800 Canal Street: So long Feibelman’s, hello Gus Mayer

800 Canal Street: So long Feibelman’s, hello Gus Mayer

800 Canal Street

800 Canal Street

The corner of Carondelet and Canal, January 12, 1949. The old Pickwick Hotel building is gone. The New Gus Mayer building replaces it. The Pickwick Hotel gets its name from the Pickwick Club. The club is a private social club that was closely associated with the Mystic Krewe of Comus carnival organization. The building went from hotel to department store in 1897. The 800 block of Canal Street has long been a significant part of New Orleans’ retail scene.

Leon Fellman and Company

In the 1890s, the two main tenants of the Mercier Building at 901 Canal Street (corner Canal and Dauphine) were dry goods stores owned by Simon Shwarz and Leon Fellman. In 1897, Simon Schwarz pitched a concept for New Orleans’ first department store to his father-in-law, Isidore Newman. Newman bought into the idea. As a result, he put up the money to back Schwarz’s concept. All Simon had to do was acquire the entire building. He succeeded, at the expense of his competitor, Leon Fellman. Fellman split with his brother in 1892, leaving the shop they owned in the Touro Buildings (the block of Canal between Royal and Bourbon Streets). Leon opened his own store with a junior partner. They did well in the 900 block, right up until Schwarz got them evicted. Fellman received notice in March of 1897 that he had to be out by October.

Move to The Pickwick

While the Pickwick Club sold the hotel years before, the name stuck. Fellman negotiated with the current owners to convert the building into retail space. He held a going-out-of-business sale over the summer of 1897, and opened on the other side of the street. While Schwarz’s Maison Blanche was flashier than Leon Fellman’s, the latter store offered quality merchandise at discount prices. Fellman rolled with the change.

Fellman to Feibelman

When Leon Fellman passed away in 1920, his family changed the name of the store from Fellman’s to Feibelman’s. Leon Fellman came to the United States from Germany as Lippman Feibelman. The family operated the store as Feibelman’s on Canal Street until 1931. They moved the store to Baronne and Common that year. In 1936, the family sold their stores to Sears, Roebuck, and Company.

Gus Mayer

With Feibelman’s now around the corner, the Pickwick Hotel building became Stein’s Department Store. So, after WWII, Gus Mayer wanted to open on Canal Street, but wasn’t interested in the time and expense involved in renovating the 800 Canal building. Gus Mayer purchased the property and demolished the building. Construction began in January, 1949. The Gus Mayer Building is still there. It’s a CVS Drugstore now.

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.

American Standard Gentilly: Warplanes to Plumbing

American Standard Gentilly: Warplanes to Plumbing

American Standard Gentilly: Manufacturing

American Standard Gentilly

1944 Times Picayune photo of the Consolidated plant in Gentilly

When the United States entered World War II, New Orleans stepped up immediately. The Lakefront became the nexus of war manufacturing. Higgins Industries and Consolidated Aircraft (now Convair) led the way. The US Navy built a Naval Air Station on the lakefront, in MIlneburg. Therefore, it made sense to build aircraft manufacturing near the base. Gentilly  was about the PBY.

American Standard Gentilly – Warplanes

American Standard Gentilly

The last PBY built in Gentilly

The Consolidated Aircraft Company built seaplanes for the US Navy in WWII Gentilly. As the war went on, other planes were built at the lakefront facility, but the PBY scout planes were the plant’s big product.

American Standard Gentilly

Recruiting for Consolidated during WWII

WWII Gentilly needed workers! Not only did New Orleanians rise to the challenge, they moved out to the neighborhood. Living close to work was easy in Gentilly. Many families built homes in the area during the war. So, after the war, Gentilly experienced a serious housing boom. Men and women coming home from the war saw the area as a great area to start their families.

After the war

While the PBY was an important part of the Navy’s push forward in the Pacific, there just wasn’t the same need for the search planes. Consolidated closed the plant. WWII Gentilly needed to switch to peacetime. The aircraft plant was sold to the plumbing supply company, American Standard.

