Re-introducing myself – I tell Stories.
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.
This Southern Pacific passenger car operated on the Sunset Limited.
Southern Pacific passenger car
A Budd corporation built passenger car operating on the Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Limited” train. The Historic New Orleans Collection dates this photo as prior to 1941, but that’s not accurate. The SP replaced the “heavyweight” cars running on the Sunset Limited with “streamline” cars like this one in 1950. So, this photo is likely from 1950 or 1951.
This car model offered four-across seating. Modern airlines offer this layout in their first class/business class cabins. Amtrak continues the four-across layout in their Superliner cars. Toilets were at the back of the car.
Railroads offered coach cars as bare-bones service. Amtrak’s incarnation of the line takes 46 hours to get from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The upside of a long train ride in coach is you’re not locked into the chair, as you would be on a plane. Riders ate in the dining car, strolled down to the lounge car, or just walked up and down the train to stretch. SP offered sleeper car service for a premium.
What’s important to remember is not everyone rides a long-haul route the entire way. So, if you wanted to take the train from New Orleans to, say, Lake Charles or Houston, hop on a Southern Pacific passenger car like this. Eight hours to Houston isn’t so bad.
SP inaugurated the route in 1894. They transferred it (along with all other passenger operations) to the national passenger railroad corporation, Amtrak, in 1971. The train runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles and return. The Amtrak’s Sunset makes twenty stops in between.
Prior to 1950, SP ran steel-sided “heavyweight” cars. They upgraded the flagship train in 1950, using corrugated aluminium siding. These cars weighed less. Their “streamlined” design offered a smoother ride. Additionally, the newer cars used upgraded trucks, better shock absorbers, etc.
This car appears to be part of a ready-to-depart or just-arrived Sunset Limited consist. SP operated from Union Station on Rampart Street until Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. Trains coming into both stations used a car maintenance facility just to the side of the station tracks. Amtrak continues to use this facility, which back up to Earhart Boulevard. Pretty sure this isn’t the station itself, since there’s no roof over the tracks.
Christ Church was the first Episcopal congregation.
Christ Church, 1845
Illustration of Christ Episcopal Church, corner of Canal and Bourbon Streets, in Norman’s New Orleans and Environs, 1845. The artist is unidentified. Benjamin Moore Norman describes the church thusly:
A fine Ionic building, situated on Canal, at the corner of Bourbon street, was designed by Gallier and Dakin, architects, and its erection begun in the autumn of 1835, under the direction of Mr. D. H. Toogood. It was completed in the summer of 1837, and consecrated during the same year. The cost of the edifice was about $70,000. The form of the ceiling, being a flat dome, is much admired. The Rev. Dr. Hawkes is pastor of this church.
This was the second incarnation of Christ Episcopal. The congregation formed in 1803. They worshiped in various Vieux Carré buildings until 1816, when they bought the property on the corner of Canal and Bourbon. In 1833, the congregation’s growth required something bigger. They commissioned James Gallier, Sr. and James H. Dakin to build this second church.They consecrated the new church on March 26, 1837.
By 1845, real estate developer and merchant Judah Touro set his sights on the 701 block of Canal Street. He acquired most of the property on the block. In 1845, Touro made the congregation the proverbial offer they couldn’t refuse. Christ Episcopal acquired the corner of Canal and Dauphine Streets, one block up from the existing church. By 1847, Touro completed the deal. Christ Episcopal moved up the street. Congregation Dispersed of Judah moved into the church building at Bourbon. They remained there until 1855. While Touro passed in 1854, the project continued. They moved Dispersed of Judah to a new schul uptown and demolished the Canal Street synagogue. By 1857, the entire block consisted of a row of four-story buildings.
Christ Episcopal moved one more time, in 1884. They put the gothic church at Canal and Dauphine up for auction. The congregation used the proceeds from the sale to build the current cathedral, located at St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street.
St. Charles Street in 1880
Canal and St. Charles
The 100-200 blocks of St. Charles Street, looking up from Canal Street, 1880. This is one side of a stereoscope card from S. T. Blessing Studios on Canal. The foreground shows the 100 block of St. Charles. Meyer The Hatter and Kolb’s Restaurant open on St. Charles fifteen-ish years later. The St. Charles Hotel dominates the background of the photo. Two Stephenson “bobtail” streetcars travel up St. Charles. They run on the Great Northern Station line. The Carrollton line still came to Canal Street via Baronne. I decided to change my profile picture on Twitter (yes, I’m still on Da Twittah, as @NOLAHistoryGuy) to this image.
St. Charles Street
No, that’s not a typo. At this time, the city listed the portion of St. Charles between Canal Street and Tivoli Circle as a “street.” Above Tivoli Circle, it morphed into “Naiads Street.” The New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company named their streetcar line for its destination, the City of Carrollton. Carrollton served as the seat of Jefferson Parish. Orleans Parish later annexed the area. So, the line ran up Naiads to Carrollton Avenue. It cnnected the CBD with the eastern end of Jefferson.
The circle was named after Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. During the Southern Rebellion, it was used as an encampment for both Union and Rebel soldiers. The White League erected their monument to the traitor Lee in 1884. That statue was removed by the city in 2017, and the circle is now known as Harmony Circle, renamed by a unanimous vote of the City Council in 2021.
This photo shows the second incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel. It opened in 1853, after the first incarnation (the one with the dome and rotunda) burned down. This building burned down in 1894. The third incarnation replaced it. That hotel was demolished in 1974. The Place St. Charles office building (now the Capital One Building) replaced it in the 200 block.
Streetcar parade changes happened to keep the streets clear.
