by nolahistoryguy | Nov 1, 2022 | 1970s, CBD, Maison Blanche, Metairie, New Orleans East
Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a big deal. Christmas was the big deal.
Atrium at Maison Blanche, Lake Forest, mid-1970s. T-P photo.
Maison Blanche Halloween
Interior shot of the Maison Blanche store in The Plaza at Lake Forest. The store opened in 1974. The store incorporated many of the design features of the one in Clearview Shopping Center in Metairie. This photo features the open-air center atrium. The escalators stood on either side, with the Fine Jewelry department on the ground floor. The mall-side entrance to the store stood to the photographer’s left. First floor departments included cosmetics, jewelry, candy, juniors and menswear. Retailers always believed menswear should be easily accessible, on the ground floor.
“You’ll be a sleeping beauty in dreamy sleepwear by Gilead…short waltz length nylon tricot gowns with matching coats…” – women’s sleepwear, items a husband or boyfriend find difficult to buy as gifts. So, appeal to the ladies directly, before the Christmas ad onslaught.
This ad, from the Times-Picayune, on 31-October-1978, is a great example of how seriously Halloween was a part of the chain’s Fall marketing. Yes, there’s nothing in the ad for spooky season. That’s because Halloween is merely a blip on the radar. The focus for department stores like MB was always the post-Thanksgiving shopping season. While stores like Spirit Halloween, Party City, discounters like K-Mart, and the old five-and-dimes offered what you needed for Halloween, MB and its competitors didn’t bother. Setting up for Halloween required taking space from multiple departments. The managers of those departments and the buyers they worked for balked at disrupting the holiday mojo. September heralded the “Pre-Christmas” promotions. Those sales carried on through November. The day after Thanksgiving marked the formal start of the Christmas season. To set up displays for special merchandise at the end of October, only to break them down days later made no sense.
Halloween in Men’s Suits
So, Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a thing. In fact, I took the day off when this ad ran in 1978. The “Haunted House” we held at the Lambda Chi Alpha (University of New Orleans) house in Gentilly needed more help than the Men’s department at MB Clearview. Since we worked on commission, my colleagues certainly didn’t miss me on a slow night.
Hope your Halloween was a good one! This post goes up a day late, but that’s OK, because we’re still in the middle of All Hallows Eve, All Saints, and All Souls.
by nolahistoryguy | Oct 7, 2022 | 1890s, 1900s - 1910s, CBD, Fellman's/Feibelman's, Krauss
The block at 1201 Canal was a row of houses in 1899.
Portion of Plate 7 of the Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, 1883, Courtesy of the New Orleans Notarial Archives.
1201 Canal Street 1899
Section of Plate 7 of the Robinson Atlas of New Orleans, 1883, showing square 127 of the 2nd District, 1201 Canal. This block later transformed into Krauss Department Store. Square 127 is bounded by Canal Street, N. Franklin (now Crozat) Street, Custom House (now Iberville) Street, and Basin Street. Eventually, the Krauss Corporation acquired the entire square, as well as square 124, behind it. These parcels become the main store and the warehouse buildings. The process required over half a century to complete. It began in 1899, with the purchase of the buildings in square 127 that front Canal Street. Leon Fellman bought them, setting the story in motion.
Square 127 stands just above (in river-to-lake terms) the Basin Street neutral ground. A railroad station stood there. The Spanish Fort Railroad (SFRR) originated at that station. Prior to street rail electrification, the SFRR offered day-trip service out to the amusement area next to Fort St. John. The fort guarded the mouth of Bayou St. John, at Lake Pontchartrain. After the Southern Rebellion, several incarnations of an amusement district on the east bank of the bayou developed. Steam trains (whose engines were usually disguised as trams) departed Canal and Basin. They turned lakebound on Bienville Street, making their way to the lake.
Steam service to Spanish Fort fizzled in the mid-1890s, as the popularity of the entertainment district waned. In 1910 developers resurrected the area. By 1911, New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) offered electric streetcar service. Rather than using the Bienville Street route, the Spanish Fort streetcar line operated on the Canal Street line’s tracks. The line followed the West End line’s path, to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard in Lakeview). While West End traveled to its terminus by the New Canal, the Spanish Fort’s cars turned right on Adams, ending at the old railroad station by the fort.