American Standard Gentilly

American Standard Gentilly, 1948

American Standard Gentilly was a major contributor to the local economy into the 1980s.

American Standard Gentilly

Interior of the American Standard Gentilly plant

The plant continued going strong for almost thirty years The high-end residential neighborhood next door, Lake Oaks managed to co-exist with the manufacturing plant next door. The folks of Lake Oaks saw the amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach to be the “noisy neighbor” in the area.

American Standard Gentilly

American Standard Gentilly, 1985

In June of 1985, a fire spread throughout the facility, burning the plant to the ground.


American Standard Gentilly was a total loss. The charred remains of the plant were removed. The Orleans Parish Levee District re-located their “field yard” — their vehicle maintenance yard, to the site.


Mid-City New Orleans: MB Carrollton, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans: MB Carrollton, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans

mid-city new orleans

Shopping center at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1952

Mid-City New Orleans

Mid-City began to grow as a neighborhood in the 1860s. That’s when the New Orleans City Railroad extended the Canal Street streetcar line to the cemeteries. By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Sicilian community outgrew the French Quarter and Faubourg Treme. So, they moved to Mid-City. The New Basin Canal attracted businesses and light industry along its banks. Consequently, those businesses made the neighborhood attractive for others who didn’t need to be on the canal but benefited from the being in the neighborhood. Naturally, workers at these businesses wanted a shorter commute. So, families left the city’s “original” neighborhoods.

Therefore, by World War II, Mid-City New Orleans was an “established” neighborhood. St. Anthony of Padua Parish, on Canal and S. St. Patrick Streets, was twenty-five years old. So, the corner of  Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue was already a commercial nexus. As the war effort began to ramp up in the first half of 1942, more folks moved to Mid-City. Higgins Industries opened several plants, in Lakeview and near City Park. More families moved closer to work.

Post-War Mid-City

New Orleans enjoyed the post-war boom, like the rest of the nation. Therefore, men and women took advantage of the GI Bill to continue their educations. They built houses in the suburbs with Veterans Administration loans. The Interstate Highway System didn’t exist in the late forties. The main access to Metairie was US 61, Airline Highway. Developers knew the city planned to fill in the New Basin Canal. That meant getting to Mid-City from Jefferson Parish via Airline was even easier. Tulane Avenue connected the CBD with Mid-City, Airline Highway connected the ‘burbs with the neighborhood. A new commercial nexus was born.

Maison Blanche recognized this connection. The store’s management knew the Airline-Tulane-CBD route made it simple to get to Canal Street. While that was appealing, going to town was still a bit of a drive. Maison Blanche expanded to Mid-City New Orleans in 1948. So, they opened the store you see in this photograph. As a result, after 51 years of operation on Canal Street, Maison Blanche became a chain.

MB Carrollton sold the same merchandise as the main store. The store’s delivery network already reached out across the metro area. The second store allowed shoppers to cut back on their drive from Metairie.

Beyond Mid-City

Maison Blanche continued to expand beyond the CBD and Mid-City. D. H. Holmes followed MB, reaching out to the suburbs as well. Krauss Department Store chose not to. Krauss remained a one-store business until is closure in 1997. Maison Blanche Department Stores no longer exist. While malls dominated in the 1960s and 1970s, MB Carrollton became a budget store. The Mid-City location is now a Nike shoe/clothing outlet. The main store on Canal Street is a hotel.

mb book

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

Maison Blanche Department Stores

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.

Terminal Station on Canal Street fades into history – April 16, 1954

Terminal Station on Canal Street fades into history – April 16, 1954

Terminal Station fades into history

terminal station

The Southerner was the last train to leave Terminal Station on Canal Street. (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)

Terminal Station on Canal Street

Tulane’s Louisiana Resource Collection shared some important photos in Louisiana railroad history for April 16. The first photo is of Southern Railroad’s Train #48, better known as “The Southerner.” The Southerner was a “limited” train that ran from New Orleans to New York City. The train began operation in 1941, using EMD E6 engines and brand=new, corrugated-sided cars from Pullman-Standard.

