The Sheraton Charles Hotel was the last incarnation of the venerable hotel.
Sheraton Charles Hotel
Ad for the Sheraton Charles Hotel, May 7, 1973. The Sheraton chain bought the hotel in 1965. They re-branded the property, “Sheraton-Charles,” enticing tourists with its proximity to the French Quarter:
Sheraton Gives you modern comfort in an Old World atmosphere, one block from the famous French Quarter
And check those prices! Single rooms $18-$22.
The ad shows an illustration of the third incarnation of the hotel. The summer of 1973 was its last tourist season. The owner, Louis J. Roussel, Jr., demolished the building in 1974. the location became the Place St. Charles office building in 1984.
St. Charles the third
The St. Charles Hotel’s third incarnation, 1940s
Over the decades, the ground-floor storefront shops of the St. Charles Hotel housed ticket offices for railroad and steamboat companies. While some companies operated their own services. others engaged ticket agents. These were the predecessors of travel agencies. All a traveler staying at the St. Charles had to do was go downstairs to the street, find the, say, L&N or Southern Pacific office, and make any changes necessary to their itinerary. Over time, the airlines opened ticket offices, as the railroads migrated over to Union Passenger Terminal, when it opened in 1954. The offices morphed into pick-up points over time. Travelers used the telephone to call, then come get the physical tickets when they were ready. By the time of this 1973 ad, a concierge in the hotel lobby booked travel for guests. Travel agents acquired access to airline and railroad computer systems. They booked and printed out documents for almost all carriers.
The first incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel opened in the 200 block of St. Charles Street in 1837. That building burned in 1851. The second incarnation opened in 1853. It too burned, in 1894. This building dates from 1896. So, while many New Orleanians mourned the loss of the St. Charles/Sheraton-Charles, Sheraton moved to Canal Street. Their 49-story hotel at 500 Canal Street opened in 1982.
Sheraton, as part of the Starwood Group, later merged with Mariott Hotels. So, the ownership of the two towering hotels on either side of Canal Street are essentially the same.
Canal Street 1960 featured Hitchcock at the movies.
Canal Street 1960.
Unpacking a photo from “N.O.L.A. – New Orleans Long Ago” on Facebook. This color shot features the 1101 to 901 blocks of Canal Street. The photographer (unidentified) stands across the 140′ street. the angle indicates they’re at Elk Place. A green arch roof streetcar travels inbound, on the Canal line. A second streetcar travels outbound, a block down the street. The marquee of the Saenger features Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Woolworth’s at N. Rampart Street, the Audubon Building, and Maison Blanche Department Store are visible, along with numerous billboards and other advertising.
While this photo is undated, the marquee of the Saenger Theater tells us it’s from the Summer of 1960. Paramount and Hitchcock released “Psycho” nationwide at the end of June. An interesting tidbit about the film: it was the first movie released in the United States with a “no late admission” policy. While Paramount opposed the notion, it turned out that moviegoers lined up well in advance to see the film.
Like other movie houses in New Orleans in 1960, the Saenger observed Jim Crow laws and restrictions. The theater operated the balcony separately from the rest of the building. They walled off the balcony as a “colored” theater, the Saenger Orleans. The theater merged back to one after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Rubenstein’s store, on the Sanger’s corner at Canal and N. Rampart, was not connected to Rubenstein Brothers, the venerable men’s store still at Canal and St. Charles Avenue. This Rubenstein’s was part of a chain of women’s stores. They later moved to the 1000 block. That corner storefront of the theater became a Popeyes in the 1980s.
F. W. Woolworth Co.
Woolworth’s operated one of its two Canal Street stores on the other side of N. Rampart. This location became a nexus for Civil Rights protests just two years after this photo. As in other cities, protesters focused on the Woolworth’s lunch counter. While there were no major incidents, Civil Rights leaders, most notably the Rev. Avery Alexander, led pickets and protests on Canal Street.
Woolworth’s closed the store in the 1990s. The building remained vacant until 2011. Developer Mohan Kailas acquired the store. He demolished the building (which stood on the corner since the 1930s). Kailas partnered with Hard Rock Cafe to build a hotel on the site. In 2019, construction failures caused the development to collapse, killing three.
The 901 block of Canal Street stands as it has since 1910. The Audubon Building was an office building at the corner of Canal and Burgundy streets. It was later converted into a hotel, The Saint. Next is the S. H. Kress store, then Maison Blanche Department Store. MB the store occupied the first five floors. The upper floors were leased as office space. WSMB radio stood atop the building, on the thirteenth floor.
A 1923-vintage arch roof streetcar heads inbound on Canal Street. It approaches the corner of Canal and Rampart streets. I can’t make out its number – if you can, let me know! New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) operated the transit system in New Orleans at the time.