Streetcar parade changes
Ad in the Times-Picayune, 20-February-1950, outlining the “Changes in Streetcar and Bus Routes during Carnival Parades” for Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras that year.
In order to clear the streets along the routes of Carnival parades, certain temporary changes in streetcar and bus routes, principally in the Canal Street area, will be necessary. The dates and hours during which the changes will be in effect, as well as the points in the Canal Street area at which passengers may board and alight, are shown below. Service on the St. Charles-Tulane Belt lines will be interrupted during the parades along part of St. Charles Avenue as outlined below.
The timing of the changes: Lundi Gras, 6:30pm to about 9:30pm. The only parade of the evening was the Krewe of Proteus. It moved pretty quickly down the route, since they wanted to get their ball started on time at 9pm, at the Municipal Auditorium.
On Carnival Day,
Canal Street will be cleared of Traffic all day Mardi Gras from 9:45 a. m. until the night parade clears the street about 9:30 p. m. Passengers should board and alight at the points shown, below between those hours.
The parades on Mardi Gras were Rex during the day and Comus at night. Zulu had a less-formal route at this time, so it didn’t figure into the transit calculus.
Loading and unloading
The Canal line looping back at Crozat isn’t all that different from what happens now. The buses, being more flexible, essentially stop short of their usual turnarounds on Canal Street, on both the uptown and downtown sides of Canal.
NOPSI 434 on the St. Charles Belt, 1947 (courtesy George Friedman)
“In the interest of safety, the St. Charles and Tulane Belt lines will not operate along the parade route while the Carnival parades are on St. Charles Avenue.” The turn-back points for the streetcars are different than recent years. For Proteus on Lundi Gras, the streetcars ran all the way down to Washington Avenue. That’s because Proteus went up Jackson to St. Charles. It turned left on St. Charles, but only for four blocks, to stop in front of Garden District homes, then looped to head to Canal Street. At this time, Rex left their den on Claiborne Avenue, and turned left on Claiborne, going to Louisiana. They then turned right on Louisiana, and turning left again onto St. Charles. Their route later expanded to Napoleon. So, now, Rex turns right out of the den, then left onto Napoleon, then left onto St. Charles. So, now the turn-back point is further up, at Napoleon.
Since the St. Charles and Tulane lines ran in Belt service, with one circling in one direction and the other in the opposite direction, there was a second turn-back point. This was at Elk Place and Canal. So, during parades, the lines ran point-to-point, from St. Charles and Louisiana, up St. Charles, turning on S. Carrollton, then Tulane, going to Canal and Elk. The Tulane line ran the opposite direction.
A year later, in 1951, NOPSI discontinued Belt service. The Tulane line transitioned to trackless trolleys, while St. Charles remained streetcars.
Have a safe and happy Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras!
It’s not just contemporary–falling concrete was a problem in 1958.
Falling concrete in the CBD
A story on the front page of the Times-Picayune on 26-January-1958 has contemporary ring to it. “Falling Concrete Nearly Hits Pedestrian, 2 in Auto.” The location was the Maritime Building, at 800 Common (corner Carondelet). While the outcome is similar to the falling concrete at the Plaza Tower building in recent years, this incident appeared to be a one-off. The building, which is still there, opened in 1895. The concrete originated from a cornice on the eighth floor corner. Like the modern incidents, NOPD blocked the corner off until it was determined to be safe for autos and pedestrians.
Page one of the Times-Picayune, 26-January-1958.
The article details what happened:
A large piece of concrete fell from the eighth floor balcony of the Maritime Building Saturday about 10 a. m., barely missing a male pedestrian and a woman motorist and her two-year-old son.
The cornice-work fell from the extreme corner of the balcony and struck a neon sign, only one in that block on that side of the street. breaking the concrete into several smaller pieces.
The story goes on to say how those smaller pieces hit an automobile. A pedestrian, one Oscar D. Larre, who lived in Lakeview.
Similar to the various incidents at the Plaza Tower, NOPD’s repsonse was to block things off:
Police at the scene blocked all traffic between Carondelet and Baronne and were diverting pedestrians to the downtown side of the streets in the possibility of more falling concrete.
So, further investigation by NOFD and others was inconclusive. While they couldn’t say if more concrete would fall from the building, the police re-opened the street and things returned to normal. Turns out this was indeed an isolated incident.
The Hennen Building
The Hennen Building, article in the Semi-Weekly Times-Democrat, 1-September 1895.
The Martime Building opened as the Hennen Building in 1895. It is a “Chicago style” skyscraper. The building claimed the title of tallest building in New Orleans from its opening until 1904. The Morris Land and Improvement Association constructed the Hennen Building. The association took its name from John A. Morris. They named the building for Mrs. Morris’ father, Mr. Alfred Hennen. The firm of renown New Orleans architect Thomas Sully (designer of the Maison Blanche Building) designed the Hennen Building. The building stands eleven stories high.
The Hennen Building opened with “225 offices, renting from $15 to $35 each.” It housed a wide variety of tenants. New ownership converted it into condos in 2010. It was sold again in 2020, and is now a timeshare facility, the Holiday Inn Club Vacations New Orleans Resort.
My morning started off with me looking for ads from this date (26-January), to share on social media. The process is very scientific–I wake up and follow my nose. I did 25-January-1959 yesterday, so I decided to stay in the 1950s today, with 1958. With the hot mess that is the Plaza Tower, well, here we go. That’s the fun part of this gig!
Tip of the hat – to New Orleans Architecture Tours – a google search of the Hennen Building produced a link to the Times-Democrat article from 1895. That was my jumping-off point to go look at the original article. Thanks!