Binder’s was “The Happy Baker with the Flashing Light” in the Marigny.
Ad for Binder’s Bakery in the Times-Picayune, 8-July-1966. At the time, the main Binder’s location was at the corner of Franklin and St. Claude Avenues, where the McDonald’s is now. The bakery also operated locations on Independence St., Desire St., and further up on Franklin Avenue, at N. Prieur Street. Joseph Binder started the bakery. His cousin, A. J. Binder, worked with him. A. J. “Butz” Binder, Jr. (St. Aloysius 1929), worked at the St. Claude location from when he was a child, into the 1970s. A.J. Senior opened the the bakery named for him at Frenchmen and N. Rampart Streets, in 1971. Father passed away in 1973, and son took over as general manager.
A.J. Binder, Jr. has a story similar to many we hear about Brother’s Boys who attended St. Aloysius, Cor Jesu, and Brother Martin. After graduating from St. Aloysius, Binder’s delivered loaves of French Bread daily to the school’s cafeteria on Esplanade and N. Rampart Streets. I don’t know if that continued into the Brother Martin years, but I certainly ate my share of roast beef po-boys on Binder’s bread during my years on Elysian Fields.
The Binder’s Bakery tag line, was, “The Happy Baker with the Flashing Light!” The bakery displayed that tagline at the stores, on the delivery trucks, and even on the sleeves for the French bread. The note in this ad caught my eye, something I didn’t think about until I read it:
Sorry … due to Hurricane Betsy, our FLASHING BEACON, indicating when HOT FRENCH BREAD was available, was destroyed. We have tried, with no success, to have the sign company replace it. We hope to have it back in operation very shortly.
So, Hurricane Betsy blew up the Mississippi River and struck New Orleans on 9-September-1965. This ad appeared on 8-July of the following year. The Happy Baker’s light was out for a good while by that point. I don’t know the story of the original flashing light on St. Claude and Franklin. My memories of Binders only go back to the store in the Marigny. That location had a sign, of course. A border of amber lights flashed when hot bread was available. I’m assuming that sign went up when A.J. Senior opened the location in 1971.
Serious here, folks, please share your Binder’s stories with me. Those loaves of French bread were an important part of BOSH culture!
The A. J. Binder’s bakery in the Marigny, after serving the neighborhood and delivering French Bread citywide for 47 years, closed in 2018.
Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry connected the East Bank with the NOO&GW railroad.
Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry
S. T. Blessing stereograph, titled, “View from Opelousas railroad ferry,” The image is essentially undated. The New York Public Library lists it as 1850-1930. The likely date is 1870s. The photographer stands at the Faubourg Marigny ferry landing, located at Elysian Fields Avenue and the river. The New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western (NOO&GW) railroad operated the ferry, connecting the east bank with their station in Algiers.
The NOO&GW railroad originated on the West Bank, in Algiers. It incorporated in 1853, with the mission of connecting New Orleans to points west. So, prior to the Southern Rebellion, the railroad grew west, to what is now Morgan City, Louisiana. The Union took control of the “Texas Gauge” railroad, from 1862 to 1865. Expansion continued during reconstruction. Additionally, we’ve written a couple of articles on the railroad. It started from a Louisiana operation to ownership by Charles Morgan, to becoming part of the Southern Pacific system.
The Marigny riverfront
Blessing captures an active riverfront scene. The vessel to the center of the photograph is an ocean-going ship. While this vessel may depart for the US east coast, like New York or Baltimore, the riverboat on the right will likely return up the Mississippi. Two mules stand in the foreground, resting after unloading barrels. Those barrels likely contain molasses. Sugar plantations processed raw sugar cane. They converted it to molasses, making it easy to barrel and transport. Longshoremen loaded those barrels on both types of ships.
In the background, a church steeple rises from the neighborhood. Given the position of the photographer, that is likely the spire of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
The ferry itself
Robinson Atlas, 1883, showing the Pontchartrain Railroad station on Elysian Fields and the ferry landing.
