MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories Escalators

Escalators at Maison Blanche on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

While Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store was the first department store on Canal Street to install an escalator, MB wasn’t far behind. MB Memories for me include a lot of up and down on those escalators.

Early Escalators

Krauss added an escalator from the ground (first) floor to the “Mezzanine” in 1927. Not to be outdone, Maison Blanche acquired an escalator system a year later. Those first escalators were “up-only” systems. They were meant to get shoppers upstairs quickly. Getting down was another story. The store wasn’t all that motivated to get folks out of the store. So, initially, the paths back down to the first floor included stairs (from the second floor), and the elevators.

Eventually, MB expanded the escalators to all five floors. The elevators were towards the rear of all the stores. The open architecture of escalators made them attractive to customer and retailer alike.

Maison Blanche in the 1950s

This Franck Studios photo is from the early 1950s. The post-war boom was in full swing. Returning vets finished their educations. They moved out of mom and dad’s house, to Gentilly and Lakeview. Really adventurous folks headed to the suburbs, Metairie and Chalmette. Maison Blanche recognized this, opening stores in Mid-City and Gentilly in 1948. The Airline store wasn’t far behind.

Throughout all that expansion, Canal Street anchored the chain. The five-story store continued drawing shoppers from all over the city. Buses replaced streetcars on many transit lines, but that didn’t stop the shoppers. They still came to Canal Street.

Many older shoppers didn’t trust escalators. They didn’t like stairs, so they continued to use the elevators. MB’s elevators had human operators for years. Automatic, push-the-button service, was considered bad treatment of customers. Cheerful smiles encouraged buyers to buy!

Maison Blanche Budget Store Carrollton and Tulane, 1964

Maison Blanche Budget Store Carrollton and Tulane, 1964

Maison Blanche Budget Store Carrollton

Maison Blanche Budget Store Carrollton

S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1964. (Franck photo)

Maison Blanche Budget Store Carrollton

This 1964 photo of the strip at S. Carrollton and Tulane shows the transition of the Maison Blanche store at that location. The store opened in 1948, as the company’s first store away from Canal Street. The location appealed to many New Orleanians. Uptowners could come down Carrollton, Mid-City folks were right there, and the folks moving out to Metairie.

Budget Store Transition

As more and more people moved out to Metairie, Maison Blanche followed them. The company opened a store on Airline Highway, in the Airline Village Shopping Center, in 1955. MB Airline was much larger than the Carrollton store, so shoppers went there more. As sales dropped off at Carrollton, the company shifted its focus. They made Carrollton a “budget” store. The company also converted the store in Gentilly, at Elysian Fields and Frenchmen. The Gentilly Woods store made the Frenchmen location redundant.

Interestingly enough, the two stores that replaced the original locations ended up replaced themselves. MB Airline closed after Clearview Mall opened, and MB Gentilly Woods closed after the company opened a store at The Plaza at Lake Forest. You can find the entire story in Maison Blanche Department Stores.

Budget Store Operations

Maison Blanche Budget Store Carrollton was a forerunner of “outlet malls”. Maison Blanche used the stores to sell older merchandise at discounted prices. The store didn’t want deep-discounted items on display right next to the new merchandise, so the bargains were at the Budget Stores.

In addition to discontinued new merchandise, theMaison Blanche Budget Store Carrollton (and Gentilly) also sold the company’s “debits”, the items returned by customers. When a customer returned an item, the department’s managers would determine if they could simply put that blouse or pair of trousers back in stock, or if it was worn/damaged. If the item wouldn’t work back in stock, it would be considered a “debit” and returned to Canal Street. From there, the assistant buyers evaluated the items again. Items that could be sold at a discount made their way to the budget stores.

Tulane and Carrollton

This Franck Studios photo shows MB Carrollton in the background. Mid-City Lanes is in the foreground. The Walgreens at the end of the strip is barely visible, behind the MB.

Maison Blanche Department Stores
by Edward J. Branley

mb book

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.

Canal Street Christmas Parade 1953

Canal Street Christmas Parade 1953

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Ford Cars parade up Canal Street, Christmastime, 1953 (Franck photo)

Canal Street Christmas Parade in 1953

New-model Fords parade up Canal Street, Christmastime, 1953. We’ve had numerous versions of the Canal Street Christmas parade over the decades. Commercial parades such as this don’t happen like they used to, mainly because permit costs have risen dramatically. The modern non-Carnival parade in New Orleans is the “wedding second line” we see almost daily in the Spring and Fall. This is where a just-married couple stops their motorcade three or four blocks from their reception venue, then have a second line parade from there to the hotel/restaurant. It’s good fun and easy money for the bands, even if everyone else complains about stopped traffic in the Quarter.

Canal Street in 1953

Lots of interesting stuff going on in this photo. This is the first-generation “Big Bingle” on Maison Blanche’s flagship store. Mister Bingle is only six years old at this point. This is why he’s teamed up with Santa Claus. As Bingle got older, locals pushed Santa aside. For the first few years of Mr. Bingle (Emile Alline of MB created him in 1947), he was a drawing in advertisements. Then the Bingle puppets appeared. Oscar Isentrout pulled the strings on the puppet.

Lights cover the front of the MB building, all around Santa and Mr. Bingle. Those lights disappeared in the 1960s. The store introduced decorations along the front of the store at that time. There are no front windows on the second floor of the store. Christmas decorations adorned those big front panels.

WSMB

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Detail of WSMB sign

Another interesting item in this photo is the WSMB sign. I’ve got a bunch of MB photos, and this is the first time I’ve noticed this sign. My MB book includes a wide shot of Santa and Mr. Bingle from this time. The WSMB sign is right in front of the “Office Building” entrance. That entrance stood at the lake-side end of the building. It opened into a lobby with elevators that took folks up to the office floors above the five floors of retail space. The radio station was on the thirteenth floor. When the elevator doors opened, visitors looked into a big glass window, into the studio. This ground-floor entrance is the main entrance of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Fords

I’m awful at identifying automobiles, so if you can spot the types of cars in the parade, please do in comments!

