicals, and other events. Electric streetcars carried ad placards advertising anything from soft drinks to Scotch whiskey. During the two world wars, those standard advertising frames included appeals for buying war bonds.
NOPSI patriotic support rose to a new level in 1942. The transit operator and utility company turned an entire streetcar into a war bonds ad. NOPSI 832 was an arch roof streetcar. NOPSI ordered the 800-series cars in 1923. The Perley A. Thomas Company of High Point, NC, built most of them. (Some were outsourced to other streetcar makers.) By the 1940s, the 800- and 900-series arch roofs replaced early streetcars running on the street rails of the city. While earlier streetcars sported colorful liveries, NOPSI standardized the look, using the familiar green we still see today.
Life after New Orleans
NOPSI 832 at Pennsylvania Trolley Museum (Mike Huhn photo)
NOPSI discontinued use of the 800-series in 1964. The company converted the Canal Street line to bus service that year. They retained of the 900-series streetcars. While some of the 800s were sold/donated to museums, most were demolished.
NOPSI 832 was one of the lucky 800s. The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum acquired the car in 1964. The museum placed the car into service immediately, since their tracks are the same gauge as New Orleans. NOPSI 832 continues to delight visitors to the museum.
Color photo: New Orleans Public Library
NOPSI 832 in Pennsylvania: Michael Huhn
Early Baseball in New Orleans by S. Derby Gisclair
This week’s NOLA History Guy Podcast goes long-form! Listen to our conversation with S. Derby Gisclair about his book, Early Baseball in New Orleans: A History of 19th Century Play. Derby will be talking baseball and signing his books tomorrow night at Octavia Books at 6pm.