The NOO&GW ferry crossing enabled passengers to board trains on the east bank, cross the river, and continue westward. While Algiers was the railroad’s main station, getting passengers there was still a challenge. The railroad ferry gave passengers a more-comfortable ride, in their coach and sleeper cars.
After Charles Morgan sold the NOO&GW to the Southern Pacific system, trains crossed the river in Jefferson Parish. That ferry landing was near the location of the Huey P. Long bridge. Rather than traveling to the Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry, passengers boarded SP trains at Union Station. The departing trains headed north from there.
PATREON Note: So, today’s post is NOT behind the Patreon wall, in the hopes that some of the folks who see the links on social media will get a taste of what patrons get daily. While we present the first hundred or so words on each post to non-patrons, we felt it would be good to offer an entire post.
Smokey Mary, the nickname for the Pontchartrain Railroad, at the end.
The Pontchartrain Railroad opened in 1831. It operated as mule-drawn service for about a year. The company acquired steam locomotives, and thus began almost a century of service from Faubourg Marigny to Port Pontchartrain in Milneburg. Louisville and Nashville Railroad equipment operated on the Pontchartrain Railroad after that railroad acquired it in 1881. By the last runs of 1932, Pontchartrain operated second-tier L&N locomotives, like 142.
The L&N didn’t take the Pontchartrain seriously. They viewed the Elysian Fields right-of-way as a connector out of town, rather than to the lakefront. As such, service on the Pontchartrain dropped. Shipping customers changed their landing strategies, avoiding Port Pontchartrain. While World War I generated an uptick in activity in Milneburg, the boost was temporary.
By the 1920s, the Industrial Canal offered a direct connection for vessels to travel from the Gulf of Mexico. Ships could enter Lake Borgne, then travel through the Rigolets or Chef Menteur Pass, into Lake Pontchartrain. Instead of mooring at Port Pontchartrain, they could now go all the way down to the river. Ships bypassed the unloading process to get goods into town. The Pontchartrain morphed into an excursion route, as New Orleanians headed out to Milneburg for the dining, jazz clubs, and weekend getaways.
The last locomotives
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated several L&N 4-4-0 locomotives in the 1920s. This photo, from the Louisiana Conservationist magazine, March, 1959. The issue featured stories on fishing, and the Pontchartrain RR pier at Milneburg was a wonderful fishing spot. The trains went out onto the pier, to facilitate loading/unloading. The locals simply went outside the shed area and fished. Trains come, trains, go, the fish stayed. L&N 141 and 142 were Baldwin 4-4-0s. They were built between 1888 and 1891. According to Louis Hennick, 142 wasn’t the last Pontchartrain engine, but it operated in those final weeks.
Historic Old New Orleans was published in 1938.
Historic Old New Orleans Guidebook
Cover illustrations for a pamphlet, “Historic Old New Orleans,” published in 1938. The pamphlet is subtitled, “America’s Most Interesting City.” The front cover displays the title, but no further information. The rear illustration features the courtyard of the “Claiborne Mansion” in Faubourg Marigny. Neither Loyola University Special Collections nor the Newberry Library (which also holds a physical copy) offer more detail.
Guidebooks and Pamphlets
Loyola University of New Orleans holds a collection of brochures, pamphlets, and guidebooks collected by Dr. Anthony J. Stanonis. Dr. Stanonis did his undergraduate studies at Loyola, and earned his PhD in History from Vanderbilt University. This collection presents a wide range of tourism-related publications. Nowadays, these would all likely be on websites.
While the covers of these publications spark the imagination, the inside content isn’t available in digital form. If you know of any scanned copies of these pamphlets, particularly “Historic Old New Orleans,” please let me know.
The back cover of this guidebook features the courtyard of the Claiborne Mansion. This old house stands at 2111 Dauphine Street, in Faubourg Marigny. The mansion dates back to 1855. William C. C. Claiborne, used the house as a residence. Claiborne, served as the first governor of the Louisiana Territory. He then served as governor of the State of Louisiana (1812). The house currently welcomes guests as an inn. So, the Inn describes itself as “pet friendly.”
