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.
This bus accident, on the Gentilly line, involves a NOPSI bus, a car, and a building.
photo courtesy HNOC
Bus accident 1950
NOPSI 1547, a White Motor Company bus, operating on the Gentilly line. At 6:40 AM on 26-May-1950, Franck Studios documented a bus accident at Royal Street and Elysian Fields Avenue. The bus swerved, possibly having something to do with the white car to the left. The driver crashed the bus into a building. NOPD controlled the scene. Lots of bystanders observe the scene. It’s unclear how many of them were passengers.
The NOPD truck on the right side appears to be a rescue/emergency vehicle. While rescue responded, the closeness of the crowd indicates that passengers exited the vehicle without assistance.
NOPSI 1547 bore the maroon-and-cream livery of buses at the time. The older buses continued operation until into the 1970s, mostly on neighborhood lines.
The Gentilly line
NOPSI inaugurated the Gentilly transit line in 1926. The 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars traveled the line from its opening until 1948. NOPSI discontinued streetcars in 1948. White Motor Company buses replaced streetcars at that time.
The Gentilly line ran from Canal Street, down Bourbon to Pauger, then Dauphine, then Franklin. The streetcars ran out to Dreux Avenue on Franklin. The return was Franklin to Royal to Canal. So, this bus accident occurred on the inbound run. The line was later renamed to Franklin.
Servicing the war effort
The Gentilly line brought workers out to the military posts and factories on the Lakefront in the 1940s. Riders rode the streetcar to Gentilly Boulevard, or possibly to the end of the line at Dreux. They transferred to the “Bomber Base” bus line. That bus ran to the lakefront. Bomber Base received its name because the Army posted a squadron of coastal defense aircraft there. The planes used Lakefront Airport, and the unit was posted where the FBI and military reserve buildings are now.
Musee Rosette Rochon is located in a house in Faubourg Marigny.
Musee Rosette Rochon
This house, located at 1515 Pauger Street, dates to the late 1820s/early 1830s. It’s a “creole cottage,” a typical architectural style found in the Marigny. Rosette Rochon purchased the lot (no. 249) from Bernard de Marigny in 1806. While the house has had a number of owners, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is its current owner. The hope is to fully restore the house and open it as a museum.
Marie Louise Rose Rochon, who went by “Rosette,” was born in 1767, in Mobile, Alabama. Her father, Pierre Rochon, was a Quebecois shipbuilder. Rochon owned her mother, an enslaved woman named Marianne. While he did not choose to free Marianne, Pierre freed Rosette at the age of three.
Rosette “lived in concubinage,” (HABS description) with a man named Hardy, when she came of age. They lived in Haiti until the revolution in that country in 1797. Arriving in New Orleans as a refugee, she entered into several plaçage relationships, These relationships enabled her to purchase property in the city. Beginning with the lot at 1515 Pauger, Rosette built several homes in the neighborhood. de Marigny offered preference to Creoles of color when selling lots.
1515 Pauger sits between Dauphine and Burgundy Streets. It is a six-room Creole cottage. Rosette built three houses on lot 249. Unfortunately, only 1515 remains. After Rosette’s death in 1863, the house passed through the Lavon, Claiborne, and Soniat families. Local attorney Don Richmond acquired the house in 1977. He lived there for a number of years, then sold it. Richmond then moved to San Francisco. Upon his return to New Orleans in 1995, Richmond found 1515 Pauger scheduled to be auctioned by the Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff’s Office. He purchased the house a second time. Richmond willed the house to SoFab. So, the museum acquired the house upon his passing in 2014.
Santa Fe Restaurant on Frenchmen Street, before it moved to Faubourg St. John.
Santa Fe Restaurant
Advertisement postcard for Santa Fe Restaurant, from October, 2006. Santa Fe, at 801 Frenchmen Street, overlooked Washington Square Park in Faubourg Marigny. Later, Santa Fe moved to Esplanade Avenue in Faubourg St. John.
Washington Square Park
This patch of green space in Faubourg Marigny dates back to Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville. The heir to the Marigny Plantation, Bernard subdivided the plantation in 1806. Whether it was Bernard of his surveyors/planners that made the decision, the plan included a public park, bounded by Frenchmen, Royal, Dauphine, and Elysian Fields. So, Santa Fe offered a view of the park.