Maison Blanche Department Stores
by Edward J. Branley

mb book

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.

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 2

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 2

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 2

Part 2 of a series. Part 1 here.

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 2

Three more books tonight! Links go back to Octavia Books’ website, but you can get these books at all the usual suspects.

Lake Pontchartrain by Catherine Campanella

new orleans history books

Lake Pontchartrain by Catherine Campanella

This book brings back so many fond memories for me, as well as a lot of interesting history. I always like to say, I “slept” in Metairie, and “grew up” in Gentilly, because my dad worked at LSUNO/UNO, and I went to Brother Martin High School. My dad was not a fan of driving on I-10. He enjoyed his morning sunshine on Lakeshore Drive. So, he would cruise with no red lights to Elysian Fields, and drive me down to school. While this took him a bit longer, it gave him peace. He got peace, therefore I got quiet time to listen to the radio with him, occasionally talk about what was going on.

From the book’s description:

Native Americans used Okwata, meaning wide water, as a shortcut for inland trade between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. When the Europeans arrived, the original inhabitants showed them the route the settlement near the river became the city of New Orleans, other lakeshore communities grew, and Lake Pontchartrain continued to be a vital waterway well into the 20th century. Aside from its economic value, Lake Pontchartrain was a cultural mecca: Mark Twain wrote about it and jazz sprang from its shores; locals and visitors traveled out to the amusement parks and opera pavilions, simple fishing villages and swanky yacht clubs, forts and lighthouses; and majestic hotels and camps perched precariously over the water. In Images of America: Lake Pontchartrain, photographs document memories of a time that not even Hurricane Katrina could erase.

Of Ms. Campanella’s books, this is still my favorite.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store by Edward J. Branley

new orleans history books

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store by Edward J. Branley

My latest book! Released in September, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store tells the story of Krauss, the department store that occupied 1201 Canal Street from 1903 to 1997. I got an email from The History Press around this time last year, asking if I’d be interested in this project, since Krauss closed twenty years ago this past October. I jumped at it! While I worked at Maison Blanche back in the day, I felt a kindred spirit with Krauss. From the description:

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.

By the way, if anyone wants someone to talk about Krauss, Jewish retailing, Maison Blanche, Canal Street, or streetcars, email me. 🙂

New Orleans Radio by Dominic Massa

New Orleans History Books

New Orleans Radio by Dominic Massa

Massa’s second “Images of America” book. Just as entertaining and informative as his television book. From the description:

From humble beginnings in a physics lab on the campus of Loyola University came the sounds of the first radio station in the lower Mississippi River Valley when WWL Radio signed on in 1922. The little station would grow into a national powerhouse, with its morning Dawnbusters show and nightly broadcasts from the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel. The city’s second oldest station, WSMB, with studios in the Maison Blanche Building, developed its own cast of favorites, including Nut and Jeff. Later, in the city known as the birthplace of jazz, radio played a key role in popularizing early rock and roll. Disc jockeys at leading stations WTIX and WNOE helped develop the Crescent City sound, along with local personalities with colorful names like Poppa Stoppa, Jack the Cat, and Dr. Daddy-O.

This book was fantastic for me, when I was working on the Jazz book.

Go get ’em!

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.

Old Metairie – 800 Metairie Road then and now

Old Metairie – 800 Metairie Road then and now

Old Metairie

old metairie

800 Metairie Road, 1962 (Franck Studios photo)

Old Metairie, Metairie Road, near the railroad tracks.

This is a Franck photo of the strip shopping center at 800 Metairie Road in 1962. I went there a bit with my parents as a kid, when we lived on Bonnabel Blvd and Dream Court. Daddy preferred making groceries at Schwegmann’s rather than Winn-Dixie, but we went to the K&B on the right-hand side of this photo a good bit.

Evolution of 800 Metairie Road

The Do Drive In was across the street. Like all drive-ins, as property values increased, the owner usually sold out, or subdivided the property themselves. In the case of the Do, the theater was replaced by a condo development, DeLimon Place. Next to it, another shopping center appeared, Old Metairie Village.

K&B

The Katz and Besthoff shifted locations, from the right side of the shopping center to the left. This store converted to a Rite Aid when that chain bought out K&B. My memories of the drugstore are more from the 1980s. The western end of the shopping center then became a McDonald’s. When the fast food joint closed, PJ’s Coffee took over. The patio of the coffee shop still has the jail-like fence that was the “play place” from the McDonald’s.

Winn-Dixie to Langenstein’s

Old Metairie

800 Metairie Road, now. (Google Maps)

The Winn-Dixie closed, leaving the grocery store footprint open. The uptown grocery, Langenstein’s, opened their second location here.

Other stores

The loading dock on the side of the K&B closed in when the store moved. Now, the western side of the shopping center is home to a number of small businesses. The larger stores needed more parking and access. Maison Blanche, for example, expanded from the city to Airline Hwy.

The laundromat next to the Winn-Dixie closed at some point in the 1970s. Radio Shack took its place. I worked at that Radio Shack in 1981. I taught high school, and Radio Shack was my summer gig. The store was the smaller, neighborhood type. We set up one of the high-end audio systems in the bay window in front. I blasted the tunes and read books, sometimes for over an hour, uninterrupted. It was easy to flip down the music quickly when someone came into the store. By that fall, my friend who was the manager got promoted to the Radio Shack in Lakeside Mall. I went along for the ride, better commission.

What are your memories of 800 Metairie Road?

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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.