MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories Escalators

Escalators at Maison Blanche on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

While Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store was the first department store on Canal Street to install an escalator, MB wasn’t far behind. MB Memories for me include a lot of up and down on those escalators.

Early Escalators

Krauss added an escalator from the ground (first) floor to the “Mezzanine” in 1927. Not to be outdone, Maison Blanche acquired an escalator system a year later. Those first escalators were “up-only” systems. They were meant to get shoppers upstairs quickly. Getting down was another story. The store wasn’t all that motivated to get folks out of the store. So, initially, the paths back down to the first floor included stairs (from the second floor), and the elevators.

Eventually, MB expanded the escalators to all five floors. The elevators were towards the rear of all the stores. The open architecture of escalators made them attractive to customer and retailer alike.

Maison Blanche in the 1950s

This Franck Studios photo is from the early 1950s. The post-war boom was in full swing. Returning vets finished their educations. They moved out of mom and dad’s house, to Gentilly and Lakeview. Really adventurous folks headed to the suburbs, Metairie and Chalmette. Maison Blanche recognized this, opening stores in Mid-City and Gentilly in 1948. The Airline store wasn’t far behind.

Throughout all that expansion, Canal Street anchored the chain. The five-story store continued drawing shoppers from all over the city. Buses replaced streetcars on many transit lines, but that didn’t stop the shoppers. They still came to Canal Street.

Many older shoppers didn’t trust escalators. They didn’t like stairs, so they continued to use the elevators. MB’s elevators had human operators for years. Automatic, push-the-button service, was considered bad treatment of customers. Cheerful smiles encouraged buyers to buy!

Canal Street Christmas Parade 1953

Canal Street Christmas Parade 1953

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Ford Cars parade up Canal Street, Christmastime, 1953 (Franck photo)

Canal Street Christmas Parade in 1953

New-model Fords parade up Canal Street, Christmastime, 1953. We’ve had numerous versions of the Canal Street Christmas parade over the decades. Commercial parades such as this don’t happen like they used to, mainly because permit costs have risen dramatically. The modern non-Carnival parade in New Orleans is the “wedding second line” we see almost daily in the Spring and Fall. This is where a just-married couple stops their motorcade three or four blocks from their reception venue, then have a second line parade from there to the hotel/restaurant. It’s good fun and easy money for the bands, even if everyone else complains about stopped traffic in the Quarter.

Canal Street in 1953

Lots of interesting stuff going on in this photo. This is the first-generation “Big Bingle” on Maison Blanche’s flagship store. Mister Bingle is only six years old at this point. This is why he’s teamed up with Santa Claus. As Bingle got older, locals pushed Santa aside. For the first few years of Mr. Bingle (Emile Alline of MB created him in 1947), he was a drawing in advertisements. Then the Bingle puppets appeared. Oscar Isentrout pulled the strings on the puppet.

Lights cover the front of the MB building, all around Santa and Mr. Bingle. Those lights disappeared in the 1960s. The store introduced decorations along the front of the store at that time. There are no front windows on the second floor of the store. Christmas decorations adorned those big front panels.

WSMB

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Detail of WSMB sign

Another interesting item in this photo is the WSMB sign. I’ve got a bunch of MB photos, and this is the first time I’ve noticed this sign. My MB book includes a wide shot of Santa and Mr. Bingle from this time. The WSMB sign is right in front of the “Office Building” entrance. That entrance stood at the lake-side end of the building. It opened into a lobby with elevators that took folks up to the office floors above the five floors of retail space. The radio station was on the thirteenth floor. When the elevator doors opened, visitors looked into a big glass window, into the studio. This ground-floor entrance is the main entrance of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Fords

I’m awful at identifying automobiles, so if you can spot the types of cars in the parade, please do in comments!

Maison Blanche Department Stores
by Edward J. Branley

mb book

On October 30, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building 13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character Mr. Bingle, in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

The Touro Buildings on Canal Street – Podcast

The Touro Buildings on Canal Street – Podcast

The Touro Buildings

Touro Buildings

Touro Buildings, 1873 (public domain image courtesy THNOC)

The Touro Buildings – Canal Street Retail

This pod begins a series we’ll be presenting on the connections between Krauss Department Store and other merchants up and down Canal Street. The logical place to start is the 700 block of Canal Street, between Royal and Bourbon Streets. From it’s beginnings as the first location of Christ Episcopal Church, to the end of the 19th Century, the 700 block is the story of the Touro Buildings and the merchants who set up shop there.

