Our first #WatercolorWednesday is a cemetery scene.
Cemetery Scene by Goldman
Watercolor painting of a cemetery scene by Jeffrey H. Goldman of new Orleans. While the painting is a composite of New Orleans cemetery items, it’s not one specific place. The background suggests St. Louis Number One or Number Two, both in Treme.
There are five items in the foreground, before the wall. On the left is a “double” tomb. Behind it is an obelisk. the central item is a “triple” tomb whose lower vault is open. Next is a “single” tomb. On the right is a wall of “ovens.” These are mausoleum-style niches.
In the rear of the image stands a Creole house with a second-floor gallery. On the right is a sketch/outline of a church.
Single, Double, Triple
Goldman includes the three main types of tombs we see in New Orleans. The “single,” is the most expensive, since there can be only one burial per year. Families usually built “doubles,” so you can inter two loved ones at one time. When both vaults are occupied, the law requires the owners wait a year and a day since the most recent internment. The “triple,” three vaults, proved to be too expensive for most families.
Many cemeteries build single-vault niches into their walls. These became known as “ovens.” This concept predates the classic mausoleum buildings of the 20th century.
The obelisk in Goldman’s painting appears to be a “cenotaph,” a monument that is not an actual burial site. For example, the architect James Gallier was lost at sea with his wife. His son, James, Jr., erected a cenotaph to their memories in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. Many families erect monuments to loved ones buried away from New Orleans. So, it’s appropriate that the artist include such a monument.
From Jeffrey Hugo Goldman’s obituary:
A native and lifelong resident of New Orleans. Graduated 1958 from Alcee Fortier High School, John McCrady School of Art, and Delgado Trade and Technical Institute. He received a masters degree in Architecture from Tulane University School of Architecture in 1975.
Mr. Goldman was a warm and generous individual who contributed without recognition to numerous cultural institutions in the City of New Orleans including Tulane School of Architecture, The D-Day Museum, The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Aquarium of the Americas to name a few.
When he passed, Mr. Goldman’s son donated a number of his paintings to THNOC.
Stores like 1303 St. Ann Street were a common sight in the Treme.
1303 St. Ann Street
Painting of the corner store at 1303 St. Ann Street by Boyd Cruise. Here’s the description of the painting from THNOC:
View of a corner building in Faubourg Tremé with a grocery sign. Parts of the rain gutter and gallery railing are missing.
The location is currently part of Armstrong Park, across from the Mahalia Jackson Theater. Chase painted 1303 St. Ann Street in 1938. Chase painted a lot of locations at this time for various federal projects.
This building displays a “Grocery” sign and two coffee advertisements, one for Luzianne and one for French Market. Even though Prohibition ended five years earlier, the store may not yet have returned to alcohol sales.
The owners chose not to put a name on their sign. That’s not surprising for the 1930s. Most customers shopping here walked from around the corner. While the big stores on Canal Street installed air-conditioning in the early 1930s, this store likely relied on fans and open windows. Without refrigeration, they offered dry goods, canned foods, flour, spices, etc. Neighbors looking for meat and seafood still walked over to the Treme Market. The transition to a wider inventory would have started at this time, but WWII slowed the process down for ten or so years.
Alvik Boyd Cruise was born in 1909, and came to New Orleans in 1928. Read this great profile of him at 64 Parishes. His body of work contains a number of architectural paintings commissioned for a Historic American Buildings Survey of the French Quarter. The National Park Service started the HABS project in 1933. It’s currently administered by the NPS and the Library of Congress. The HABS survey of Canal Station is a great example of the product.
64 Parishes notes that Cruise made use of “plan books” archived at the Orleans Parish Notarial Archives to create representative portraits of various structures. While 1303 St. Ann Street isn’t explicitly listed as one of HABS paintings (the survey was for the Quarter), it’s certainly of that style.
Cruise later became the first director of The Historic New Orleans Collection.
Cemetery curses revisited: is the Caesers Superdome really cursed?
Map of the area around Caesar’s Superdome. The red rectangle shows the outline of Girod Street Cemetery.
The Saints: Cemetery curses revisited
Portion of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing Girod Street Cemetery
As we approach Halloween, fans of the New Orleans Saints often return to the topic of the Superdome and the Cemetery. While much research exists on the boundaries of Girod Street Cemetery and the Superdome, the curse theory always returns. The talk always gets serious when the Saints aren’t playing well.
We’ve discussed this before and in detail: Girod Cemetery isn’t under Da Dome. Still, folks find remains in the vicinity of the stadium that are outside the perimeter of the cemetery. This happens all over the city, and there are reasons for burials outside established cemeteries.
