The Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival is a fantastic annual event. It’s in the French Quarter. I’ve been asked to be part of a panel titled Retail Giants. The panel will be on Friday, March 23, at 10am. It will be in the Queen Anne Ballroom of the Hotel Monteleone.
The Festival runs from Wednesday, March 21 to Sunday, March 25. Festival HQ is open on the Mezzanine level of the Hotel Monteleone. The hotel is at 214 Royal Street. HQ operates from Thursday-Sunday, from 9am to 4pm. There’s lots of interesting talks, discussion panels, and other events. Check out the full festival schedule.
New Orleans is a nostalgic town that cherishes its diehard institutions, particularly the retailers who became household names over multiple generations. David Johnson of the New Orleans Museum of Art moderates a panel of authors whose work chronicles where New Orleanians made groceries, furnished homes, and browsed for bric-a-brac. David Cappello is the biographer of John G. Schwegmann; Ed Branley writes about Krauss Department Store, and John Magill is the author of a recent book about that popular commercial and social thoroughfare, The Incomparable Magazine Street.
I’m looking forward to this. The authors know their stuff! So, I’ll be the lightweight in this group.
Krauss, Maison Blanche, and Streetcars!
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
I was invited to participate on this panel because of the latest book, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, but my earlier book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, fits the subject wonderfully. I’ll be talking both Krauss and MB, and how retail evolved on Canal Street. There’s lots of New Orleans history here, as Canal Street was the nexus of many separate communities, as folks came downtown to shop. Therefore, we’ll talk a bit about streetcars as well, since they were an integral part of shopping on Canal and Magazine Streets.
There will be a lot of stories and fun on Friday. I’m looking forward to seeing y’all there.
My Facebook friend Cathe Mizell-Nelson shared this fascinating map from The Historic New Orleans Collection. While there are several maps showing the streets of the French Quarter in the 18th/early 19th centuries, this one lists property owners. The cartographer is Gilbert Joseph Pilié. Here’s HNOC’s bio of Pilié:
Elected city surveyor of New Orleans 1818-1842. He surveyed New Orleans area lakes and helped establish forts between Bayou St. John and Mobile, Alabama. Gilbert Joseph Pilie began his New Orleans career as a teacher of drawing on Royal street, and as a scenic artist for the St. Philip Street Theatre and Olympic Circus. In 1818 he was elected city surveyor, a post he held until 1842. He was responsible for several memorials such as a triumphal arch honoring General Lafayette, and designed the riverfront vegetable markets. He was also involved in surveying the New Orleans area lakes and the establishment of forts between Bayou St. John and Mobile, Alabama.He married Therese Anne Deyant and had several children, including his son Louis Joseph, who succeeded him as city surveyor. DOB ca. 1789 DOD 1846-06-29
This map isn’t bad for a 19-year old!
The breakdown of property owners is an awesome resource, putting families on specific blocks of the Quarter. This isn’t a hi-res image, so it fuzzes out. You’ll need to contact HNOC to dig deeper.
A significant feature of this map is what’s not there on the eastern edge. The City of New Orleans comes to halt at what is now Esplanade Avenue. The Marigny Plantation is to the right on this map. Bernard Mandeville de Marigny began subdividing the plantation at this time. So, what we now know as Faubourg Marigny isn’t of interest to Pilié.
The area around what we now call the “Old Ursuline Convent” is also interesting. The present-day convent/museum is at the corner of Ursulines and Chartres. The property runs down Chartres to St. Mary’s Italian Church. On this map, the convent property runs from Ursulines, all the way to Rue du Quartier, which is now Barracks street. Notice that Rue Hospital (now Governor Nicholls Street) doesn’t even go through the property. Since Pilié’s interest was identifying property owners, this block wasn’t of interest. The block between Governor Nicholls and Barracks was owned by the government, prior to the Louisiana Purchase. Just before the transfer of Louisiana to the Americans, the Spanish shifted ownership of this property to the church. The archdiocese owned that block well past the Civil War.
