The block of 3000 Gentilly Blvd holds a fascinating history.
Photo of the building at 3028-3030 Gentilly Blvd., taken by Franck Studios on February 13, 1951. The specific photographer is unidentified, since this is a commercial photo rather than part of a legal record. The more recent occupant of the building was Gentilly Supply Center, a hardware and appliances store. The store declared bankruptcy the previous summer. A Latter and Blum “For Rent” sign stands in the front window. To the left is Al Shorey’s Bar, and to the right, what appears to be an Oriental Laundry storefront. Mr. Winston Ho has done extensive research on Chinese laundries, as part of his all-things-NOLA-Chinese work.
This building was an Oriental Laundry storefront. By the late 1940s, a pet shop, Petland, took over the location. They didn’t change the “oriental” look of the storefront. Eventually, Petland closed and the building was demolished.
The store was originally the “Gentilly Appliance Company.” The owners renamed it in 1948. The company participated in a lot of “co-op” advertising in the Times-Picayune. These are ads paid mostly by a product manufacturer, and stores selling the product added their address, possibly logo, at the bottom. If you lived in Gentilly and wanted to buy a Hotpoint dishwasher, Gentilly Supply Center was your go-to.
Detroit Publishing Company postcard of Maison Blanche Department Store, 1910
I Tell Stories
I’ve written six books on various aspects of the history of New Orleans. They’re stories ranging from streetcars to department stores to schools to Jazz. I earned a BA in Social Sciences Education from the University of New Orleans in 1980. I taught Social Studies at a local high school for a few years. Teaching History is indeed storytelling. It’s a good bit more, of course, particularly when working to improve students’ reading skills, but the content is stories about things in the past. I moved on from high school, using retail sales as a bridge. Invariably, I came back to telling stories, as an adult education instructor (UNO Metropolitan College), and later moving into the world of corporate training. Everything involved storytelling.
While delivering corporate training, I needed things to stay occupied when out of the classroom. So, in 2003, I pitched a book idea to Arcadia Publishing. Streetcars vanished from Canal Street in New Orleans in 1964. The city planned to bring them back, forty years later. It was a great story to share. Even though many stories exist about the older, senior streetcar line, St. Charles Avenue, Canal Street remained essentially an untold story. Arcadia liked the idea and I wrote the book. Promoting a book means telling stories to get folks to buy it.
St. Alphonsus Church, New Orleans, by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880
After the first book, more storytelling opportunities materialized. I pitched a book about my high school, Brother Martin, in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. The school’s roots go back to 1869, when the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened St. Aloysius in the Vieux Carré. Promoting two books opened up more possibilities. I told shorter stories as the “history blogger” for GoNOLA.com, a site sponsored by the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, now New Orleans, Incorporated. Monthly exposure led to weekly exposure. Various groups around the area invited me to speak to their membership. I’m particularly flattered that the Friends of the Cabildo’s Tour Guides regularly have me in to talk.
Of course, none of this history stuff, from teaching to writing to speaking, pays quite like corporate computer consulting and training. I lived a double life in this respect. That presented challenges for my LinkedIn Presence.
Ramping up LinkedIn
The “second” St. Charles Hotel, stereo card by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880.
I’ve had a presence on LinkedIn since 2007. While I was a good bit active when developing a client base for YatMedia, my activity diminished after that side of what I do scaled back. The computer work I do rarely involves anything local. I traveled extensively for years, teaching UNIX and Enterprise Storage for international companies. The market for those products and services only touches New Orleans very lightly. So, I flew literally around the world, delivering training. The sales staffs of the companies I’ve taught for did the dirty work. I showed up and taught. I still do, in fact, even though “showing up” now means walking here to my home office and firing up WebEx.
The corporate training landscape changed dramatically around 2016 or so. I remember, during the pandemic, a good friend started a podcast for IT professionals. Jeff interviewed folks, and we talked about how the pandemic changed work habits, etc. I explained that my training workload went “virtual” long before people knew what Zoom was about. Traditional job recruiters didn’t help me, since I work through a training company that contracts me out to computer companies. So, even though I’m self-employed, I don’t present a target for those looking to increase their business using LinkedIn.