The original SFRR station on Basin stood unused in the late 1890s. That’s when Leon Fellman, merchant, and owner of Leon Fellman’s Department Store, at 800 Canal Street, enters the picture. Fellman acquired those Canal Street buildings in square 127 in 1899. They stood unused until 1903. Fellman then demolished them. He built a two-story retail complex on the site. Satisfied with his existing store, four blocks down Canal, Fellman invited the Krauss Brothers to lease the new building. The brothers took him up on the offer, opening Krauss Department Store.
Terminal Station, Canal and Basin Streets, 1908. Detroit Publishing Company photo via LOC.
Five years later, in 1908, the New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) acquired the old SFRR station. They replaced it with Terminal Station, a grand passenger terminal. NOTC extended the railroad tracks down the Basin Street neutral ground to St. Louis Street. They turned north, just before the Carondelet Canal. These tracks offered an outlet for trains leaving town to the east. The New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (NONE) leased the tracks and station from NOTC. NONE merged into the Southern Railway system in 1916. Southern operated its trains from Terminal Station from 1908 until the move to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. Upon completion of Terminal Station, Krauss stood next to a major transit connection. The railroad came in on Basin Street. One block down, Rampart Street served as a streetcar and bus nexus for NORwy&Lt.
Did Leon Fellman know of NOTC’s plans when he purchased the property in square 127? It’s hard to determine. Fellman maintained a number of business and social networking connections. No doubt those included NOTC investors. Anything involving railroads takes time, and usually remains quiet until plans are solidified. Since the 1201 block was ripe for retail expansion, it’s possible Fellman saw the property as a good investment, regardless of what the railroad men did. His moves in 1899 and 1903 set in motion the opening of one of New Orleans’ retail institutions.
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store by Edward J. Branley
There’s a lot more Krauss history in my book, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store. Check it out, it’s available at all the usual suspects!
by nolahistoryguy | Oct 3, 2022 | 1920s-1930s, 1940s, 1950s, CBD, Maison Blanche
The Maison Blanche Snack Shop was a wonderful bakery.
Maison Blanche Snack Store on Iberville
Franck Studios photo of the corner of Dauphine and Iberville Streets in the French Quarter in 1951. Maison Blanche opened a Bakery department in 1934. That concept extended into the “Snack Store” in 1945. The original snack store opened in the rear of the ground floor of 901 Canal Street. The company acquired the building at the corner in the mid-1940s. They renovated the interior and moved the Snack Store into it in 1946. The Snack Store closed in 1957 and the building was demolished.
Times-Picayune ad for the 2nd anniversery of the MB Bakery, 7-August-1936
MB entered the bakery business on August 7, 1934. In two years, as this ad shows, the bakery offered “Strawberry preserve silver layer cakes” and Lady Baltimore cakes as anniversery specials.
Times Picayune ad for the MB Bakery, 8-May-1935
The Angel Food Cake was so memorable, Judy Walker, the Times-Picayune’s food editor/columnist, got requests for its recipe as recently as 2007.
The Bakery stood on the ground floor of the store, in the section that joined the two MB office towers. It had a separate entrance at 135 Dauphine Street.
Bakery to Snack Store
Ad in the Times-Picayune, 28-January-1949, featuring imported soups, frozen strawberries, and Danish cherry wine
MB expanded the square feet of the Bakery Department in March of 1945. They added liquor, wine and liqueurs, along with a selection of “gourmet” canned foods, such as whole ducks, chickens, and guinea fowl. After the war, as rationing policies lifted, the Snack Store offered more fresh-cooked food, such as holiday turkeys. By 1949, they even sold live lobster, acting as a retail outlet for Seafood Delivery Services.
Expanding the building
Google Maps photo of the present-day Courtyard by Marriott, Iberville and Dauphine.
The two photos of the corner of Dauphine and Iberville show how the store did not extend all the way back into the block from Canal Street. When the Merciers acquired Christ Episcopal in 1884, the property extended about two-thirds of the way back to Customhouse Street (Iberville’s name at the time). They demolished the church (which re-located to St. Charles Avenue), building the Mercier Building. Shwartz converted that building into Maison Blanche in 1897. He demolished it in 1908, building out the retail and office space that stands at 901 Canal now.
