The well-known Brulatour Courtyard stands at 520 Royal Street. #watercolorwednesday
The main courtyard of the Seignouret-Brulatour Mansion, 520 Royal Street in the Vieux Carré. Many New Orleanians remember the mansion as the offices and studios of WDSU-TV. The station used photos of the courtyard in its “station ID” spots for decades. The artist is Anthony B. “Ben” Suhor, longtime local high school teacher. From WDSU’s history of the mansion:
Although the courtyard bore the name of its second owner, Pierre Brulatour, the splendid mansion was built in 1816 by Francois Seignouret, a native of Bordeaux, France. Seignouret came to New Orleans just before the Battle of New Orleans and fought in the battle on the fields of Chalmette. His dream was to establish a winery. He replaced the century-old wines imported by the late Spanish masters considered the “Poison of Catalogne” with the mellowed sweetness of Bordeaux wines.
So, Mr. Suhor captured the courtyard as it was in 1952. It’s undergone a number of transformations.
Seignouret to Brulatour to Television
M. Seignouret built the house in 1816, after the Battle of New Orleans and the end of the War of 1812. When Francois passed, his brother Emile, inherited it. Emile sold the mansion to Pierre Brulatour. Both owners were wine merchants. Many debutante balls took place in the mansion’s upstairs ballroom. So, it was well-known long before television.
Carriages with visitors entered the main gate on Royal Street. The carriage circled the courtyard fountain, dropped off their passengers, and exited.
Businessman and civic leader Edgar Stern purchased the mansion in 1949. Stern acquired WDSU radio in 1947. He formed WDSU-TV in 1949. Stern moved the offices and studios into the mansion and the building next door. The station was an outstanding steward of the mansion. They sold it to THNOC in 1998, when WDSU moved to a larger, more modern studio on Howard Avenue.
Mr. Anthony B. Suhor taught at local high schools for 52 years. He taught at Redemptorist, Redeemer, and Rummel high schools. I was privileged to be one of Benny’s colleagues at Redeemer, in the early 1980s.
Then and now – 905 Toulouse Street
Boyd Cruise painting of 905 Toulouse Street
Watercolor painting of the house at 905 Toulouse Street in the Vieux Carré. The artist, Boyd Cruise, captured a number of New Orleans scenes during his career. Here’s the THNOC caption:
Mid nineteenth century depiction of the facade of a two-story building with second floor gallery at 905 – 907 Toulouse in the Vieux Carre. There are people strolling in the foreground and a fruit vendor with cart is on the cobblestone street.
The time frame of this scene is New Orleans at its peak before the Southern Rebellion.The city influenced culture and commerce on both sides of the Atlantic. Cruise brings us back, placing us on Rue Toulouse. The WPA and other government agencies commissioned Cruise as part of projects to provide work for artists during the depression. Additionally, Cruise painted buildings for Historical American Buildings Survey (HABS) projects in the French Quarter.
The house today
Compare this Google Maps shot of 905 Toulouse today to Cruise’s scene. The building’s exterior remains essentially the same as when Cruise visualized it in 1947.
905 Toulouse stands in the block between Dauphine and Burgundy Streets. So, it’s a couple of blocks above the “tourist” sections of the neighborhood. While the building next to it (Dauphine and Toulouse) is an archive facility for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, this block isn’t full of t-shirt shops and bars. It’s possible to walk up Toulouse and take yourself back to the 1850s. The Black woman on the left, carrying a load of laundry on her head, is likely enslaved. Don’t lose sight of the realities of 1850s New Orleans. Cruise flashed back to this period from the 1930s and 1940s, a time of Jim Crow segregation. Like many artists, he combined a number of elements into a single block of the neighborhood. From the black boy sitting on a barrel, to an enslaved housekeeper, to white people strolling and shopping from a street vendor, there’s a lot here. The characters are quite accurate. Go walk down this block on your next visit to the Vieux Carré.
The Traitor Davis died in New Orleans in 1899. The city gave him a grand funeral procession.