The “beautification project” of 1958 cut back the number of streetcar tracks on Canal from four to two. Streetcar lines heading inbound to Canal Street used the outside tracks to turn around and return to their origin points. By the late 1950s, the only remaining streetcar lines were Canal and St. Charles. So, since those turn-arounds were no longer necessary, the city cut down the size of the neutral ground. Additionally, they increased the number of auto lanes in the downtown section of Canal. planters and palm trees appeared as part of the project. By the summer of 1960, the palm trees survived a couple of winters.
Department Store Artwork served as the foundation of newspaper retail advertising for over a century.
Department store artwork vs. photography
Ads from D. H. Holmes and Maison Blanche Department Stores in the Times-Picayune, 4-March-1976. The Holmes ad presents ladies sportswear illustrations. The Maison Blanche ad features photographs of models wearing London Fog coats.
Department Store art departments
The artists that worked for Holmes, MB, Godchaux’s, and Krauss provided the ad copy to the newspapers. While some manufacturers offered “camera ready” artwork of their products, the store artists usually fashioned their own interpretations. They transformed illustrations and photos of anything from clothing to washing machines into ads. Even when provided with artwork, the ad creators still had to size and shape it into the newspaper-ready form.
D. H. Holmes
“Summer Separates by Koret of California” – this ad (top) entices ladies to the “Pontchartrain Sportswear” section of the chain’s stores. Additionally, note the mail order form in the bottom left. Holmes regularly presented ads in one section of Da Paper, with MB doing the same in another.
D. H. Holmes operated their iconic 819 Canal Street store, as well as locations at Lake Forest, Lakeside, Oakwood, and Southland Mall in Houma. Notice the ad, in the New Orleans newspaper, doesn’t list the mall’s name in Houma. Most folks in the metro area wouldn’t make the connection. The Lakeside and Houma locations listed here continue as Dillard’s stores.
MB departs from the regular format on this day. While the ad features quality ladies fashion items, there’s a lot of text here. Three models present London Fog coats for women. The chain invited shoppers to meet Lou Ferrari, a representative of London Fog.
Additionally, Maison Blanche announced several events in this ad. In partnership with the Humanities Committee of Greater New Orleans, they presented a forum in the Canal Street store’s auditorium. Models made informal presentations at lunchtime at the Caribbean Room of the Pontchartrain Hotel, and the store sought instructors and staff for a new in-house program. MB operated their store at 901 Canal Street, as well as at Airline Village, Clearview, Lake Forest, and Westside.
Buy the book!
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
Want more photos and stories about New Orleans retail? Get my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.
This Rex parade photo ID is a great challenge.
Rex Parade Photo ID
Photo of a Rex parade circa 1920. Handwritten caption says “Boys School in Rex Parade N.O. La.” The photo features a high school band, marching lakebound on Canal Street. They’re crossing Canal and Carondelet Streets, passing in front of Fellman’s Department Store at 800 Canal Street. The crowds are heavy, as the band approaches the official parade reviewing stand at the Boston Club (out of frame to the right). Via Col. Joseph S. Tate Photograph Album, LSU Special Collections. LSU notes the 1920 date as “questionable.”
Key ID factors
The photo contains three items that bring the 1920 date into question. Or do they? Let’s look.
Boys High School
The caption, “Boys High School” likely refers to what is now Warren Easton Charter School. The school stands at 3019 Canal Street, between N. Salcedo and N. Gayoso Streets in Mid-City. It’s been there since 1913. The city founded the school in 1843. In 1911, they changed the name from “Boys High School” to “Warren Easton High School.” The new name honored the first Supervisor of Education of the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans.
So, by 1920, the school had been Warren Easton for seven-ish years. While that’s ample time to change all the legal documents, old habits die hard. You can hear someone say, “What’s that band? Oh, that’s ‘Boys School.'” Additionally, the caption is handwritten, so we’re relying on someone’s recollection.
Leon Fellman moved his store from the Mercier Building at 901 Canal Street to the Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal Street in 1897. He died in 1920. Fellman’s family returned to the German version of their name, Feibleman, upon his death. They also re-organized the structure of the corporation, changing the store’s name to Feibleman’s.
Again, legal changes don’t always jive with what people say. Additionally, it takes time to change signage and such. Still, that the storefront on Canal says “Fellman’s” here, it’s likely the photo is earlier than 1920.
OK, this is a deep dive, but there’s an interesting sign in the bottom right corner. It says:
AND TELEGRAPH CO.
Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph offered telegram and long distance telephone services at their “pay stations” in the south. Southern Bell merged with Cumberland in 1911. So, this sign likely stood there in the late 1910s. I haven’t seen the sign in photos of the 800 block from the 1920s.
I got nothin! The Islandora record for the photo says:
The photograph album (unbound) contains 103 black and white prints mounted on paper. The images show scenes from several locations in Louisiana during the 1920s. Photographer unknown.
Given the “Fellman’s” sign at 800 Canal Street, it’s certain the photo is no later than 1920. That re-branding was fast and severe. The telephone company wouldn’t have been so intent on replacing their sign. The caption is human.
What do you think?
Rex Dumbo 1960 – the flying elephant appeared in the big parade.