Indigenous burial mounds in the city come as no surprise. The native tribes were here before the colonizers, after all. Most of these mounds stand on high ground. When the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority discovered human remains near Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue as part of bus/streetcar terminal construction, it made sense. The area is on the Metairie Ridge. It’s high ground. Since cemeteries surround the intersection, those remains were a combination of indigenous people and colonizers.
It takes years for government to green-light cemetery construction. While the wrangling takes place, families often buried loved ones in the general vicinity of the proposed site. It’s not like they could wait for things to shake out, after all. So, figuring close was better than not, they did what they felt they had to do.
Section of the Robinson Atlas of 1883 showing St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, along Claiborne Avenue in Faubourg Treme
Even after a cemetery opened for business, people often couldn’t afford the price of a plot, much less an above-ground tomb. The same thinking as initial disorganization applied. Let’s get the departed close. A walk through the cemetery connected those still living with the dead, even if they couldn’t put flowers on a grave.
When a cemetery falls into disrepair, things get messy. This was the case with Girod Street. The chapter of Christ Episcopal did not adequately prepare for long-term maintenance of the cemetery. By the 1950s, the cemetery was in ruins. Grave robbers discarded coffins and remains all over the cemetery, in search of valuables. Naturally some of the remains ended up outside the cemetery walls.
This is also a complicated subject. It was important to Christians that those buried in “holy ground” were free of serious sin. For example, if a spouse committed adultery, but did not seek forgiveness for the mortal sin, the family who owned the plot might refuse that person burial. A priest might refuse to preside over the rites of burial. Those close to the deceased were told to find someplace else. Another reason for exclusion from consecrated ground was suicide. Clergy and family would reject any connection to a person who took their own life.
In most of these cases, there were relatives who disagreed with this harsh treatment. While they were unable to get the departed inside the walls, they buried their loved one close by. Therefore, numerous reasons exist to explain remains outside the cemeteries.
St. Aloysius Band in 1946 was led by Prof Taverna.
St. Aloysius Band
Photo of the St. Aloysius High School Band, 1946. The band wears a classic corps-style uniform, with grey tunics, white trousers, and Sam Browne belts. The belt design was for military officers and NCOs who carried pistols. The shoulder strap supported the weight of the pistol on the belt. Fortunately, the BOSH didn’t issue pistols to the band, but the look was nonetheless sharpe. The band director, to the left is Joseph “Prof” Taverna. The students in white in the center were the color guard. The two young men on the right held the banner for parades. The drum majors wear bearskins on the left.
One of the distinctions about this photo from earlier years is the drumhead on the bass drum. After the war, high schools transitioned from calling themselves “colleges.” As young people came home from World War II, they took advantage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the “G. I. Bill.” One of the program’s benefits was financial assistance for college tuition. The high schools dropped “college” in their names to avoid confusion.
So, the band reflected this change. The drum head says, “St. Aloysius High School – New Orleans, La.” The large, vertical “SAC” is a shout-out to “St. Aloysius College.” The BOSH didn’t want to upset decades of alumni with a major name change. The band smoothed things over a bit.
Joseph “Prof” Taverna in 1931.
The school hired a new band director in 1931, Joseph Taverna. Here’s Brother Neal’s bio of “Prof,” in his History of Crusader Football:
One of the laymen was the new band director: Professor Joseph Taverna. He hailed from Turin, Italy, where he studied at the conservatory. His father was a celebrated composer who was once organist at St. Peter’s in Rome under Pope Leo XIII. Shortly after securing his degree in Turin, young Taverna came to America and settled in New Orleans. Here, “he organized the first boys’ band ever to play in the Crescent City.”
Later he became professor of music at Marion Military Institute in Alabama where he remained until the World War broke out. He led various army bands during the war. After the war, he returned to Marion. “His remarkable success drew the attention of the authorities of Alabama University. Professor Taverna accepted Alabama’s offer to head their music department. Here he trained both the Concert Band and the Military Band, taking the latter twice to the Rose Bowl.”
All that before 1931! While it may seem that taking up the baton at Aloysius was a step down for Prof, it’s not without precedent. Sometimes talented teachers need a step away from the rat race. Since he actually a professor, the honorific stuck. The reference to “laymen” BNG makes is an important one. In 1931, there were only four lay faculty at the school. All the other teachers were brothers. This expanded as the school entered the 1950s, particularly in the athletic department. While there were a lot of well-trained brothers teaching academic subjects, they didn’t coach. So, alumni joined the faculty in those roles. Band was a on-off situation. Prof took care of it for decades. By the late 1960s, Brother Virgil Harris, SC, ran the band program. Brother Virgil retired in 1973, and BMHS has had lay band directors ever since.
