1952 was the year of peak Krauss growth, as the store expanded fully.
Peak Krauss Growth
Photo of Krauss Department Store, taken in 1953, for the 50th Anniversary of the store. The photo, courtesy the Times-Picayune newspaper, The photo appears to have been shot from either the Roosevelt Hotel across the street, or possibly from the MB building in the 901 block. The dates indicate the years each segment of the store joined the existing building. From the first two-story construction in 1903 to the completed five-story complex going back to Iberville Street Krauss continued to grow until it filled out the block.
Leon Fellman purchased the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal Street in 1899. He demolished them, and built the original two-floor storefront in 1903. By this time, Fellman operated his own department store at 800 Canal. So, 1201 was essentially investment property for Fellman. He encouraged the Krauss Brothers to run with his new building. While the “Krausz Brothers” store in the 801 block closed in 1901, they jumped on the proposal. They opened, as the T-P described it, “a veritable trade palace.”
The Krauss Company quickly expanded Fellman’s original plans. The brothers installed the first escalator in New Orleans. It connected the first and second floors of the 1903 building. As the store grew, that second floor space became known as the “Mezzanine.” It contained the original luncheonette, as well as other service departments, such as optical and the camera department. The better-known wooden, five-story escalator enters the story in 1940.
The four Krauss Brothers (Leon Heymann doesn’t enter the Krauss story until 1920) recognized the need for more retail space almost immediately. They expanded the store’s footprint in 1911. They built a five-story extension behind the storefront. While the escalator connected the first and second stories, shoppers accessed the 1911 expansion via elevators.
The brothers stopped at the 1911 point because that’s all of the property they owned. Fellman only purchased the buildings fronting Canal Street. The brothers purchased the portion of the block behind it for the 1911 expansion. That was all they could afford at the time. The store did well, though, enabling them to continue real estate purchases.
We’ll come back to this photo periodically, as we discuss the store’s journey.
The Louisville and Nashville operated the Humming Bird train.
The Humming Bird
“The Humming Bird crossing Biloxi Bay – Louisville and Nashville R. R.” – Linen postcard printed in the late 1940s. L&N operated the Humming Bird (the two-word name is correct) between Cincinnati and New Orleans, from 1947 to 1969. While the route originally ran as a no-frills train, L&N added Pullman sleepers by 1953.
Like the other L&N passenger trains, the train operated out of the railroad’s terminal at the end of Canal Street (where the Aquarium of the Americas stands now). They moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, along with all the other railroads.
Blue Humming Bird
The train’s cars originally had a stainless-steel sheathing. After a few years, the railroad removed the stainless because of corrosion issues underneath it. They then painted the cars blue. L&N re-shot the stainless-steel version of the postcard, updating it for the blue cars. These postcards were available on the train for passengers.
When it first rolled in 1947, the train consisted of 7 cars: five coaches, a tavern-lounge car, and a diner. American Car Foundry delivered 48 cars to L&N. The ran two sets of seven on the Humming Bird. Additionally, cars from that ACF order ran on the Georgian.
While the route’s popularity was in its speed and simplicity, L&N expanded the consist in 1953. They added sleepers, “6-6-4” cars from Pullman. The cars contained six open births (“sections”), six “roomettes,” and four double bedrooms. The sections were open areas. You had your bed and that was that. The roomettes were walled rooms containing one bed. Section and roomette passengers used communal toilets and sinks. Bedrooms included en suite toilet and sink.
New Orleans Stations
Humming Bird departing the L&N terminal on Canal Street, 1947
Humming Bird operated in and out of the L&N terminal from 1947 to 1954. Operations moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the Canal Street terminal after UPT opened. This photo shows the Humming Bird departing the Canal Street terminal.
End of an era
L&N discontinued the train in 1969, saying it was no longer profitable. This was two years before the creation of the national passenger rail corporation, AMTRAK.
Cemetery curses revisited: is the Caesers Superdome really cursed?
Map of the area around Caesar’s Superdome. The red rectangle shows the outline of Girod Street Cemetery.