It’s fun to include LinkedIn users when I tell stories. The larger the audience, the more people I can interest in buying the books! Still, LinkedIn remained secondary to Twitter and Facebook. Now that those platforms morphed into dumpster fires in many ways, the stability of LinkedIn is appealing.
The Traitor Davis died in New Orleans in 1899. The city gave him a grand funeral procession.
Funeral Procession of the Traitor Davis
Jefferson Davis died in the Garden District on December 6, 1889. They city held a massive funeral procession for Davis on 11-December. This is the Library of Congress summary for this photo of the procession:
Photo shows coffin in horse-drawn wagon as the “funeral procession for Jefferson Davis winds through the French Quarter in New Orleans on December 11, 1889. An estimated 200,000 people lined the streets. Davis died early on December 6, and over 70,000 people viewed his remains at New Orleans City Hall. The body was laid to rest in a vault in Metairie Cemetery, then was taken to Richmond in 1893 and reinterred at Hollywood Cemetery.” (Source: Papers of Jefferson Davis Web site at Rice University, 2009)
This is a concise summary of the event. Some additional notes:
Davis’ last home was the Beauvoir Estate, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi. While he did not maintain a house in New Orleans, he was frequently the guest of White League families in the Garden District.
As mentioned in the LOC summary, the Traitor Davis was initially interred in Metairie, before being moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. The specific location of Davis’ vault was in the Army of Northern Virginia (Louisiana Division) tumulus. He was interred in a vault near the entrance. Davis’ signature was engraved and inlaid with gold in the marble covering the vault. When he was re-interred, that vault was permanently sealed.
Royal Street, 1889
Streetcar tracks are visible in the photo, as are electric poles. While commercial electrification began in the mid-1880s, electrification of street rail was still a few years away. The main line using the streetcar tracks at this time was the “Jackson Depot” line. this later morphed into the Desire line by the 1920s.
The Jackson Depot line ran from Canal and St. Charles Street, up to Delord (later Howard), making its way to the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad (later Illinois Central) station on Clio Street. It wound its way back to Carondelet Street, crossed to the downtown side and Bourbon Street, terminating at the Pontchartrain Railroad/L&N station on Elysian Fields. It then returned via Royal Street.
Amtrak City of New Orleans heading out of town at different speeds.
Riding Amtrak City of New Orleans
The City of New Orleans is Amtrak’s New Orleans to Chicago route. It’s their version of the old Illinois Central train made famous by the song. For the last few months, the City passed through the intersection at Central Avenue in Old Jefferson very slowly, like this
By 11-August, the railroad decided to pick up the pace. This is the same intersection, but on the other side of the train. I’m of two minds on which angle I prefer. The closer-up position is fun, but taking a few steps back to the other side of the old IC (now Canadian National) main line offers good profile views.
Note the Transition Sleepers at the rear of the trains. This is interesting, because usually the transition sleepers only ran here on the Sunset Limited. That 3.5-day route required sleeping cabins for crew. The City routes are shorter, but still overnight. I don’t know if connecting private cars to the rest of the train is a factor, but the lower vestibule of these cars allows it.
There are still some days when you see the older GE P42DC “Genesis” engines pulling the City, but the Siemens Chargers are the solid, day-to-day power for the route. While the Crescent still runs the Genesis engines, that route is scheduled to phase into the Chargers by next year. The City ran with one P42 for years. Since switching to the Charger, the train uses two engines. The Charger could pull either the City or the Crescent with one engine. I guess the railroad doesn’t want to deal with breakdown issues. If something happens, there’s a backup and the train can just keep going. We’ll keep an eye out for the newer engines on the Back Belt.
Public swimming pools have a long history in New Orleans.
Architectural rendering of the City Park Swimming Pool complex, 27-July-1924, by Favrot and Livaudais.
Beat the heat in public swimming pools
City Park and Audubon Park both opened public swimming pools in the 1920s. City Park was first, in 1925, followed by the uptown park in 1928. So much of their stories is enmeshed with local politics and national cultural shifts.