Prof Taverna directed a corps-style, Souza-style band. The uniforms matched the style. When Cor Jesu opened, that school opted for a less-military look for their band. Aloysius followed suit, after Prof retired in 1961. The band adopted the Navy uniform when St. Aloysius added an NJROTC unit in 1968.
Prof Taverna had a strong influence on the school’s music program, and the lives of many musicians. To honor his contribution to St. Aloysius and the BOSH, the BMHS band room in the Ridgely Arts Center is named for Prof.
NOTE: Thanks as always to Brother Neal Golden, SC, for his wonderful work documenting the history of the BOSH schools!
Southern Railway Park stood just off from the tracks leading to Terminal Station.
Southern Railway Park
Franck Studios photos of Basin Street turning towards the lake in the late 1950s. The two parking tracks inside Southern Railway Park are visible on the left. Prior to 1954, railroad tracks leading out of Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets followed Basin, down to just before St. Louis Street. They turned lakebound at that point, heading into Mid-City. They connected with the “Back Belt” tracks, where trains turned east to cross the Industrial Canal and Lake Pontchartrain.
The New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) built a railroad passenger station on Canal Street in 1908. Southern Railway assumed control of the station when it acquired NOTC in 1916. Southern shifted their operations from Press Street Station in the Bywater to Faubourg Treme. Tracks ran along Basin from Canal Street to St. Louis. Additionally, Southern built a freight station, just before the tracks curved north. That station stood at 501 Basin, just out of the frame of these photos, on the left. A private concern purchased the freight building in the early 2000s, converting it into Basin Street Station, a visitors center and event venue.
After trains for Southern Railway (or Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio, the other railroad using Terminal Station) unloaded their passengers, they pulled off to a service yard. Engines pulled the train up past the Municipal Auditorium, then backed the cars into a side yard. Additionally, Southern trains carried “business cars” throughout the system. These cars looked like open-ended observation cars. They contained offices, bedrooms, and a kitchen. Railroad executives used these cars to travel the system.
When business cars came to New Orleans, the railroad parked them next to the passenger car service yard. Those tracks terminated in Southern Railway Park. The executives got a landscaped area where they could stretch their legs, or take a car to other parts of the city.
In 1954, the city consolidated passenger rail operations at Union Passenger Terminal, on Loyola Avenue. The city ordered the demolition of the five existing passenger stations. Southern Railway relocated the business car parking tracks to the location in this photo. They also moved several of the light fixtures like the one in this James H. Selzer photo from 1975.
Thanks to Mr. Maunsel White for sharing these photos on Facebook.
St. Aloysius bonds, a private issue to finance the completion of the new building.
St. Aloysius bonds.
Advertisement in the Times-Picayune, 15-April, 1925, for St. Aloysius bonds to finance the completion of the “new” school building. The Bond Department of Marine Bank and Trust, on Carondelet Street, managed the issuance of St. Aloysius bonds. From the ad copy:
These bonds will be the direct obligation of St. Aloysius College, which was founded in 1869, and was formerly located on Chartres and Barracks Streets, and moved to its present location in 1892, where it has steadily expanded.
This $80,000 issue in 1925 works out to just over $1.2 million in 2021 dollars.
Building the iconic school
After successfully navigating the years of the Southern Rebellion, the Archbishop of New Orleans invited the Brothers of the Sacred Heart to open a permanent school in New Orleans. The Institute operated St. Stanislaus College, in Bay St. Louis on the Gulf Coast. When Louisiana and Mississippi seceded from the Union, the BOSH closed St. Stanislaus to boarders. They dispatched several Brothers to New Orleans. They set up shop at Annunciation Church, in Faubourg Marigny. Those men taught the Stanislaus students in the city. They made sure those boys completed their schooling.
The Archdiocese offered the Institute a house on the corner of Chartres and Barracks in 1869. That building originally housed the officers of the Spanish army garrison in the city during the colonial period. In 1892, the Ursuline nuns left the mansion they used as a school, on Esplanade Avenue and N. Rampart Street. The archdiocese transferred that building to the BOSH. By the 1920s, however, the always-expanding St. Aloysius College outgrew the mansion. They negotiated a deal with the city to demolish the old building, allowing the city expand the N. Rampart Street neutral ground. The Institute required cash for furnishings, equipment, etc., to open the new building. These bonds provided the backbone of the financing.
St. Aloysius closed in the Spring of 1969, merging with Cor Jesu High to become Brother Martin High School in Gentilly.