The photo above shows the last Southerner leaving Terminal Station, on April 16, 1954. The Illinois Central and Kansas City Southern railroads had already moved their operations to Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola. When The Southerner departed on April 16th, Southern Railroad’s inbound trains were re-routed to their new home on Loyola Avenue.

terminal station

The Southerner, on its way to New York (Wikimedia Commons)

Terminal Station was built on Canal Street in 1908. It serviced the Southern and Gulf, Mobile and Ohio railroads. So, in the black-and-white photo above, the photographer stands on the Basin Street neutral ground, behind the stations’s platforms. Krauss Department Store is visible on the right.

The Pelican

terminal station

“The Pelican” backing into Union Passenger Terminal, April 16, 1954 (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)

The first Southern Railroad train to enter Union Passenger Terminal was “The Pelican.” The Pelican also ran from New Orleans to NYC, but its consist was an luxury affair. It used sleeper cars owned by Pullman-Standard. There were no coach cars.  The tracks coming into UPT include a “wye” track. While the incoming trains came in engine-first, they turned around on the wye. Then the engines backed into the platforms.

Terminal Station

The Pelican at Union Passenger Terminal, April 16, 1954 (courtesy Tulane’s LaRC)

The Mayor of New Orleans in the 1950s was deLessepps Story Morrison. He was one of the biggest proponents of a single train station for the city. New Orleans had five stations around the city. Union Passenger Terminal remains in use by Amtrak and the Greyhound Bus company today.

Podcast #4 – Pontchartrain Beach

Podcast #4 – Pontchartrain Beach

Pontchartrain beach

Pontchartrain Beach, 1940

Labor Day is considered the traditional end of summer. In New Orleans, that meant it was the last weekend of the year for Pontchartrain Beach, the beloved local amusement park.

pontchartrain beach

Main Gate of the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park, 1929

Pontchartrain Beach opened on the east side of Bayou St. John in 1929. Harry J. Batt, Sr, had observed the highs and lows of the Spanish Fort venues on the other side of the bayou. His family’s ice manufacturing business supplied ice to many lakefront businesses, and Batt decided to start his own amusement park.

At Pontchartrain Beach

pontchartrain beach

Bath House built by the WPA at Pontchartrain Beach

The Great Depression actually gave Pontchartrain Beach a customer base, as locals didn’t have a lot of money to take out of town vacations. Works Progress Administration construction projects helped improve the infrastructure of the city, including a new bath house on Lake Pontchartrain at the end of Elysian Fields. That bath house prompted Harry Batt to move his amusement park from the bayou to Milneburg.

pontchartrain beach

Works Progress Administration badge in the sidewalk at Marigny St. and Gentilly Blvd.

Not only did the WPA build the bath house at the end of Elysian Fields Avenue, but they also improved many streets in Gentilly. The WPA turned Elysian Fields Avenue from a shell road into a 4-lane boulevard with a wide neutral ground, leading right to Pontchartrain Beach.

pontchartrain beach - lincoln beach

Lincoln Beach

Because Pontchartrain Beach was a segregated facility that used Federal funds, the city was required to build a “separate but equal” facility for African-Americans, Lincoln Beach, in what is now New Orleans East.

War Effort

pontchartrain beach

NAS New Orleans, on Lake Pontchartrain

World War II saw a huge amount of development along Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. One of the big facilities on the lake was Naval Air Station New Orleans. It was right next to Pontchartrain Beach. While the base was important to the war effort, it was not very useful for the Cold War. The base is now the main campus of the University of New Orleans.