Rex Dumbo 1960
“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” in the 1960 Rex parade, 1-March-1960. This photo, by Howard “Cole” Coleman, offers a great “unpack.” It features several Canal Street stores, Maison Blanche, Katz and Besthof, Chandler’s Shoes. The K&B had been converted to the “Camera Center” by this time. The parade rolled down St. Charles Avenue from Uptown. It turned left going the wrong way up Canal, then made a u-turn at Rampart. Rex then rolled down to the river.
901 Canal Street
Maison Blanche dominates the 901 block. The store boasted five floors of retail space. The two towers of the “Maison Blanche Office Building” rose up an additional seven floors. The store’s entrance was at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Street (right behind Rex Dumbo 1960 here). The “office building” entrance stood at the other side of the building. A separate set of elevators lifted you up to a myriad of doctors, dentists, and other businesses above the store. The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans uses the old office building entrace as the main entrance of the hotel.
Katz and Besthof
K&B opened their store in the 800 block of Canal in the 1920s, to service those going to doctors in the MB building. By the late 1950s, the store became redundant, as the chain also operated a store across the street. So, K&B created the “Camera Center.” They sold cameras and photographic supplies on the second floor. The Camera Center grew in popularity, to the point where it took over the first floor as well.
Chandler’s to Baker’s
The Edison Brothers opened the first in their chain of Chandler’s Shoe Stores in 1922. By the 1930s, they expanded to New Orleans. They opened a Chandler’s in the 800 block, next to Lerner’s, just up from Gus Mayer and D. H. Holmes. The Edisons opened a second chain they called Baker’s Shoes. The New Orleans Chandler’s became a Baker’s in the 1970s. Baker’s eventually moved out to the malls. The chain closed the CBD location. The retail front of the building is now a spa/massage place.
King of Carnival
While many of the retail outlets on Canal Street erected grandstands, the stores in the 801 block chose not to. That offered prime parade-watching spots to folks who just wandered around. Cole Coleman stood on the neutral ground to get his photos. Additionally,Coleman crossed the neutral ground to take shots of the parade on the other side of Canal. At this time, Rex toasted his queen and the court at the Boston Club at 824 Canal.
The streetcars stopped, as they do today, at Liberty Street. They “switch-back” there, beginning their outbound runs.
Proteus 1922 had a rose theme.
Krewe of Proteus chose “The Romance of the Rose” for their theme in 1922. Thanks to the Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, for maintaining the krewe’s archives. Those archives include design sketches of their floats throughout the years. This post features three floats from that parade, “The Painted Wall,” “Love Conquers All,” and “Sir Mirth’s Garden.”
Proteus first paraded in 1882. They took a hiatus from 1993 to 2004, because of the controversial “Mardi Gras Ordinance” of 1993. Proteus returned to the streets in 2004. The krewe quarantined in 2021, but plan to parade on Lundi Gras 2022.
Le Roman de la Rose
Title float, Proteus, 1922
Like the other “old line,” debutante krewes, Proteus often chose themes from literature and history. “The Romance of the Rose” is a typical choice. From Wikipedia:
Le Roman de la Rose (The Romance of the Rose) is a medieval poem written in Old French and presented as an allegorical dream vision. As poetry, The Romance of the Rose is a notable instance of courtly literature, purporting to provide a “mirror of love” in which the whole art of romantic love is disclosed. Its two authors conceived it as a psychological allegory; throughout the Lover’s quest, the word Rose is used both as the name of the titular lady and as an abstract symbol of female sexuality.
To put this in Carnival terms, the poem offered the krewe a fertile ground for beautiful costumes and floats. Even if most of the parade-goers in 1922 had no idea about the poem, red! roses! costumes! The float designs lived up to the ambition.
“The Painted Wall”
“The Painted Wall”
Standing between “The Lover,” and the object of his desire, “The Rose,” was “The Painted Wall.” To reach his desire, the wall required our protagonist to overcome the trials of Poverty, Villainy, and Hate, among others. This float creates positions for six riders a side, with The Lover up front.
“Sir Mirth’s Garden”
“Sir Mirth’s Garden” Proteus 1922
Once he passes The Painted Wall, The Lover approaches the walled garden of Sir Mirth. Inside, he encounters couples dancing, led by Sir Mirth Lady Gladness.
Love Conquers All
“Omnia Vincit Amor”
This float bears the saying, “Omnia Vincit Amor” on the side. “Love Comquers All.” At the front of the float stands The Lover. The Rose, an artistic blending of a lovely flower with a woman at the center, highlights the float.
Floats then and now
Proteus 1922 floats sit atop old wooden wagons. The krewe use these same wagons to this day (well, to be sure, they’re regularly maintained/rebuilt). Proteus limits its size, so mega-floats are unnecessary. Additionally, a number of the members of Proteus also belong to other “old-line” krewes. It’s important to remember, these organizations present their daughters and granddaughters to society at their respective balls. Before the growth of parading organizations, the actual old-line parades served as glorified transportation to the bal masque.