Since its founding in 1718 by the LeMoyne brothers, New Orleans has cemented its status as one of the busiest ports on the continent. Producing many unique and fascinating individuals, Colonial New Orleans was a true gumbo of personalities. The city lays claim to many nationalities, including Spaniards Baron Carondelet, Don Andres Almonester, and French sailors and privateers Jean Lafitte and Dominique Youx. Businessmen like Daniel Henry Holmes and Isidore Newman contributed to local flavor, as did musicians Buddy Bolden, Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Louis Prima.
War heroes include P.G.T. Beauregard and Andrew Jackson Higgins. Avery Alexander, A.P. Tureaud, and Ernest Morial paved the way for African Americans to lead the city. Kate Chopin, Lafcadio Hearn, Ellen DeGeneres, Mel Ott, Archie Manning, and Drew Brees have kept the world entertained, while chefs and restaurateurs like Leah Chase and the Brennans sharpened the city’s culinary chops. Legendary Locals of New Orleans pays homage to the notables that put spice in that gumbo.
Taking a buggy ride is taking a step back into the past. I’m doing a bit of research for a fiction project set in the Civil War. In 1861, the first mule-drawn streetcars come to Canal Street. They blend in with all the horse- and mule-drawn wagons and Hanson cabs taking goods and people around the city. When you book a buggy ride, you step back into that. OK, OK, I’ll grant that it’s a challenge to send yourself back to 1861 when Decatur Street is full of traffic, but once you turn off onto the less-jammed streets, you can close your eyes and listen to the clop-clop of the mule’s feet.
2. It’s INFORMATIVE
Buggy rides used to get a bad rap from the local tour guides and those of us with an interest in history. Some of the tall tales told by buggy drivers were awful. When people would come to the old New Orleans Mailing List (pre-WWW days) with history questions, one of the common responses was, “That’s buggy ride history.” No longer! Buggy drivers are licensed tour guides. They have to pass the same history test the on-foot tour guides do. They give you an informative story
3. It’s DIFFERENT
Seeing the city from a buggy allows you to cover more ground in a short period of time. It’s a good combination with a traditional walking tour. Get my friend Loki to show you around the Garden District and/or the Cemeteries, on one of his Two Chicks Walking Tours jaunts. Take in all the architectural history of the Quarter with Grey Sweeney Perkins, on one of her Friends of the Cabildo tours. Then ride a buggy for a totally different experience!
4. It’s ROMANTIC
You don’t want to hear the tour? Just climb into the buggy with your honey and ride around. Take in the Quarter. Cuddle.
5. It’s FUN!
Day or night, riding a buggy around the Quarter is just plain fun. It’s great way for a family with kids to get off their feet for a little while. Older folks can get out of the sun while still “doing something.”
Take The Tour!
Elvis can’t wait to meet you!
Want to take a buggy ride? Contact my friend Nancy Landry. She and Elvis will gladly show you around!
The Irish-Italian connection/tradition originates with the two cultures merging in New Orleans after WWII.
In terms of numbers and influence, the Irish were first in New Orleans. O’Reilly is an outlier on this; the Irish influence begins in the 1820s. That first wave of Irish immigrants provided the manpower to build the New Basin Canal.
Crescent City Living’s video on the Irish Channel, produced by Crista Rock, with commentary from NOLA History Guy.
These are articles about the Irish I’ve written over the years. This podcast doesn’t go into a ton of detail, since its focus is how all these folks ended up in the same parade. 🙂 Don’t let that deter you from looking further into the Irish. Their story is an important part of the bigger story of New Orleans.
In many ways, the Italians get more exposure in the touristy writing than the Irish. That’s mainly because the Italians all but took over the French Quarter. This was in the 1880s and 1890s. The Italians left a lasting mark on the French Quarter. It’s the one neighborhood just about every visitor sees. Naturally, this is going to leave an impression. The Italian groceries, St. Mary’s Italian church (next to the convent), so many other Italian-owned businesses. Even the building the Louisiana State Museum currently uses as a warehouse for their massive collection was at one time a pasta factory!
Anyway, I wasn’t kidding about going to the Beauregard-Keyes House, either. The mafia connection is fascinating!
It’s not all about the Quarter, though, for the Italians.
So, the Italians migrated from the Downtown side of Canal Street. They went to Gentilly, Metairie, and St. Bernard Parish. The folks who went out to Metairie teamed up with the Irish for the big parade.