So, that left the other third of the block, with its three-story building. Like several of the other big Canal Street stores, it took MB some time to acquire all of the space. They accomplished this by the 1940s. The Snack Store (along with the Bakery) was a good candidate to outright move into the new space. The corner building offered a separate entrance. Additionally, the move freed up retail space in the main store.
The company’s ultimate goal, however, was to expand the main store. They did so by demolishing the Snack Store building in 1957. MB extended the five-story retail space all the way to the corner. So, the store finally ran the length of the block. (By comparison, it took Krauss until 1952 to grow their store all the way to Iberville in the 1201 block.)
When new ownership converted the store into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, they planned to open the section facing Iberville as a separate concept. They planned to make the 1950s back section into luxury condos/short-term rentals. The market rejected that concept. The owners re-modeled those units into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
If you like the story of Maison Blanche, you’ll want to get my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, available at all the usual suspects.
by nolahistoryguy | Sep 30, 2022 | 1900s - 1910s, CBD, Krauss
1952 was the year of peak Krauss growth, as the store expanded fully.
Peak Krauss Growth
Photo of Krauss Department Store, taken in 1953, for the 50th Anniversary of the store. The photo, courtesy the Times-Picayune newspaper, The photo appears to have been shot from either the Roosevelt Hotel across the street, or possibly from the MB building in the 901 block. The dates indicate the years each segment of the store joined the existing building. From the first two-story construction in 1903 to the completed five-story complex going back to Iberville Street Krauss continued to grow until it filled out the block.
Leon Fellman purchased the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal Street in 1899. He demolished them, and built the original two-floor storefront in 1903. By this time, Fellman operated his own department store at 800 Canal. So, 1201 was essentially investment property for Fellman. He encouraged the Krauss Brothers to run with his new building. While the “Krausz Brothers” store in the 801 block closed in 1901, they jumped on the proposal. They opened, as the T-P described it, “a veritable trade palace.”
The Krauss Company quickly expanded Fellman’s original plans. The brothers installed the first escalator in New Orleans. It connected the first and second floors of the 1903 building. As the store grew, that second floor space became known as the “Mezzanine.” It contained the original luncheonette, as well as other service departments, such as optical and the camera department. The better-known wooden, five-story escalator enters the story in 1940.
The four Krauss Brothers (Leon Heymann doesn’t enter the Krauss story until 1920) recognized the need for more retail space almost immediately. They expanded the store’s footprint in 1911. They built a five-story extension behind the storefront. While the escalator connected the first and second stories, shoppers accessed the 1911 expansion via elevators.
The brothers stopped at the 1911 point because that’s all of the property they owned. Fellman only purchased the buildings fronting Canal Street. The brothers purchased the portion of the block behind it for the 1911 expansion. That was all they could afford at the time. The store did well, though, enabling them to continue real estate purchases.
We’ll come back to this photo periodically, as we discuss the store’s journey.
by nolahistoryguy | Sep 29, 2022 | 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, CBD, Railroads, Riverfront
The Louisville and Nashville operated the Humming Bird train.
The Humming Bird
“The Humming Bird crossing Biloxi Bay – Louisville and Nashville R. R.” – Linen postcard printed in the late 1940s. L&N operated the Humming Bird (the two-word name is correct) between Cincinnati and New Orleans, from 1947 to 1969. While the route originally ran as a no-frills train, L&N added Pullman sleepers by 1953.
Like the other L&N passenger trains, the train operated out of the railroad’s terminal at the end of Canal Street (where the Aquarium of the Americas stands now). They moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, along with all the other railroads.
Blue Humming Bird
The train’s cars originally had a stainless-steel sheathing. After a few years, the railroad removed the stainless because of corrosion issues underneath it. They then painted the cars blue. L&N re-shot the stainless-steel version of the postcard, updating it for the blue cars. These postcards were available on the train for passengers.