The Saints: Cemetery curses revisited
Portion of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing Girod Street Cemetery
As we approach Halloween, fans of the New Orleans Saints often return to the topic of the Superdome and the Cemetery. While much research exists on the boundaries of Girod Street Cemetery and the Superdome, the curse theory always returns. The talk always gets serious when the Saints aren’t playing well.
We’ve discussed this before and in detail: Girod Cemetery isn’t under Da Dome. Still, folks find remains in the vicinity of the stadium that are outside the perimeter of the cemetery. This happens all over the city, and there are reasons for burials outside established cemeteries.
Indigenous burial mounds in the city come as no surprise. The native tribes were here before the colonizers, after all. Most of these mounds stand on high ground. When the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority discovered human remains near Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue as part of bus/streetcar terminal construction, it made sense. The area is on the Metairie Ridge. It’s high ground. Since cemeteries surround the intersection, those remains were a combination of indigenous people and colonizers.
It takes years for government to green-light cemetery construction. While the wrangling takes place, families often buried loved ones in the general vicinity of the proposed site. It’s not like they could wait for things to shake out, after all. So, figuring close was better than not, they did what they felt they had to do.
Section of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, along Claiborne Avenue in Faubourg Treme
Even after a cemetery opened for business, people often couldn’t afford the price of a plot, much less an above-ground tomb. The same thinking as initial disorganization applied. Let’s get the departed close. A walk through the cemetery connected those still living with the dead, even if they couldn’t put flowers on a grave.
When a cemetery falls into disrepair, things get messy. This was the case with Girod Street. The chapter of Christ Episcopal did not adequately prepare for long-term maintenance of the cemetery. By the 1950s, the cemetery was in ruins. Grave robbers discarded coffins and remains all over the cemetery, in search of valuables. Naturally some of the remains ended up outside the cemetery walls.
This is also a complicated subject. It was important to Christians that those buried in “holy ground” were free of serious sin. For example, if a spouse committed adultery, but did not seek forgiveness for the mortal sin, the family who owned the plot might refuse that person burial. A priest might refuse to preside over the rites of burial. Those close to the deceased were told to find someplace else. Another reason for exclusion from consecrated ground was suicide. Clergy and family would reject any connection to a person who took their own life.
In most of these cases, there were relatives who disagreed with this harsh treatment. While they were unable to get the departed inside the walls, they buried their loved one close by. Therefore, numerous reasons exist to explain remains outside the cemeteries.
St. Aloysius Band in 1946 was led by Prof Taverna.
St. Aloysius Band
Photo of the St. Aloysius High School Band, 1946. The band wears a classic corps-style uniform, with grey tunics, white trousers, and Sam Browne belts. The belt design was for military officers and NCOs who carried pistols. The shoulder strap supported the weight of the pistol on the belt. Fortunately, the BOSH didn’t issue pistols to the band, but the look was nonetheless sharpe. The band director, to the left is Joseph “Prof” Taverna. The students in white in the center were the color guard. The two young men on the right held the banner for parades. The drum majors wear bearskins on the left.
One of the distinctions about this photo from earlier years is the drumhead on the bass drum. After the war, high schools transitioned from calling themselves “colleges.” As young people came home from World War II, they took advantage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the “G. I. Bill.” One of the program’s benefits was financial assistance for college tuition. The high schools dropped “college” in their names to avoid confusion.
So, the band reflected this change. The drum head says, “St. Aloysius High School – New Orleans, La.” The large, vertical “SAC” is a shout-out to “St. Aloysius College.” The BOSH didn’t want to upset decades of alumni with a major name change. The band smoothed things over a bit.
Joseph “Prof” Taverna in 1931.
The school hired a new band director in 1931, Joseph Taverna. Here’s Brother Neal’s bio of “Prof,” in his History of Crusader Football:
One of the laymen was the new band director: Professor Joseph Taverna. He hailed from Turin, Italy, where he studied at the conservatory. His father was a celebrated composer who was once organist at St. Peter’s in Rome under Pope Leo XIII. Shortly after securing his degree in Turin, young Taverna came to America and settled in New Orleans. Here, “he organized the first boys’ band ever to play in the Crescent City.”