The city owns Washington Square park. So, it’s publicly accessible green space. That’s important in any neighborhood. Additionally, the city allows special events in the square. Production companies regularly use the square for films and television. The HBO series, “Treme” featured the square as a meeting place for regular characters. Musicians gathered at the square. They branched out from there, busking on corners in the French Quarter. The current show, NCIS: New Orleans, presents Washington Square as an outdoor, socially-distant, concert venue.
Santa Fe Restaurant to Faubourg St. John
Gabrielle, a popular restaurant along Esplanade Avenue in the FSJ neighborhood, closed after Hurricane Katrina. Their location at 3201 Esplanade, near the Fair Grounds racetrack, stood empty. Santa Fe Restaurant moved on that location. While the Marigny offered a historic locale, the Esplanade Avenue building gave them more parking. It also placed them directly in the path of Jazz Fest attendees.
Santa Fe Restaurant offers quality Mexican/Tex-Mex fare. They also serve margaritas, by the glass or the pitcher. Their outdoor seating gives diners a great place to sit, eat, drink, and watch the world go by. Going back to Gabrielle, I’ve always found the acoustics of the building harsh. So, we jump at outdoor tables. It’s a great place for a #daydrinking lunch!
Smokey Mary linked Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg for almost a century
The Smokey Mary at Milneburg, 1860s.
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated from 1831 to 1930. The trains ran out to the fishing village of Milneburg. A port facility developed along the lakefront at Milneburg. The railroad connected that port to the city. The Pontchartrain Railroad carried freight and passengers. After the Civil War, it ran mostly as a day-trip line. By the end of the 19th Century, it carried almost exclusively passengers.
The railroad purchased two steam engines in 1832. Those engines lasted for about twenty years. The railroad cannibalized one for parts to keep the other going. By the late 1850s, the railroad purchased the larger engine shown in the photo above. This engine operated to the end of the 1800s. The big smokestack inspired most of the stories and memories of the train.
The Smokey Mary ran simply from the Milneburg Pier to a station at Elysian Fields and the river. Eventually, the railroad added a stop at Gentilly Road, but it was only by request. The railroad terminated operations in 1930. The WPA paved Elysian Fields from river to lake in the late 1930s. Pontchartrain Beach opened in Milneburg in 1939.
The village of Milneburg was located at the end of what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. Shipping traffic came in from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, into Lake Pontchartrain. Ships docked at the Milneburg pier. Merchants offloaded their goods and put them on the Pontchartrain Railroad, to bring them down to the city.
Jazz on the Lakefront
By the 1910s, Milneburg’s residents lived mostly in fishing camps. Musicians rode the Smokey Mary out to Milneburg to play some of the small restaurants. They also walked the piers, playing for locals. They busked for tips. This kept them busy during the day. The musicians rode the train back to the city in the late afternoon. They then played gigs at dance halls and saloons in town.
Elysian Fields House 1842
House at the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Levee Street, from an 1842 Plan Book. (Courtesy New Orleans Notarial Archives)
Elysian Fields House 1842
This is a house on Elysian Fields Avenue, between Levee and Victory Streets. “Levee Street” was the earlier name of Decatur Street. “Victory Street” is now Chartres Street. The house is in the French Colonial style. The property is fenced-in, with out-buildings surrounding a formal garden. The block is now a light industrial facility.
The train tracks in front of the house were part of the Pontchartrain Railroad. The railroad ran from a station at Elysian Fields and Chartres, out to Milneburg, at Lake Pontchartrain. So, the Pontchartrain Railroad depot is just behind where the artist stood for this illustration.
This image is a great example of the rabbit holes I fall into when researching something for a fiction project. I’m writing two stories that are set in 19th Century New Orleans. While one takes place in 1820, the other at the outbreak of the Civil War, I’m always browsing various sources for inspiration. There’s a version of this image in the Commons. It’s a photo reproduction from the book, New Orleans Architecture, Volume IV, the Creole Faubourgs (Pelican Publishing Company, 2006). I own a copy of the ebook, so I used the image from that source, enhancing it a bit with GIMP.
The illustration is part of a “Plan Book,” a set of drawings done as a legal record of a piece of property at the time of a sale. So, Plan Books were a part of real estate transactions going into the 1890s. After that, photographs were used. Nowadays, an appraiser photographs the property with a smartphone. In addition to documenting legal transactions, the Plan Books give us great insight into life in 19th Century New Orleans.
The surveyor for this plan book was Benjamin Buisson. The illustrator was Charles A. de Armas, The New Orleans Notorial Archives, maintain the plan books. The Archives are part of the Clerk of Civil Clerk’s office. This item is Plan Book 21, Folio 23.