Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Android |
Transit maintenance on Canal Street is our photo breakdown this week
Workers from the New Orleans City RR Company, inspecting overhead wires for streetcars on Canal St, 1901
This is a wonderful photo, just to enjoy. It offers a lot to break down as well. The scene is 1901 or 1902, Canal Street, right by the rear of the Liberty Monument. Prior to electrification, streetcars running on the Canal Street line stopped in the 200 block. They turned around there and headed outbound.
Liberty Place in 1906
The photographer taking our breakdown photo stands right behind the Liberty Monument. For the sordid history of this obelisk (now removed after being designated a public nuisance), start with its Wikipedia entry. In 1894, the two main streetcar operators in town hired the engineering firm of Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D), to make recommendations on how to proceed with electric streetcars in New Orleans. They made a number of suggestions, along with designing a single-truck streetcar specifically for operation in the city.
Streetcar tracks around Liberty Place, 1899
The photo above shows the Liberty Monument, looking from the river, opposite from our breakdown photo. FB&D designed a single-track loop around the monument for streetcars. The inbound cars looped around, then parked on layover tracks behind the monument, in the 200 block.
By 1899, all streetcar operations merged into a single company. They adopted the name, New Orleans City Railroad Company (NOCRR). This was the name of the company that originally operated the Canal and Esplanade lines, as well as a number of other backatown lines, beginning in 1861. Their main streetcar barn and maintenance facility was in Mid-City, at Canal and N. White Streets. So, our work crew here likely came down Canal from that station, or possibly up St. Claude Avenue, from their Poland Avenue barn. They bring this mule-drawn wagon and two big ladders to Liberty Place. They set up the ladders in the back of the wagon, leaving the mule unattended! I don’t know f I’d have that much faith in the mule to stay still.
There are three types of streetcars in the photo. There are two FB&D single-truck cars, two Brill single-truck cars, and one of the 500-series double-truck streetcars from the American Company. These were the forerunners of the venerable “Palace” streetcars that were so popular on the Canal, West End, and Napoleon lines. This car, 510, ran on the West End line. It’s finished the loop around the monument, preparing for its outbound run to the lakefront. The streetcar system grew rapidly after 1900. So, transit maintenance was important!
Today in New Orleans History – March 17, 1930
Hibernia Bank Building, location of the offices of the Mississippi Steamship Company, 1930s
In addition to our transit maintenance photo, we offer our pick of the week from Campanella’s NewOrleansPast.com website (also as a Facebook group, Today in New Orleans History) is from March 17, 1930. Ms. Campanella takes us back to a story from the late, wonderful, historian and storyteller, Gaspar “Buddy” Stall. Stall wrote that the first “coffee break” in America happened on this day, in the Hibernia Bank Building on Carondelet. The Mississippi Steamship Company (later re-organized as the Delta Steamship Company, operators of the Delta Queen cruise steamer/riverboat) called their eighty employees together at 3:30pm, for a gathering where they served coffee, in the Brazilian tradition. Word spread around in America, and that’s how we got the “coffee break.”
Buy Edward Branley’s books, Catherine Campanella’s, and Buddy Stall’s!
Zoom Talk 2020-03-19
I’ve presented this talk to several groups in the last year or so. With everyone holed up because of Covid-19, I did the talk yesterday (19-March) via Zoom. It’s a bit long, because I was sorting out the use of Zoom, so you’ll need to fast-forward through the first 20 minutes of the talk to get to its actual beginning.
Also, TIL: it’s too long for YouTube. I’ll edit out that first portion and get it up there over the weekend. If you’d like to view it now, the link will let you download the MP4 version.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Android |
Southern Rebellion Irish – talking about the Irish socially in Antebellum New Orleans
Stained glass window in St. Alphonsus Church, the “Irish church” in the Irish Channel neighborhood of New Orleans
Southern Rebellion Irish
While a number of Irish families in New Orleans rose to the upper levels of society by the Southern Rebellion, those in the city who wanted to maintain an economy based on enslaved African labor did not accept newer Irish immigrants as equals. They didn’t mind the Irish taking jobs they didn’t want to do, in the army, doing labor such as working to build the New Canal, and working on the riverfront. By 1860, the Know-Nothings (yes, that was a real party and political movement) pushed immigrants away to the point where the Irish felt strong Unionist sentiments.