Funeral Procession of the Traitor Davis
Jefferson Davis died in the Garden District on December 6, 1889. They city held a massive funeral procession for Davis on 11-December. This is the Library of Congress summary for this photo of the procession:
Photo shows coffin in horse-drawn wagon as the “funeral procession for Jefferson Davis winds through the French Quarter in New Orleans on December 11, 1889. An estimated 200,000 people lined the streets. Davis died early on December 6, and over 70,000 people viewed his remains at New Orleans City Hall. The body was laid to rest in a vault in Metairie Cemetery, then was taken to Richmond in 1893 and reinterred at Hollywood Cemetery.” (Source: Papers of Jefferson Davis Web site at Rice University, 2009)
This is a concise summary of the event. Some additional notes:
Davis’ last home was the Beauvoir Estate, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi. While he did not maintain a house in New Orleans, he was frequently the guest of White League families in the Garden District.
As mentioned in the LOC summary, the Traitor Davis was initially interred in Metairie, before being moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. The specific location of Davis’ vault was in the Army of Northern Virginia (Louisiana Division) tumulus. He was interred in a vault near the entrance. Davis’ signature was engraved and inlaid with gold in the marble covering the vault. When he was re-interred, that vault was permanently sealed.
Royal Street, 1889
Streetcar tracks are visible in the photo, as are electric poles. While commercial electrification began in the mid-1880s, electrification of street rail was still a few years away. The main line using the streetcar tracks at this time was the “Jackson Depot” line. this later morphed into the Desire line by the 1920s.
The Jackson Depot line ran from Canal and St. Charles Street, up to Delord (later Howard), making its way to the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad (later Illinois Central) station on Clio Street. It wound its way back to Carondelet Street, crossed to the downtown side and Bourbon Street, terminating at the Pontchartrain Railroad/L&N station on Elysian Fields. It then returned via Royal Street.
Sugar Bowl dining options were extensive in 1956
Ride the bus or streetcar to the game, come back to the French Quarter for fine dining.
Enjoying Sugar Bowl Dining
With fans from Baylor University and the University of Tennessee in town for the Sugar Bowl game on New Year’s Day, even the established, “old line” restaurants took out ads in the Times-Picayune.
Beakfast at Brenna’s, all day.
Brennan’s French Restaurant served “Breakfast At Brennan’s,” with Eggs Hussarde or Eggs St. Denis, all day long. They also recommended Lamb Chops Mirabeau, as well as the rest of a very popular menu of French cuisine. Brennan’s, Still There More at 417 Royal Street, across from the Louisiana Supreme Court building.
“the gourmet’s choice…The House of Antoine for 117 years…National polls have placed Antoine’s top on their list of fine restaurants of America and the world. Antoine’s Restaurant, 713 St. Louis Street in the French Quarter. Roy L. Alciatore, Proprieter.
Arnaud’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.
Germaine Cazenave Wells, Owner and Manager of Restaurant Arnaud’s, and daughter of Count Arnaud, the founder, welcomed Sugar Bowl visitors. “The Paris of the South,” Arnaud’s, still at 813 Bienville Street.
Commander’s Palace in the Garden District
“a command performance for generations, the toast of Kings and Queens of Mardi Gras, Commander’s Palace where each meal is a command performance–delicious french cuisine expertly prepared and graciously served.”
Since 1880, Commander’s Palace – “Dining in the Grand Manner,” Washington Avenue at Coliseum.
Lenfant’s, Poydras and S. Claiborne and Canal Blvd.
Lenfant’s operated two locations in 1956, 537 S. Claiborne and Poydras, and 5236 Canal Blvd. The Special Turkey New Year’s Dinner served to 4 P. M., a la carte after 4pm. “Plenty of Parking Space Available at Both Locations.” Lenfant’s, particularly the Canal Blvd. location, attracted locals not looking to mingle with football visitors.
T. Pittari’s, 31-December-1956
“The Famous T. Pittari’s – Directly on your route–to and from The Sugar Bowl Game” at 4200 So. Claiborne. Pittari’s aggressive marketing via downtown hotels attracted visitors. While they came for the lobster and other exotic dishes, locals went to Pittari’s for their popular Creole-Italian dishes.
Happy New Year!