The City Park pool opened in 1924. The Times-Picayune wrote about the start of construction on 27-July-1924:
The park commissioners announce that the pool will include beautiful buildings and equipment complete in every detail. It will be constructed between the famous deulling oaks, in the west section of the park, about 400 feet from Orleans Avenue. the completed structure will blend with the surroundings and make an attractive landscape picture.
The location made sense, as the western side of the park was pretty much undeveloped. The park expanded from the old Allard Plantation. Commercial air conditioning didn’t come to New Orleans until the 1930s, so public strategies to beat the heat were important.
The pool opened upon completion of construction. When the park built the miniature railroad, they naturally added a stop at the pool. The pool operated until 1958. Rather than comply with court orders directing the city to integrate public park facilities, the New Orleans City Park Improvement Association closed the pool. The park converted the facility into a sea lion pool, featuring an island in the center. They populated the island with monkeys, creating a zoo-like attraction.
Monkey re-capture at City Park, 9-July-1965
While I wasn’t able to find a photo of the “monkey island” phase, there was a photo in Da Paper on 9-July-1965. There was a “mass escape” of twelve monkeys the day before. Mr. S. H. Daigle, one of the attraction’s attendant, is shown fishing a monkey out of one of the park’s lagoons.
The park closed “monkey island” in 1967. They converted the facility into a miniature golf course. That feature closed in the 1980s. The Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s office (OPCS) used the facility for storage and maintenance equipment. Long-time Criminal Sheriff (and later Louisiana Attorney General) Charles Foti built the pool area out as a “haunted house” attraction for Halloween. When the park began the incredibly-popular “Celebration in the Oaks” attraction for Christmas, the OPCS would re-decorate the old pool into a “Cajun Christmas” feature.
The entire pool area simply ain’t there no more. After Foti left OPCS, the department lost interest in using the pool facility. The remains of the pool were razed and the area is now green space.
A Kansas City Southern train heads west out of Union Station. It’s crossing S. Carrollton Avenue, just before the intersection of S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. A pair of Electro Motive Corporation E3 locomotives are in the lead. Below the underpass bridge, two NOPSI trackless trolleys operating on the Tulane line. The train is likely the “Southern Belle,” the flagship passenger train of the railroad.
Color photo of a KCS EMC E3, pulling the Flying Crow at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal in 1967, by Roger Puta.
The Southern Belle operated from New Orleans to Kansas City, via Shreveport and Dallas. So, it was an important transportation link in Louisiana. The train used EMC E3 engines from its inauguration in 1940 until its last service in 1969.
KCS passenger service operated from the Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad depot at 705 S. Rampart until 1954. Like other railroads, KCS trains transferred to Union Passenger Terminal that year. The city converted the depot into a fire station for NOFD, then later demolished it. The site is now a surface parking lot.
The L&A Depot stood just below the turning basin of the New Canal. Trains departed north from the depot, then turned west. They merged onto the tracks coming from Union Station. Illinois Central and Southern Pacific trains operated from that terminal. The westbound tracks passed over S. Carrollton Avenue on an underpass built by a WPA streets improvement program. The city filled in the Canal in 1949.
NOPSI trackless trolleys
Since the Southern Belle (and the Flying Crow, which operated from New Orleans to Port Arthur, Texas, to Kansas City) both operated in the 1940s, the buses narrow the time range for this photo. While this section of S. Carrollton was part of the St. Charles/Tulane Belt lines during streetcar operations, that service ended in 1951. NOPSI cut back the St. Charles line to S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne Avenues. They discontinued streetcar service on Tulane at that time. NOPSI replaced streetcars on Tulane with trackless trolleys on January 8, 1951. The company substituted buses on the line on December 27, 1964. So, the photo can’t be earlier than 1951.
The other factor limiting this photo’s date range is the Carrollton Interchange. It’s not there yet! That’s because that part of the Pontchartrain Expressway wasn’t completed until 1956. The design phase of the project began in 1952. Since there’s not even construction above the train, the project wasn’t really underway yet.
Of course, the other identifiers in this photo are the automobiles. I’ll leave it to readers to tell us what they see.