The Rogue’s March by Peter F. Stevens
The Irish immigrants felt the resentment of the WASPs in the United States antebellum most in the Army. WASP officers commanding units during the Mexican War treated immigrants horribly. This led to a large desertion. Hundreds of Irish soldiers crossing the Rio Grande river joining the Mexican Army. The book, The Rogue’s March: John Riley and the St. Patrick’s Battalion, 1846-48, details the history of the “St. Patrick’s Battalion” of the Mexican Army in 1847-48. While life in the Army improved overall by the Southern Rebellion, the rebels still treated the Irish on their side poorly.
Not just the Irish
As the Irish community in New Orleans grew from downtown, along the riverfront to further uptown, German immigrants settled in the same area. What we call the “Irish Channel” was home to a large German community. These Germans were mostly Rheinlanders and Bavarians, who were Catholic, like the Irish. They formed the core of the “Redemptorist” parish, worshipping at St. Mary’s Assumption Church on Constance and Josephine Streets. So, by the time of the Southern Rebellion, both the Irish and German communities were more supportive of the Union than the Confederacy.
Defending the City
Mutiny at Fort Jackson by Michael D. Pierson
So, these immigrants lost their jobs with the closure of the Port of New Orleans in 1861. To provide their families, they joined the rebel army. While many were sent off to fight in Tennessee and Virginia, others stayed behind, to defend Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, down the river from the city. At the time of Farragut’s capture of New Orleans in April, 1862, Fort Jackson’s defenders included three battalions: one Irish, one German, and one made up largely of men from the white planter class. It should come as no surprise that two of those three units mutinied and walked out of the fort, making it easier for Farragut to come up the river and Butler to bring his occupying army behind the ships. For more reading on this, check out Mutiny at Fort Jackson: The Untold Story of the Fall of New Orleans, by Michael D. Pierson.
Reading on the Irish.
The Irish in New Orleans by Laura D. Kelly.
If this topic interests you, you definitely want to get Dr. Laura Kelly’s book, The Irish In New Orleans.
Canal Street Shopping 1895 – before the department stores
Mercier Buildings, 1892. Leon Fellman’s store on the left, A. Shwartz and Son right, on the corner.
Canal Street Shopping 1895
1895 was part of an interesting transitional time for Canal Street. Christ Episcopal sold their third church, at Dauphine and Canal, in 1884. The Mercier family bought the property. So, they demolished the church and built a series of commercial buildings. Retail space in the 900 block attracted merchants for a number of reasons. While Canal Street evolved, Christ Episcopal moved to St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street.
Ad in the New Orleans Times-Democrat, 8-Dec-1895, for S.J. Shwartz & Co.
Simon Shwartz was the youngest son of merchant Abraham Shwartz. Abraham was a wholesale merchant for most of his career. He opened a retail store on Decatur Street in the late 1880s. Abraham moved the business to the Touro Buildings in 1890. That location, in the 701 block, suffered a devastating fire in 1892. Therefore Simon moved the store to Canal and Dauphine Streets. So, Shwartz kept the name of the store, A. Shwartz and Sons when he moved. His brothers dropped out of the business, however. So, Simon changed the name to S.J. Shwartz in 1894. Shwartz aggressively advertised and competed with other Canal Street merchants. In 1897, he acquired the entire Mercier complex. He merged it into a single store he named Maison Blanche.
Note at the bottom of the ad, there is a reference to “the Picayune.” That’s The Daily Picayune newspaper. The Daily Picayune and the Times-Democrat would later merge, becoming The Times-Picayune.
The Fellman Brothers
Ad for L. Fellman & Co. in the Times-Democrat, 8-Dec-1895.