Margie Johnson Thienemann, 3-June-1949 (Courtesy K. G. Thienemann)

While the Batts traveled the world to find quality rides for The Beach, the mile-long beach area was one of the main attractions. Hanging out on the beach was a great way to relax on a summer weekend. Margie Johnson Thienemann was one of many folks who soaked up the summer sun at the Beach.

pontchartrain beach

The Bali Hai at Pontchartrain Beach

Since food at The Beach was basically carnival-midway fare, the Batts also operated the Bali Hai, a “Tiki” restaurant next to the amusement park.

Podcast #2 – “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Podcast #2 – “A Streetcar Named Desire”

NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)

NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)

This weekend is the annual Tennessee Williams Festival, and tomorrow will be the festival’s “Stella” yelling contest, conjuring the spirit of “Streetcar Named Desire” in the streets of New Orleans. “Desire” was a metaphor to Williams, but the Desire streetcar line was real, and an important route, tying the Upper Ninth Ward to the rest of the city.

Show notes:

Signbox for a 900-series arch roof streetcar. "DESIRE" sign made for the box by Earl Hampton.

Signbox for a 900-series arch roof streetcar. “DESIRE” sign made for the box by Earl Hampton.


Tennessee Williams (courtesy of Hotel Monteleone)

Tennessee Williams (courtesy of Hotel Monteleone)

Tennessee Williams, relaxing at the Hotel Monteleone, 1950s.

dirty coast

River – Lake – Uptown – Downtown by Dirty Coast

Buy this t-shirt from Dirty Coast and you’ll get oriented quickly.

desire line 1920

Route of the Desire line, 1920-1923

Desire Line route, 1920-1923. Dark = outbound, Light = inbound

desire line 1923-1948

Route of the Desire line, 1923-1948

Desire Line route, 1920-1923. Dark = outbound, Light = inbound

vivien leigh streetcar

Vivien Leigh in “A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951 (video screnshot)

“Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemetery and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields.”

722 Toulouse Street

722 Toulouse Street

When Tennessee Williams arrived in New Orleans in 1938, he took a room here, at 722 Toulouse Street. Now it’s the offices of the Historic New Orleans Collection. WGNO “News with a Twist” did a great spot on the house this week.

royal street 1951

Royal Street in Faubourg Marigny, 1951 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

The streetcar tracks are gone in this 1951 photo of Royal Street in the Marigny, but it’s a good idea of what riders of the Desire line saw on their way into town.

Looking down N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Looking down N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Looking up N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1946 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Looking up N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1946 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

Two views of the Upper Ninth Ward from 1946 and 1947. These shots of N. Tonti Street at Pauline are a good illustration of the houses and buildings in the neighborhood serviced by the Desire line.


NORTA 29, the last Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. (Edward Branley photo)

The first streetcars to run on the Desire line were single-truck Ford, Bacon, and Davis cars. NORTA 29 (ex-NOPSI 29) is the last FB&D streetcar.

nopsi 888 on desire

NOPSI 888, running on the Desire Line, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

The 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars operated on the Desire line from 1923, until its discontinuance in 1948.

nopsi bus desire line

NOPSI Bus on Dauphine, 1954 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)

The streetcar tracks were ripped up in 1948, and “A Bus Named Desire” took over bringing commuters to and from the Ninth Ward to Canal Street.

streetcars of new orleans

The Streetcars of New Orleans, by Hennick and Charlton, 1964 (amazon link)

The Streetcars of New Orleans by Hennick and Charlton – the authoritative reference on New Orleans streetcars to 1964

streetcars hampton

The Streetcars of New Orleans, 1964 – Present by Earl Hampton (amazon link)

Earl Hampton’s book, The Streetcars of New Orleans, 1964-Present, picks up where Hennick and Charlton leave off.

My book, New Orleans, The Canal Streetcar Line. Amazon Link | Signed Copies here.

Wakin’ Bakin’ on Banks Street in Mid City


The Historic New Orleans Collection