Dan’s Pier 600 often featured Al Hirt
Pier 600 on Bourbon Street
Photo of Dan’s Pier 600 club, ca. 1955. Dan Levy, Sr., opened Pier 600 in the early 1950s. While the club stood at 501 Bourbon, corner St. Louis, it gets its name from Dan Levy’s restaurant at 600 Bourbon. Levy enjoyed success with Dan’s International Settlement, at 600 Bourbon, corner Toulouse.
Al Hirt (right), with guests, at Dan’s Pier 600 Jazz Club, 1950s.
Dan’s Pier 600 hosted a number of jazz musicians over the years. Before opening his own club, Al Hirt played Pier 600 regularly. He recorded Volume 3 of his “Swingin’ Dixie” series at the club. You can see Jumbo’s photo on the St. Louis Street side of the club. He’s wearing a crown, and the caption says, “Al Hirt – He’s the King.” Pete Fountain also played at Pier 600 in the early days of his career, both with Hirt and also on his own.
Levy’s son, Dan Jr., joined his father in the business upon his return to the city from college in 1956. Dan Jr. In addition to managing Pier 600, he managed The Al Hirt Club, The Old Absinthe Bar and Nobody Likes a Smart Ass comedy club.
Dan’s International Settlement served Chinese food at 600 Bourbon. While there was a robust Chinese community in New Orleans dating back to the 19th Century, Dan’s is regarded as the first commercial Chinese restaurant in town. Levy opened the restaurant in 1946, partnering with Frank Gee. The location is now Tropical Isle.
A number of articles over the years The street lamp in this photo of Pier 600 clearly says it’s at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon Streets. That’s 501 Bourbon. 600 Bourbon is at the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon. So, the two establishments are not just one building, re-branded over the years. Pier 600 was a shout-out to the existing restaurant. While the restaurant’s building looks much like it did in the 1950s, the Pier 600 building underwent significant renovations.
Photo is courtesy the New Orleans Jazz Museum collection. Thanks also to Dominic Massa, for his 2014 obit of Dan Jr., when he was at WWL-TV.
Thanks to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides for having me in to speak!
I had the privilege on Monday to speak to the monthly meeting of the Tour Guides of the Friends of the Cabildo. The FOC offer a number of walking tours, most notably their French Quarter tour. They’re a fantastic group of folks. It takes a lot of skill and knowledge to do the tours. It also takes a strong constitution to walk the Quarter in the Summer!
The FOC Tour Guides undergo an extensive training class before they’re turned loose in the Quarter. They do “continuing education” by having people far better than me come in to speak on specific topics. Check them out if it’s something you’d like to volunteer to do.
Zooming and hybrid meetings
We’re well along in our pandemic life that remote meetings and presentations are commonplace. At the beginning, many of us thought remote meetings would be a temporary fix. As we go along, however, it’s clear now that this style of presentation is here to stay. It makes perfect sense for groups like the Tour Guides. Not only do you have Covid concerns (a lot of the members are older and play it safe), but getting down to the Cabildo for a meeting can be challenging. So, have the presentation in a hybrid format. The Louisiana State Museum upgraded the presentation equipment in the Arsenal section of the Cabildo. This is where the group meets. I know the remote participants had no issues with the technology, since I received several emails from them. Additionally, it helps when the group has staff on hand to assist the speaker.
While I hesitate to discuss how others use remote presentation software, I don’t mind sharing how I approach these meetings.
- The group’s doing me a favor! I have books to sell, and I’m always happy to get in front of a group of potential customers.
- Be exciting! This isn’t easy for me. Even if I spend the day teaching (my day gig is corporate computer training), I come to a NOLA History Guy talk excited. Sitting at a desk doesn’t work for me. I’m always pacing around. The audience doesn’t see this when the talk is fully remote, but my tone reflects it.
- It’s not about me. The talk is about the material, not about how I approach a book or how I write an article.
- Have fun! If it’s not fun, I don’t wanna do it.
Monday’s talk offered a history of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad. That company morphed into our modern St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line. The presentation covered over ninety years of railroads and streetcars in New Orleans. I’ll share the presentation here as a series of blog articles. Eventually I’ll do the talk again, recording it for here.
As I walked through a portion of the first floor exhibits at the Cabildo, I stopped to take a pic of this neat old K&B sign! Looking forward to being asked back to talk to the Tour Guides.