Leon Fellman wanted to move the family store from the 701 block to the Mercier Buildings. His brother Bernard objected. The Fellmans split their company. So, Leon moved up the street. While SJ Shwartz occupied the building at the corner of Canal and Dauphine, L. Fellman & Co. was located at the end towards the middle of the block. The Grand Opera House was right next to his store. The Grand Opera House was later demolished and became the S. H. Kress store, in 1910.
Ad for B. Fellman, 727 Canal Street, in the New Orleans Times-Democrat, 8-Dec-1895
Bernard Fellman continued to run the original Fellman Brothers store in his name. Like Abraham Shwartz, B. Fellman’s suffered severe damage in the 1892 fire. So, Bernard rebuilt and continued the business. After his death, his widow and son operated for a few years, eventually closing the company.
The landscape of Canal Street retail changed dramatically in 1897. Simon Shwartz acquired the entire Mercier property. He evicted the other tenants, including Leon Fellman. Fellman re-located his store to the old Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal (corner Caroldelet St.) Leon Fellman’s operated on that corner until Leon’s death in 1920. While Fellman operated his store at 800 Canal, he also purchased the property in the 1201 block of Canal in 1899. He later built the building that became Krauss Department Store. So, in 1903, he invited the Krauss brothers to lease his building.
The family changed the clan name from Fellman back to Leon’s original German surname, Feibelman, at that time. They operated the store at Feibelman’s, moving from 800 Canal to Baronne and Common in 1931. They sold the store to Sears, Roebuck in 1936.
S.J. Shwartz combined the separate Mercier properties into a single building. He opened Maison Blanche Department Store in the Fall of 1897. “Greatest Store South!”
Buy NOLA History Guy’s Books!
Canal Street – Streetcars, Maison Blanche, and Krauss!
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Android |
Royal Street Photo Breakdown on this week’s podcast!
100-200 Blocks of Royal Street, 1916.
Royal Street Photo Breakdown
Derby Gisclair shared a neat photo from 1916 earlier this week on social media. The photographer stands in the middle of the 100 block of Royal Street, looking down into the 200 block. As I was looking through some other photos, I came across a 1956 photo of Royal, where that photographer stood almost in the same place. Time for a Royal Street Photo Breakdown!
At the top of the page is the 1916 photo, with Solari’s on the left, an electric sign for Fabacher’s Restaurant hanging over the street, then the Commercial Hotel and Union Bank on the right.
Franck-Bertacci Studios photo of the 100-200 blocks of Royal Street, 1956.
Fast forward to 1956. Solari’s is still on the left. The Commercial Hotel is now the Monteleone Hotel. Fabacher’s Restaurant, which was the hotel restaurant for the Commercial, is long closed. Walgreen’s drug store replaced the bank building in the late 1940s. That drug store remains today.
In the 1916 photo, streetcar tracks and the overhead wiring are visible. The Desire streetcar line ran inbound on Royal Street. The streetcars turned right onto Canal Street. They ran up one block, then turned right again. They ran down Bourbon Street for the French Quarter portion of the outbound run. We’ve talked about the Desire line before, and how it was the main connector for the Quarter.
Buses replaced streetcars on Desire in 1948. So, by the 1956 photo, the tracks and wires are long gone. The maroon-and-cream NOPSI buses serviced Desire.
NewOrleansPast.com – January 15th
NOPSI 817, operating in Belt Service in the 1940s.
Our pick of the week from NewOrleansPast.com (Facebook page, Today in New Orleans History) is Ms. Campanella’s entry for January 15th. The Tulane streetcar line rolled for the first time on 15-January-1871. Mules pulled the streetcars then. The line switched to electric streetcars in the 1890s. Tulane operated in “belt service” with the St. Charles line from 1900 to 1951. Listen to our podcast episode on “Riding the Belt” for more details on that.
NOPSI converted the West End streetcar line to diesel buses on 15-January, 1950, as part of the trend away from electric street rail operations. West End operated as steam train service until the 1890s. After that, electric streetcars ran out to the lakefront, along the east bank of the New Basin Canal. NOPSI retired streetcars on West End in 1950. The line ran until the 1960s, when it became the Canal-Lakeshore line.