Touro Buildings

Second Christ Episcopal, Bourbon and Canal (public domain image courtesy THNOC)

Christ Episcopal

Touro Buildings

700 Block of Canal Street, ca 1842. (public domain image courtesy THNOC)

Christ Episcopal was founded in 1805. They built their first church on Canal and Bourbon in 1816. That church lasted about 25 years. Because Protestant Americans kept moving to New Orleans, they outgrew the church. So, the chapter demolished the first church. They built a second on the same corner. The second church looked like a Greek temple, with six massive Ionic columns. The second church serviced the congregation until 1846. The chapter needed more land for a larger church. They purchased the corner of Canal and Dauphine, in the 900 block of Canal Street.

The chapter sold the second church to businessman Judah Touro. Touro worked to buy up the 700 block of Canal. While he acquired the rest of the block, he set up Temple Sinai in the church in the 700 block. While Touro wrapped up the 700 block, he moved Temple Sinai further uptown. He demolished the buildings in the 700 block of Canal. He built the “Touro Buildings,” a set of four-story buildings with shared walls, townhouse-style. Touro opened the buildings for lease in 1852.

A. Shwartz and Sons

Touro Building

Sanborn Fire map of 700 block of Canal St, 1856 (public domain image courtesy Tulane Howard-Tilton Library)

Abraham Shwartz was born in 1820. He opened his store, A. Shwartz Dry Goods, in the 1840s. In 1852, he moved into the newly-opened Touro Buildings. So, the store become A Shwartz & Sons in the 1870s, when Abraham’s firstborn, Nathan, joined the company. Abram’s second son, Leon, soon followed. When third son Simon was old enough to join the company, he traveled to New York, to become the company’s buyer in that city.

Bernard and Leon Fellman

Touro Buildings

Touro Buildings, 1880s. (S.T. Blessing photo in the public domain)

Bernard and Leon Fellman came to New Orleans in the 1860s, and opened their first store in the Touro Buildings in 1873. In 1878, they expanded from the first store at 133 Canal, opening a second store down the block at 129 Canal. In 1889, The brothers split. Leon bypassed the 800 block of Canal, moving to the Mercier Buildings in the 900 block. So, Bernard closed 133 Canal, keeping 129 Canal as B. Fellman Dry Goods.

The Fire, 16-February-1892

Touro Buildings

Fire in the 700 block of Canal Street, 16-Feb-1892 (public domain photo courtesy THNOC)

Almost the entire 700 block of Canal Street, the Touro Buildings, were destroyed in a fire on February 16, 1892. The fire burned out both the Shwartz and Fellman stores. The impact of the fire was dramatic. Abram Shwartz died weeks later, of a heart attack. The family always said the loss of the store killed him. Bernard Fellman’s store burned as well. While Bernard’s health was not good before the fire, the circumstances did not improve him. He passed away on September 3, 1892. His family did continue to operate the store into the 20th century.

The MB Book!

Maison Blanche Department Stores

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canal Street, 1890s

Canal Street, 1890s

Canal Street 1890s.

Canal street 1890s

700 and 800 blocks of Canal Street, early 1890s

The CBD – Canal Street, 1890s – Before electric streetcars

A Mugnier photo depicts an interesting transitional period. Electricity arrived for buildings, but not yet for streetcars. That puts the photo pre-1894, but not much earlier. Mugnier stood on the corner of Canal and Baronne Streets. The left side of the photo is of the 800 block of Canal Street. Building numbers are still on the old system. So, the first address at the river was #1, then 2, etc. That’s how Kreeger’s is #149.

Notice that “S. Kuhn”, the store next to D.H. Holmes (left) has a sign that says “Kid Glove Depot. Kreegers’ sign next door says the same thing. In 1897, the Krausz Brothers specialized in gloves in their shop at 835 Canal as well.

700 Block of Canal

The Touro Buildings, in the 700 block, can’t be seen for the trees. Trees in the neutral ground of Canal Street helped beautify Canal. While they helped at the time, they cover up some of the street rail operations! So, there’s a carpet store at the corner of Bourbon and Canal. Fellman Brothers, in the 700 block, dissolved in 1892. It’s hard to tell if the Fellman store is Fellman Brothers (pre-1892), or B. Fellman. Leon Fellman split with brother Bernard in 1892. He moved his store down to the Mercier Buildings, as did S.J. Shwartz. He split with his family after the 1892 fire at A. Shwartz and Son. Abram passed away, and Simon also opened a new store in the Mercier Buildings.

Streetcars

“Bob-tail” streetcars from the Johnson Car Company sit on either side of the Clay Monument. Clay’s full base is visible. Mules provide the streetcar power. So, when the Canal Street line was electrified, the base was cut back drastically. On the right, one streetcar travels inbound, possibly turning at St. Charles Avenue. Two horse-drawn Hanson cabs sit on opposite sides of the neutral ground

 

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

Heather Elizabeth Designs

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.

