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.
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.
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.
Basin Street was the location of Terminal Station
Southern Ry 6850 switching at Terminal Station in New Orleans ca late 1940’s Frank C. Phillips Photo
Terminal Station, Canal and Basin Streets, 1910 (Detroit Publishing photo)
Terminal Station serviced Southern Railway and the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad, from 1908 to 1954. Travelers and shoppers on Canal Street saw the arched facade of the building. Those keeping the trains running had a different view.
Terminal Station opened in 1908. It replaced an earlier structure for the Spanish Fort route. In the 1880s, New Orleans City Railroad operated steam service to Spanish Fort, at the Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain. Electric streetcars replaced steam service in the late 1890s. The streetcars followed the West End line. So, the Basin Street terminal stood unused. Southern Railway acquired the property in 1908. They built a much larger, 4-track terminal.
Track diagram of Terminal Station on Basin Street (City of New Orleans)
The terminal’s four tracks extended back a bit over three blocks from Canal Street. Southern Railway and New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (NONE) operated trains from the station when it opened. NONE merged into the Southern system in 1916. The railroad continued operations in its own name until 1969. While it was all one system, Southern Railway’s Alabama Great Southern Railroad legally absorbed NONE that year. GM&O also offered service from Basin Street.
Diagram of tracks turning north from Basin Street (City of New Orleans)
Trains operating from Terminal Station arrived and departed New Orleans on tracks running in the “Lafitte Corridor,” between St. Louis and Lafitte Streets. So, trains left the station, crossed over Basin Street on an auto underpass. The tracks turned north, heading out to Mid-City, then Gentilly. The area marked “Cemetery” in the diagram is St. Louis Cemetery Number One. The “Church” below the tracks is Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The city ordered the railroads to combine passenger operations at Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue in 1954. Because of the location change, Southern Railway no longer used the Basin Street/St. Louis Street tracks. The path of those tracks became the Lafitte Greenway, a walking and bike trail.
Southern’s engine #6850 was an EMD NW2 switcher locomotive. The railroad owned 69 NW2s, two of which (6850 and 6851) belonged to NONE. So, this switcher moved cars in and out of Terminal Station, from Southern’s yards along the Lafitte Corridor.
The track diagrams in this article are from a 1949 grade crossing survey commissioned by the City of New Orleans. I found it in the Special Collections section of the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans. I shot just some quick phone-pics. So, I use these diagrams as prototype/background for my Pontchartrain Railroad (N-Scale) layout at home. I’ll return and shoot proper photos at some point.