Later he became professor of music at Marion Military Institute in Alabama where he remained until the World War broke out. He led various army bands during the war. After the war, he returned to Marion. “His remarkable success drew the attention of the authorities of Alabama University. Professor Taverna accepted Alabama’s offer to head their music department. Here he trained both the Concert Band and the Military Band, taking the latter twice to the Rose Bowl.”
All that before 1931! While it may seem that taking up the baton at Aloysius was a step down for Prof, it’s not without precedent. Sometimes talented teachers need a step away from the rat race. Since he actually a professor, the honorific stuck. The reference to “laymen” BNG makes is an important one. In 1931, there were only four lay faculty at the school. All the other teachers were brothers. This expanded as the school entered the 1950s, particularly in the athletic department. While there were a lot of well-trained brothers teaching academic subjects, they didn’t coach. So, alumni joined the faculty in those roles. Band was a on-off situation. Prof took care of it for decades. By the late 1960s, Brother Virgil Harris, SC, ran the band program. Brother Virgil retired in 1973, and BMHS has had lay band directors ever since.
Prof Taverna directed a corps-style, Souza-style band. The uniforms matched the style. When Cor Jesu opened, that school opted for a less-military look for their band. Aloysius followed suit, after Prof retired in 1961. The band adopted the Navy uniform when St. Aloysius added an NJROTC unit in 1968.
Prof Taverna had a strong influence on the school’s music program, and the lives of many musicians. To honor his contribution to St. Aloysius and the BOSH, the BMHS band room in the Ridgely Arts Center is named for Prof.
NOTE: Thanks as always to Brother Neal Golden, SC, for his wonderful work documenting the history of the BOSH schools!
The story of Krauss Department Store has its roots in Leon Fellman’s origin story.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first installment in a series on Leon Fellman, and his business operations in New Orleans. Fellman’s story directly ties to both his store, Sears, Roebuck in New Orleans, as well as Krauss and Maison Blanche Department Stores. Additional installments in this series will be patron-only.
The Touro Buildings, 1880, by George Francois Mugnier, via LSU Special Collections.
Leon Fellman’s Origin Story
Lippman Feibelman was born in 1846, in Rülzheim,Germany. Rülzheim stands near the western border of the modern German Republic, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Feibelman emigrated to the United States in 1864, following his older brother Bernard, to New Orleans. Like his brother, he anglicized his name, becoming Leon Fellman. Bernard, who came to New Orleans a couple of years earlier, helped his brother make business connections through their synagogue. They worked for a couple of Jewish-owned businesses in the city. It’s likely they worked for the Kaufman’s at some point. So many local Jewish merchants got their start there.
By 1873, the brothers saved enough money to open their own shop. They leased space in the Touro Buildings, in the 701 block of Canal Street. These buildings, built by businessman Judah Touro, were popular storefronts for a number of businesses. Bernard and Leon leased 133 Canal Street. Their shop was in the 701 block, but the city numbered addresses by house/business, rather than block. So, Fellman Brothers, was the one hundred thirty-third address on Canal Street, when starting from the river.
Ad for Fellman Brothers, 5-March-1833, in The Daily Picayune
Fellman Brothers were dry goods merchants, In an ad in the Daily Picayune newspaper on March 5, 1878, they declared, “We hereby tender a special invitation to strangers in our city, and the public in general, only to inspect the many novelties we are displaying, and that prices that will please the most economical buyer.”
By 1881, the brothers opened a second store in the Touro Buildings, at 129 Canal. Additionally, they retained 133 Canal, stocking it with ladies’ clothing. The store established a relationship with Red Star Shoes, which was just down Canal Street, at Exchange Alley. The Fellmans continued to regularly discount merchandise and slash prices. So, many considered their business practices ruthless. They continued in this manner, creating tension between the brothers and the larger Jewish community in the city. While the store enjoyed financial success, their standing in the community diminished.
