Barthélémy Lafon drew this map of English Turn in 1814.
English Turn 1814
“Plan of the English Turn” by Barthélémy Lafon, 1769-1820. This section of Mississippi River is just south of its connection with the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Turn gets its name from what Mike Scott, in his article for Da Paper, called “the single biggest con in New Orleans history.” While that sounds like a bold claim, he’s right:
THEN: For months, they had seen only native Americans. So French explorer Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne — better known as Bienville, the man who would go on to found New Orleans — was understandably piqued when, in late summer 1699, he and his men rounded a bend in the Mississippi River just below present-day New Orleans to find moored there an English corvette, the Carolina Galley, loaded with 10 cannons and dozens of settlers. Bienville, with five men in two bark canoes, paddled over and informed the English captain, Louis Bond, that the area already had been claimed for France, which he said was ready to defend it with fortifications established upstream. It was a total and absolute lie, but Bond bought Bienville’s bluff, turned around and sailed away. From that moment, that bend in the river became known as “English Turn.”
And we all know, the English were rarely popular in New Orleans until maybe World War I.
Barthélémy Lafon was a Frenchmen who came to New Orleans around 1790. With skills as an architect, surveyor, and urban planner, Lafon found employment in the then-Spanish colony. English Turn, as Scott notes, got its name ninety years earlier. So, Lafon merely documented the settlements downriver. He didn’t play a role in the legend. Lafon was responsible for many developments in early-American New Orleans, including plans for what is now the Lower Garden District. He served as Deputy Surveyor under Claiborne’s territorial government from 1806-180i.
One of Lafon’s most-recognized designs is the Vincent Rillieux house on Rue Royale. That house became the residence of chess champion Paul Morphy, and is now Brennan’s Restaurant.
This watercolor map is a public domain document in the THNOC collection.
Street railways connected Algiers with Gretna and even Marrero.
I had the privilege of speaking to the Algiers Historical Society last month, on the subject of street railways on the Westbank. I’d spoken to the group on East Bank subjects in the past, so it was fun to dive into an Algiers topic.
Street Railways pod format
So, I didn’t record the original talk, I sat down this week with the Powerpoint presentation and did it as a Zoom. Zoom generates both video and audio recordings. I uploaded the video recording to YouTube. Video podcasts have been a thing for a while, so we’ll join that bandwagon.
I’ve also included a PDF of the slides, for those of you who listen to the audio format, along with images from the presentation.
Portion of the Robinson Atlas, New Orleans, 1883, showing Algiers Point
Louis Hennick map showing street rail in Algiers, 1895
Sketch of planned Algiers Coruthouse, 1896
1907 Photo of the first electric streetcar in Algiers
Louis Hennick map of Westbank street railways in 1916
A truck owned by the Jackson Brewing Company, parked by an auto body shop in Algiers, Louisiana, 21-May-1959. Photo is from Franck Studios, via HNOC. Several law firms hired Franck Studios for legal photography. So, it’s likely that a commercial truck parked at a body shop was involved in a collision. The HNOC caption says the truck is parked at City Auto and Body Company. The JAX truck is a Dodge, but I don’t know the model. If you’re a car/truck person, feel free to chime in.
The Jackson Brewing Company operated on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. The Fabacher family named their company for Jackson Square, right across the street. The Fabachers brewed beer in the Quarter from 1890 to 1974.
While there was a vibrant German community in New Orleans, the Fabachers chose to name their beer after a New Orleans icon, Jackson Square. They shortened the brand name to JAX. The beer grew in popularity. This is significant, because New Orleans sported numerous local breweries at the beginning of the 20th Century. To expand the beer’s reach, the Fabachers opened s couple of restaurants. They served JAX in their establishments. PepsiCo used this business model, buying fast food chains like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. They replaced Coca-Cola products in those stores with Pepsi. As Jax Brewery grew, the company ran afoul of the “other JAX beer.”
The Jacksonville Brewing Company of Jacksonville, Florida, also branded their beer, JAX. By 1935, the two brands collided. The companies established regional sales boundaries to settle the dispute. The Jacksonville Brewing Company closed shop in 1954. The New Orleans brewery acquired exclusive rights to JAX. So, the JAX Truck traveling through NOLA neighborhoods was always the local JAX.
This JAX truck bears the words “Advertising Car” on the side. This told the town it carried no beer. The driver was likely a route salesman. This salesman drove from one bar to another, promoting his product. The advertising rep left printed material, such as posters, etc. The breweries either owned their own print shops or contracted with local shops. They made custom posters for just about anything. So long as the top of the printed material featured the beer’s logo, they’d print signs. The ad rep also carried branded glassware. He would gladly leave a case or two of glasses as he took that next order for keg delivery.
This railroad stock certificate, from the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad was issued in 1853.