The Claiborne Mansion is a pet friendly establishment, and the mansion’s owner Cleo has always embraced the rich literary history of New Orleans, which at various times has been host to treasured authors like Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and John Kennedy Toole. When Cleo noticed that some of the neighborhood’s “free agent” cats were polydactyl, it seemed only fitting and in the proper literary spirit of things to christen them the Claiborne Cats, and welcome them to the mansion grounds as unofficial guests.
This is indeed fitting and proper!
The Pontchartrain Railroad station in Faubourg Marigny was on Decatur Street.
Pontchartrain Railroad Station
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated from Faubourg Marigny to Port Pontchartrain, in Milneburg. While the lake terminus extended out onto a shipping pier, the operated a regular terminal on the river side. The Robinson Atlas of 1883 shows the Marigny depot, and the businesses/residences surrounding it. The map shows the route of the Clio Street line, passing next to the station, before turning for its inbound run.
This plate also shows the ferry landing for the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad.
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated a simple route: to the lake and back. Day trippers took the railroad out to “Lake City” (Milneburg), for a gathering or meeting, perhaps staying overnight at the Washington Hotel. These gatherings included more than people who lived within walking distance of the station. So, the St. Charles Railroad company extended its Jackson Depot line (later the Clio Street line) across Canal Street, into the Marigny. Folks rode streetcars from various lines to the St. Charles Hotel. They purchased railroad tickets at the hotel, then hopped on the Jackson Depot line. After passing by the Illinois Central station, the streetcar turned into the French Quarter, heading to Elysian Fields Avenue.
When the Louisville and Nashville Railroad acquired the Pontchartrain in 1880, that streetcar connection grew in importance. While L&N operated its own station on Canal Street, passengers from Uptown rode the Clio line to the Pontchartrain Railroad station. The L&N trains turned onto Elysian Fields, then headed out of town via Florida Avenue. So, passengers hopped on L&N trains there.
The railroad ferry
This plate shows a ferry landing on the right side. This ferry carried trains for the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad to their station in Algiers. Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company acquired the NOO&GW in 1883. They continued the ferry connection for a few years, then built a new ferry link in Jefferson Parish. That ferry crossing continued after the Southern Pacific acquired Morgan’s, and lasted even after the Huey P. Long Bridge opened.
Desire Buses begin on 30-May-1948.
New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) converted their Desire line from streetcars to buses over Memorial Day Weekend in 1948. This flyer, distributed on transit lines across the city, explained the change. Streetcars ran until Saturday evening on 29-May. On Sunday morning, 30-May, White Company buses rolled out of Canal Station, taking over on Desire.
NOPSI moved quickly to remove streetcar tracks on the Desire line. So, they wanted the ride along the line to be smooth. Removing the tracks and re-blacktopping the street helped. From the brochure:
Street car tracks below Almonaster will be removed and the streets over which the buses are to travel will be resurfaced. During the progress of the track removal and re-paving, short temporary detours from the permanent route will be necessary. Signs at regular stops will direct passengers to the nearest temporary stop.
NOPSI implemented this plan for several reasons. First, streetcar tracks made for a bumpy ride for automobiles. To generate buy-in for buses, the company, along with the city, gave folks a smoother car trip. Sentimental feelings for the “Streetcar Named Desire” vanished quickly. Once the tracks were gone, the streetcars were quickly forgotten.
NOPSI and City Hall tore up streetcar tracks quickly on other converted lines. When the company converted the Magazine line to trackless trolleys, they left the overhead wire. Since the electric buses didn’t require tracks, up they came. Now, the blocks on Camp street the line traveled got that smooth-ride treatment. It also didn’t hurt that nobody really missed streetcars on Magazine.
NOPSI planned to convert a number of lines in the late 1930s. The outbreak of World War II delayed those plans. The War Department, along with other agencies supporting the war effort, denied the companies requests. Streetcars operated using electricity. They ran on existing steel rails. Buses required rubber tires and gasoline. The War Department needed those two resources more than public transit. So, streetcars remained throughout the war. As part of the peacetime economy transitions, the government approved the bus conversions.