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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.
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!
Stop by my Walgreens Book Signing!
Walgreens Book Signing 13-December
Stop by the Walgreens Drug Store, 900 Canal Street, on Friday, December 13th, and buy my books! I’ll be signing New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, and New Orleans Jazz, from 3pm-5pm. I’ll also gladly sign any of my other books the store has in stock, when you buy them.
Walgreens, 900 Canal Street
Walgreens, 900 Canal Street (courtesy Frank Aymami III)
While it continues to be a target for “shop local” folks, they’re often unaware of how long this Walgreens has been on Canal Street. I have a photo of this store in the book, from 1939! The neon sign gave way to LEDs a few years ago. They’re more efficient. Frank’s talent really brings out the scene in the photo, above.
The Streetcar Book
New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line is my first book for Arcadia. I wrote it in 2004, when the Canal line returned to streetcar service. It’s a photo history of the street and the line, which dates back to 1861. There was a forty-year bus interlude, from 1964 to 2004. I rode those Canal buses so much in my high school and UNO days.
The Jazz Book
When HBO’s series, Treme, was still in production, I pitched a book on Faubourg Treme to Arcadia. The next day, I got an email back, asking if I’d be interested in writing a book with a broader scope. I was hesitant at first. Jazz is such an integral part of our DNA in New Orleans, and has been since the 1890s. I went for it and am very pleased at the reception New Orleans Jazz continues to receive.
Walgreens photo by Frank Aymami, III
If you’re not familiar with Frank’s work, you want to be. Check him out, and hire him if you need a great New Orleans photographer!
The Krauss Service Building more than doubled the size of the Canal Street favorite.
Service Building, Krauss Department Store, under construction in 1951. (Franck Studios photo courtesy HNOC)
Krauss Service Building 1951
When Leon Fellman built the storefront that became Krauss Department Store, the original two-story building didn’t extend even half-way back in the 1201 block. The store’s first expansion opened in 1911. The Krauss brothers bought the rest of the block over the years. The 1201 block of Canal Street is bounded by Canal, Crozat, Iberville, and Basin Streets. The store occupied the entire block by 1927.
Leon Heymann was Thekla Krauss’ husband. The Krauss brothers turned over day-to-day management of the store to Heymann in 1920. After acquiring the 1201 Canal city block, he turned his attention to the block behind the store. By 1939, Heymann purchased the second block, bounded by Iberville, Crozat, Bienville and Basin Streets.
Planning the Service Building
Detail of the 1951 service building photo, showing the sign listing the companies that worked on the project.
In 1940, Heymann tasked his son, Jimmy and son-in-law, Leon Wolf, with the responsibility of planning out the expansion of Krauss. Jimmy Heymann and Wolf traveled to cities in the American midwest, looking at how department stores provided electricity and air conditioning to their sales floors. The pair returned to Canal Street, ready to hire an architect and contractor. The project ran into a major obstacle in 1941, World War II. The Krauss Company were strong supporters of the war effort. They put the expansion on hold.
Leon Heymann waited on the project, due to the post-war economy. He wanted things to settle down. Also, technology evolved in the ten years since Wolf and Jimmy Heymann developed their plans. So, the company hired the architectural firm of Favrot, Reed, Mathes & Bergman to update the project. R.P. Farnsworth & Co., General Contractors, turned those plans into a five-story expansion.
Connecting the buildings
This photo, taken on 26-Feb-1951, by Franck-Bertacci Studios, shows the progress of the project. The scaffolding on the left side covers part of the four-story connecter between the buildings. So, Iberville Street remained clear at the ground level. The multi-story connector allowed the store to move utilities and air-conditioning to the service building. Furthermore, he connector carried power and airflow back to the main store. Additionally, tockrooms re-located from the front building to the back.
The Service Building increased the retail floor space of Krauss by 90%.
The Liberty Monument defined Canal Terminal 1941
Street level view of a NOPSI arch roof streetcar circling Liberty Place, 1941 (Franck Studios/HNOC)
Canal Terminal 1941
A NOPSI arch-roof streetcar makes the turn around Liberty Place. This charming photo from 1941 shows one of our classic “green” streetcars circling around the Liberty Monument. After completing the circle, the motorman parked the car in the four-track terminal. He and the conductor took their break, then proceeded on their outbound run.
The obelisk known as the “Liberty Monument” stood at Canal and Front Streets in a small, oval-shaped green space. The New Orleans Traction Company contracted the engineering firm Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FBD), to evaluate the street rail system in New Orleans in 1893. They made a number of recommendations, including a re-design of the streetcar tracks at the foot of Canal Street.
Plan of the Canal Terminal designed by Ford, Bacon, and Davis, published by Street Railway Journal, 1905
The city completed construction of FBD’s Canal Terminal design in 1900. By this time, all the mule-drawn tracks were removed from service. While the city cut back the massive base of the Clay Monument at Royal and Canal, they left Liberty Place alone. They cut down Clay to allow the tracks to run straight. FBD designed a loop around Liberty Place. Streetcars traveled down the Uptown side of Canal Street. When they reached Liberty Place, they looped around and parked on the French Quarter side. The 1900 version of the terminal included the loop and eight tracks. In 1930, the city implemented a “beautification” program that cut back the number of tracks to four. That 1930 street program also included installation of our fleur-de-lis street lamps, also visible in this photo.
Canal and the river
The buildings on the right display advertisements for liquor and wine. “Three Feathers” was a popular blend of Scotch. So, the name refers to one of the heraldic badges for the Prince of Wales. The badge includes a plume of three ostrich feathers and the royal coronet of the prince.
The second sign visible on the right is for Franzia Wines. Franzia still has a warm spot in the hearts of New Orleanians. Supermarkets sell Franzia as a “box wine.” Box wines are popular for Carnival parades, picnics under the interstate, or out at the lakefront.
The building background right is the Port of New Orleans office building, at Eads Plaza. Those buildings were demolished to make way for the International Trade Mart building and Spanish Plaza.
Rounding Liberty Place to Canal Terminal
From the time of the Liberty Place loop’s construction to its removal in 1964, many routes used it to change directions. For example, the Canal Street/Esplanade Avenue “belt” service arrived on Canal Street at N. Rampart Street. The streetcars turned toward the river. They looped around Liberty Place, parked at Canal Terminal then headed outbound. Other lines, such as Gentilly and Desire, used the loop to change direction.
When NOPSI discontinued the Canal line in 1964, they city demolished Liberty Place. So, they placed the monument in storage. Therefore that began its tumultuous history as a civil rights flashpoint. When Canal Street service returned, NORTA constructed the current three-track terminal that exists today. NORTA connected the tracks for the Riverfront line to that terminal. Streetcars now run from the Cemeteries and City Park all the way to the French Market terminal.