When it first rolled in 1947, the train consisted of 7 cars: five coaches, a tavern-lounge car, and a diner. American Car Foundry delivered 48 cars to L&N. The ran two sets of seven on the Humming Bird. Additionally, cars from that ACF order ran on the Georgian.
While the route’s popularity was in its speed and simplicity, L&N expanded the consist in 1953. They added sleepers, “6-6-4” cars from Pullman. The cars contained six open births (“sections”), six “roomettes,” and four double bedrooms. The sections were open areas. You had your bed and that was that. The roomettes were walled rooms containing one bed. Section and roomette passengers used communal toilets and sinks. Bedrooms included en suite toilet and sink.
New Orleans Stations
Humming Bird departing the L&N terminal on Canal Street, 1947
Humming Bird operated in and out of the L&N terminal from 1947 to 1954. Operations moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the Canal Street terminal after UPT opened. This photo shows the Humming Bird departing the Canal Street terminal.
End of an era
L&N discontinued the train in 1969, saying it was no longer profitable. This was two years before the creation of the national passenger rail corporation, AMTRAK.
by nolahistoryguy | Sep 23, 2022 | 1880s, CBD, Fellman's/Feibelman's
The story of Krauss Department Store has its roots in Leon Fellman’s origin story.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first installment in a series on Leon Fellman, and his business operations in New Orleans. Fellman’s story directly ties to both his store, Sears, Roebuck in New Orleans, as well as Krauss and Maison Blanche Department Stores. Additional installments in this series will be patron-only.
The Touro Buildings, 1880, by George Francois Mugnier, via LSU Special Collections.
Leon Fellman’s Origin Story
Lippman Feibelman was born in 1846, in Rülzheim,Germany. Rülzheim stands near the western border of the modern German Republic, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Feibelman emigrated to the United States in 1864, following his older brother Bernard, to New Orleans. Like his brother, he anglicized his name, becoming Leon Fellman. Bernard, who came to New Orleans a couple of years earlier, helped his brother make business connections through their synagogue. They worked for a couple of Jewish-owned businesses in the city. It’s likely they worked for the Kaufman’s at some point. So many local Jewish merchants got their start there.
By 1873, the brothers saved enough money to open their own shop. They leased space in the Touro Buildings, in the 701 block of Canal Street. These buildings, built by businessman Judah Touro, were popular storefronts for a number of businesses. Bernard and Leon leased 133 Canal Street. Their shop was in the 701 block, but the city numbered addresses by house/business, rather than block. So, Fellman Brothers, was the one hundred thirty-third address on Canal Street, when starting from the river.
Ad for Fellman Brothers, 5-March-1833, in The Daily Picayune
Fellman Brothers were dry goods merchants, In an ad in the Daily Picayune newspaper on March 5, 1878, they declared, “We hereby tender a special invitation to strangers in our city, and the public in general, only to inspect the many novelties we are displaying, and that prices that will please the most economical buyer.”
By 1881, the brothers opened a second store in the Touro Buildings, at 129 Canal. Additionally, they retained 133 Canal, stocking it with ladies’ clothing. The store established a relationship with Red Star Shoes, which was just down Canal Street, at Exchange Alley. The Fellmans continued to regularly discount merchandise and slash prices. So, many considered their business practices ruthless. They continued in this manner, creating tension between the brothers and the larger Jewish community in the city. While the store enjoyed financial success, their standing in the community diminished.
In 1888, Leon tried to convince Bernard to move Fellman Brothers to the Mercier Building, in the 901 block of Canal Street, corner Dauphine. While the Touro Buildings were solid, the Mercier Building was newer. It stood on the location of Christ Episcopal Church. The church’s chapter auctioned off the corner in 1884. The Merciers bought it, demolished the church, and built a large retail building. The Fellmans split up. They dissolved Fellman Brothers and closed the original store at 133 Canal. Bernard continued at 129 (now 727) Canal as B. Fellman Dry Goods. Leon opened Leon Fellman and Company at 901 Canal Street.
The Touro Buildings photo
This is a 1880 photo taken by George Francois Mungier. He worked for S. T. Blessing at the time. Blessing operated a portrait studio at 87 Canal. So, Blessing also sold stereo photo cards. This photo was No. 549 in Blessing’s New Orleans series.