1201 Canal Street, the old Krauss Department Store building.
I’m pleased to announce that my proposal for a book on Krauss Department Store has been accepted by The History Press! Krauss was a beloved institution on Canal Street. The Krauss brothers opened the store in 1903, and it closed in 1997. In just the preliminary looking around that Lady Duchess of the Red Pen, the lovely and talented Dara Rochlin, worked up, we’re finding out some interesting things about the Krausz/Krauss family.
This is how the process of doing a book for The History Press goes. You come up with an idea for the book. There are submission guidelines and a proposal template on the THP website. The proposal is pretty straightforward. I’ll blog about that on my Edward J. Branley site, since that’s where I talk about writing and process. An acquisitions editor at THP (or Arcadia, for one of the company’s other imprints) contacts you back, to let you know their interest in your proposal. If they’re interested, the editor brings the proposal to the publishing committee. If the committee approves the proposal, you go to work.
The lead time on a THP book is six months at a minimum. THP wants a Christmas-season release for this book, so I’ll need to have all the images for this book ready by February. Unlike the Images of America books, there’s a lot more text to a THP title, so I’ll need to have the 30-33K words done by March. Then the acquisitions editor passes the project off to a development editor who applies the red pen. (Naturally, Lady Duchess will look over the manuscript before I give it to THP, but I’ll pay for her review myself.)
Once the book is signed and sealed by the development editor, it goes to production. The book hits the stores! The marketing and PR people work with the author on all that. That whole process is a ways away, obviously.
I need your help with Krauss stuff!
If you have Krauss stuff–photos, Krauss-logo items, etc., please let me know. The best history book are those that use and develop primary sources. There’s an extensive archive of Krauss stuff at UNO, but the book becomes more personal with your stuff. If readers make a personal connection, they’re likely to buy the book.
If you have memories of Krauss–did you shop there? Did you work there? Did family members work there? I’d love to hear the stories! There’s more words in a THP book, therefore room for telling the story in this book than there was in my Maison Blanche book (an Images of America title). Please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get in touch!
NOPSI 830 on Bourbon at St. Peter, 1947. (Courtesy the Thelma Hecht Coleman Memorial Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries)
This weekend is the annual Tennessee Williams Festival, and tomorrow will be the festival’s “Stella” yelling contest, conjuring the spirit of “Streetcar Named Desire” in the streets of New Orleans. “Desire” was a metaphor to Williams, but the Desire streetcar line was real, and an important route, tying the Upper Ninth Ward to the rest of the city.
Signbox for a 900-series arch roof streetcar. “DESIRE” sign made for the box by Earl Hampton.
Tennessee Williams (courtesy of Hotel Monteleone)
Tennessee Williams, relaxing at the Hotel Monteleone, 1950s.
“Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemetery and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields.”
722 Toulouse Street
When Tennessee Williams arrived in New Orleans in 1938, he took a room here, at 722 Toulouse Street. Now it’s the offices of the Historic New Orleans Collection. WGNO “News with a Twist” did a great spot on the house this week.
Royal Street in Faubourg Marigny, 1951 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
The streetcar tracks are gone in this 1951 photo of Royal Street in the Marigny, but it’s a good idea of what riders of the Desire line saw on their way into town.
Looking down N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
Looking up N. Tonti at Pauline Street, 1946 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
Two views of the Upper Ninth Ward from 1946 and 1947. These shots of N. Tonti Street at Pauline are a good illustration of the houses and buildings in the neighborhood serviced by the Desire line.
NORTA 29, the last Ford, Bacon, and Davis streetcar. (Edward Branley photo)
The first streetcars to run on the Desire line were single-truck Ford, Bacon, and Davis cars. NORTA 29 (ex-NOPSI 29) is the last FB&D streetcar.
NOPSI 888, running on the Desire Line, 1947 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
The 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars operated on the Desire line from 1923, until its discontinuance in 1948.
NOPSI Bus on Dauphine, 1954 (Franck photo courtesy HNOC)
The streetcar tracks were ripped up in 1948, and “A Bus Named Desire” took over bringing commuters to and from the Ninth Ward to Canal Street.
The Streetcars of New Orleans, by Hennick and Charlton, 1964 (amazon link)