Railroad Stock Certificate
Chartered in 1852, the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad (NOO&GW) sought investors immediately. The railroad planned to connect New Orleans with Houston, Texas, and points in between. The company built a station in Algiers, Louisiana. They expanded westward from there. By 1857, the railroad reached Morgan City, Louisiana. Construction stopped there for more than twenty years. The company was unable to continue west because of the Southern Rebellion.
NOO&GW used “Texas Gauge” in constructing the initial 83 miles of track (prior to the Rebellion). While “standard gauge” 4′ 8 1/2″, Texas Gauge is 5’6″ in width. Proponents of the wider gauge argued that it allowed locomotives to include more features. They also argued that the wider gauge offered passengers a more comfortable ride. Street railway operators agree, since they use wide gauge track systems. The only remaining railroad in the United States operating with Texas Gauge is Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the subway system for San Francisco, Oakland, and the Bay Area.
Reconstruction and beyond
Steamship magnate Charles Morgan acquired the NOO&GW in 1869. He re-built the railroad using standard gauge. Morgan realized that the railroad would be a better target for acquisition if it connected easily to those systems expanding from the west. New Orleans was already a major rail hub, with connections to Chicago and the Eastern Seaboard. He was right, as the Southern Pacific system eventually acquired NOO&GW.
This stock certificate represents 15 shares of stock in the railroad. The company proclaims capital in the amount of $6 million on the left side of the certificate. The right side states the value of each share is $25. So, its value is a total of $375. That’s a sizeable investment in a company that, at the time of issue, had no track!
Birds-eye view of New Orleans, 1851, by John Bachmann.
Click the image for hi-res copy
Birds-eye view 1851
“Birds’ eye view of New-Orleans / drawn from nature on stone by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann].” The Mississippi River stands in the foreground. The view looks north to Lake Pontchartrain. Below the title: “Published by the agents A. Guerber & Co., c1851 (Printed by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann]).”
The map features an incredible amount of detail. While the majority of the map focuses on the east bank of the river, scenes on the west bank are visible. Reply/comment with the details that stand out to you!
John Bachmann, Sr., was a lithographer from Switzerland. While most of his work features views of New York City, he made a number of lithographs in other cities. Students of the Southern Rebellion refer to his drawings regularly. Anticipating conflict, Bachmann traveled to a number of possible flashpoints. He sketched those scenes, then converted them to “aerial” views.
Creating a birds-eye view
The perspective of drawings like birds-eye view 1851 dates back centuries. The idea is, the artist surveys and sketches the scene from a ground-level perspective. They then “stretch” the scene in their imagination. The artist uses that mental image to “look down” on the scene. They review the original details, adjusting the perspective.
So, to draw those riverboats, Bachmann sketched them, most likely sitting on the west bank levee. He added them to the river on the birds-eye, adjusting the angle in his mind. The paralell riverboat now appears from above.
New Orleans detail
Several things stand out to me from this litho:
Riverboats. Bachmann captures a number of ocean-going ships as well as the classic riverboats that traveled up and down the Mississippi. The Port of New Orleans bustled in the late 1840s/early 1850s.
Old Canal. The Carondelet Canal runs on the Eastern side of the lithograph, merging with Bayou St. John. The bayou then extends to the lake. The left-right body of water visible where canal joins bayou is Bayou Metairie. The city closed the Carondelet Canal in the 1920s. Norman C. Francis Parkway comes to and end in what was the swampy ground joining the bayous.
We’ll return to this drawing again for more detail!
Westbound railroads from New Orleans originated with the NOOGW.
The New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad offered service to the West of New Orleans. We’ve talked about NOOGW in previous posts, but this particular map contains some interesting points.
The NOOGW was organized in 1852. Its first fifty miles of track opened to service in 1854. This map dates to 1853. So, it’s another “proposal” map.
The Library of Congress summary for this map says, “Mississippi delta area shows drainage, sugar crop, parishes, major cities and towns, canals, and railroads with lines named and distances on the main line.” All those details make perfect sense for pitching a Westbound railroads. Sugar farmers require transportation, once they turn raw sugar into a granulated form, or molasses. Railroads connect towns. These points hit what investors want to hear.
LOC attributes the map to G. W. R. Bayley, published by company, Childs & Hammond. While there are no notes beyond attribution, it looks like someone took Bayley’s map and drew train tracks on it. Not that there’s a problem with that, as the saying goes.
Algiers to the west
The NOOGW serviced the city from a terminal in Algiers. This station played an important role in the Southern Rebellion. NOOGW’s fifty miles of track enabled the Union Army to supply their troops to the west. The rebels defended the Mississippi River fiercely. So, coming up from the South created two fronts of attack. The Union Army pushed up from New Orleans. Grant pushed down from St. Louis. Denying the rebels access to the river played an important role in shortening the rebellion.
After the rebellion, the NOOGW route extended past Morgan City, eventually into Texas. The Algiers facilities became part of the Southern Pacific system. SP expanded operations in Algiers. They built a full freight yard there. That yard later moved to Avondale.