In 1888, Leon tried to convince Bernard to move Fellman Brothers to the Mercier Building, in the 901 block of Canal Street, corner Dauphine. While the Touro Buildings were solid, the Mercier Building was newer. It stood on the location of Christ Episcopal Church. The church’s chapter auctioned off the corner in 1884. The Merciers bought it, demolished the church, and built a large retail building. The Fellmans split up. They dissolved Fellman Brothers and closed the original store at 133 Canal. Bernard continued at 129 (now 727) Canal as B. Fellman Dry Goods. Leon opened Leon Fellman and Company at 901 Canal Street.
The Touro Buildings photo
This is a 1880 photo taken by George Francois Mungier. He worked for S. T. Blessing at the time. Blessing operated a portrait studio at 87 Canal. So, Blessing also sold stereo photo cards. This photo was No. 549 in Blessing’s New Orleans series.
Bywater streetcar complications involve the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
NOPSI 1005, ca. 1935. Franck Studios via HNOC
St. Claude Line Bywater streetcars
NOPSI 1005, running on the St. Claude Avenue line, approximately 1935 (Franck Studios photo via HNOC). The car is heading outbound from N. Rampart Street. The 1000-series were the pinnacle of engineering development for the arch roof streetcars. The 1000s kept the original Perley A. Thomas design, with additions under the carriage. While the 400, 800, and 900s operated with two motors, the 1000s had four, one for each set of wheels.
Railroad versus Streetcar
Norfolk Southern train crossing the Industrial Canal, 13-Dec-2019, via Commons user Bl20gh114
St. Claude Avenue and Press Street, in the Upper Ninth Ward, is one of the few locations where streetcars and railroad equipment meet at grade. While the railroads own the Riverfront, the streetcar line operates in parallel to the New Orleans Public Belt RR tracks. The “Back Belt,” originally constructed for the NO&NE and Frisco by the New Orleans Terminal Company, includes a number of automobile underpasses. Once the Back Belt hits Orleans Parish, there are no grade crossings until Slidell.
After the consolidation of passenger rail into Union Passenger Terminal, those trains operated away from automobiles. The tracks run more-or-less parallel to the Pontchartrain Expressway. They merge into the Back Belt just past Greenwood Cemetery.
NOPSI 1371, a trackless trolley, inbound over the Industrial Canal at St. Claude Avenue, approaching Press Street, ca. 1950. City photo.
So, the most significant point of contention between railroad and streetcar was St. Claude and Press. NO&NE/Southern connected to the Public Belt from their Gentilly yard via tracks at Press Street. NOPSI streetcars crossed the train tracks there with few problems for decades. The overhead catenary presented no issues for the railroad. This continued after NOPSI discontinued the 1000-series streetcars in 1949. They scrapped those beauties, replacing them with trackless trolleys. The electric buses received power through the catenary, like the streetcars. They ran across Press, across the Industrial Canal, all the way down to the sugar refinery.NOPSI converted St. Claude from trackless trolleys to diesel buses in 1964. They cut down the overhead wires.
TTGX “tri-level” auto carrier, on the Norfolk Southern Back Belt, 22-Sep-2022.
While streetcars never left New Orleans, NOPSI reduced operations down to the St. Charles line in 1964. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority expanded streetcar service, introducing the Riverfront line in 1988. The success of Riverfront led to returning streetcars to the Canal line in 2004. Economic stimulus money from the federal government offered an opportunity to further expand streetcars in 2010. NORTA constructed a partial return of the St. Claude line. The line operates from Canal Street, along N. Rampart, then St. Claude, to Elysian Fields.
The line stops at Elysian Fields because NORTA and Norfolk Southern can’t come to terms on running the overhead wires over Press and St. Claude. Since the overhead departed almost sixty years ago, it’s on NORTA to change the status quo. The railroad argues that modern rolling stock, such as tri-level auto carriers, are too high for streetcar wires. NORTA disputes this, and they’re right. Still, Norfolk Southern continues to oppose restoring a grade crossing at this intersection.