NOLA History Guy Social Media
Facebook (page): NOLA History Guy
Facebook (group) New Orleans Uncovered.
Hickory Creek is an ex-New York Central observation car.
Private varnish “Hickory Creek,” bringing up the rear of the Amtrak Crescent #20, 30-Dec-2019. (Edward Branley photo)
Hickory Creek on the #BackBelt
The ex-New York Central car, Hickory Creek, brought up the rear on the Amtrak Crescent, on its way to Penn Station on 30-December-2019. I don’t know the details of this particular trip for Hickory Creek, if they came down just to New Orleans, or if this was a return from going all the way out to Los Angeles. Either way, the car headed back north on Monday morning.
New York Central’s 20th Century Limited
Poster for the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited, featuring the 1948 trainset.
Hickory Creek was one of the “sleeper observation” cars put into service by the New York Central in 1948. So, the railroad switched the train to diesel (EMD units) in 1945, ordering new trainsets as well. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower rode the inaugural run in 1948. The train ran until 1967.
So, the train began operation in 1902. A typical 20th Century Limited consist, including Hickory Creek, in 1965 looked like this:
- E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4025;
- E8A diesel locomotive: NYC 4080;
- E7A diesel locomotive: NYC 4007;
- MB Class Baggage-mail car: NYC 5018;
- CSB Class Baggage-dormitory car: NYC 8979;
- PB Class Coach: NYC 2942;
- DG Class Grill-diner: NYC 450;
- PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10811;
- PAS Class Sleepercoach (16-Single Room 10-Double Room): NYC 10817;
- PS Class Sleeper (22-roomette): NYC 10355 BOSTON HARBOR;
- DKP Class Kitchen-Lounge Car: NYC 477;
- DE Class Dining Room Car: NYC 406;
- PS Class Sleeper (10-roomette 6-double bedroom): NYC 10171 CURRENT RIVER;
- PS Class Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10511 PORT OF DETROIT;
- Class PS Sleeper (12-double bedroom): NYC 10501 PORT BYRON;
- Class PSO Sleeper-Buffet-Lounge-Observation (5-double bedroom): NYC 10633 HICKORY CREEK.
Hickory Creek after the New York Central
Since the railroad discontinued the 20th Century Limited before the creation of Amtrak in 1971, the rolling stock didn’t go over to the new operator. Ringling Brothers Circus bought Hickory Creek. Since they didn’t need Pullman quality, the circus used it as dorm-style housing. They ripped out the interior of the car.
Hickory Creek, prior to the 2014 restoration. (Fred Heide photo)
In 2014, Star Trak, Inc., acquired Hickory Creek. They restored the car for private operation. So, the team modified original Pullman Standard design of five bedrooms to four. Since modern operations of private cars involve hitching on Amtrak trains, the team reduced the bedrooms to add showers. Trains Magazine published an article on the restoration by Mr. Fred Heide in November, 2014.
Post-restoration floor plan of Hickory Creek.
In addition to reducing the number of bedrooms, the 2014 restoration changed the galley area. The 1948 design of Hickory Creek included a small galley, for preparing snacks and drinks. So, the Star Trak team converted the space into a full-service kitchen. Again, this fits with modern use of private cars. They’re designed to be independent of the trains pulling them.
Observation area of the restored Hickory Creek. (photo courtesy Simon Pielow)
While the bedrooms and galley changed a bit, the team kept the rear observation area true to the 1948 design.
Private Rail on the #BackBelt
Private car Hickory Creek on the #BackBelt in New Orleans, behind an Amtrak baggage/dorm car. (Edward Branley photo)
I spend a lot of mornings at the PJ’s Coffee Shop at 5555 Canal Boulevard. The baristas here are great and the regulars are nice folks. Regulars occasionally ask me why I get up and record/photograph the Crescent as it heads out of town. It’s pretty much the same consist each morning, but then there are the days when something extra brings up the rear.