800 Canal Street: So long Feibelman’s, hello Gus Mayer

800 Canal Street: So long Feibelman’s, hello Gus Mayer

800 Canal Street

800 Canal Street

The corner of Carondelet and Canal, January 12, 1949. The old Pickwick Hotel building is gone. The New Gus Mayer building replaces it. The Pickwick Hotel gets its name from the Pickwick Club. The club is a private social club that was closely associated with the Mystic Krewe of Comus carnival organization. The building went from hotel to department store in 1897. The 800 block of Canal Street has long been a significant part of New Orleans’ retail scene.

Leon Fellman and Company

In the 1890s, the two main tenants of the Mercier Building at 901 Canal Street (corner Canal and Dauphine) were dry goods stores owned by Simon Shwarz and Leon Fellman. In 1897, Simon Schwarz pitched a concept for New Orleans’ first department store to his father-in-law, Isidore Newman. Newman bought into the idea. As a result, he put up the money to back Schwarz’s concept. All Simon had to do was acquire the entire building. He succeeded, at the expense of his competitor, Leon Fellman. Fellman split with his brother in 1892, leaving the shop they owned in the Touro Buildings (the block of Canal between Royal and Bourbon Streets). Leon opened his own store with a junior partner. They did well in the 900 block, right up until Schwarz got them evicted. Fellman received notice in March of 1897 that he had to be out by October.

Move to The Pickwick

While the Pickwick Club sold the hotel years before, the name stuck. Fellman negotiated with the current owners to convert the building into retail space. He held a going-out-of-business sale over the summer of 1897, and opened on the other side of the street. While Schwarz’s Maison Blanche was flashier than Leon Fellman’s, the latter store offered quality merchandise at discount prices. Fellman rolled with the change.

Fellman to Feibelman

When Leon Fellman passed away in 1920, his family changed the name of the store from Fellman’s to Feibelman’s. Leon Fellman came to the United States from Germany as Lippman Feibelman. The family operated the store as Feibelman’s on Canal Street until 1931. They moved the store to Baronne and Common that year. In 1936, the family sold their stores to Sears, Roebuck, and Company.

Gus Mayer

With Feibelman’s now around the corner, the Pickwick Hotel building became Stein’s Department Store. So, after WWII, Gus Mayer wanted to open on Canal Street, but wasn’t interested in the time and expense involved in renovating the 800 Canal building. Gus Mayer purchased the property and demolished the building. Construction began in January, 1949. The Gus Mayer Building is still there. It’s a CVS Drugstore now.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
by Edward J. Branley

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.

800 Block Canal Street, 1864

800 Block Canal Street, 1864

800 Block Canal Street

800 block canal street

800 Block Canal Street in 1864. W.D. Mcpherson photo.

800 block Canal Street – Shopping!

The Canal Streetcar line is about three years old at the time of this photo. None of the mule-drawn, “bobtail” streetcars appear here. The greenery on the sides of the Canal Street neutral ground isn’t grown-out yet, so the tracks are visible.

The photographer, William D. Mcpherson, is upstairs in a building in the block between Carondelet Street and St. Charles Avenue. That’s Christ Episcopal in the top left, at the corner of Canal and Dauphine. It’s only seven years old in that photo. It’s the second church the congregation built, moving to Dauphine from Bourbon when Judah Touro made them an offer they couldn’t refuse for their location at Canal and Bourbon.

The anchor on the block is Daniel Henry Holmes’ dry goods store. It was twenty-four years old in this photo. D. H. Holmes wouldn’t become a full-blown “department store” for another forty years, but the Irishman already made his mark on Canal Street by the 1860s. Shopping on Canal Street wouldn’t go further up Canal for another 20 years, and wouldn’t reach the end of the French Quarter until the 1900s, with Krauss Department Store. 

Street Addresses

The addresses on the stores in the photo follow the “old” pattern for Canal Street. Rather than go by blocks (100, 200, 300), buildings were numbered individually at this time. So, D. H. Holmes was 155 Canal, James Ryback, importer, was at 149, J.A. daRocha & Co. at 147 Canal. A dress and cloak maker, Mrs. Charles Brown, was at 145 Canal.

By June of 1864, New Orleans was two years under Union occupation. The blockade of the United States Navy was long over. Trade and commerce coming in through the port was back in full swing. While the city was unable to move goods out of New Orleans because of the war, the city no longer suffered from being cut off from the rest of the world. The well-documented tensions between the Union army and the locals were in full swing, but the immigrant laborers who worked along the river were back at work.

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

800 block canal street

The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.

New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.