St. Aloysius Commencement in 1894 was a simple ceremony.
St. Aloysius Commencement
The St. Aloysius Commencement ceremony in 1894, as covered by the Daily Picayune, was a simple ceremony, as the school:
…closed its session yesterday without any of the special exercises which are features of the commencement season. For more than a quarter of a century, the institute has been an important factor in the commercial life of the community, sending forth hundreds of students to take positions in the business world and many of our most successful and progressive merchants and thorough bookkeepers and accountants have graduated from its halls, the foundation of their success being the splendid knowledge of mathematics and business methods inculcated at this Institute.
Witnessing the graduation of these young men were a number of Brothers of the Sacred Heart:
- Rev. Brother Justin, President of the Institute
- Rev. Brother Jerome
- Rev. Brother Auastatius
- Rev. Brother Symporium
- Rev. Brother Louis Alphonse
- Rev Brother Anthony
- Rev. Brother Louis
- Rev. Brother Theodius
- Rev. Brother Louis Americ
Rev. Brother Justin addressed the St. Aloysius commencement of 1894, followed by Rev. Brother Jerome, who admonished them that “money was only a means to an end, and that the highest good lies in being faithful to the promptings of conscience and God.”
Esplanade and N. Rampart
The graduates received their diplomas in the General Study Hall of the school, located on the corner of Esplanade and N. Rampart. The school originally opened in a house on the corners of Barracks and Chartres Streets in the French Quarter. The Archdiocese sold that house, originally the officers’ quarters for the Spanish Colonial military, to the BOSH in 1869. St. Aloysius outgrew that facility. In 1892, they acquired the old Ursuline school on Esplanade Avenue, at the corner of N. Rampart Street. The Ursulines moved their convent to the Ninth Ward by then. So, St. Aloysius occupied that corner for only two years of the quarter century of the school’s operation.
Phillis Wheatley School is located in Faubourg Tremé.
Model of Phillis Wheatley School, 1954, via HNOC
Phillis Wheatley School
Photo of an architectural model of Phillis Wheatley School, designed by Charles Colbert, in 1954. Colbert’s widespread praise for the school’s mid-century modern design. While the school was relatively undamaged by Hurricane Katrina, it was demolished on June 17, 2011. The school district rebuilt Wheatley, and the new facility opened in 2014.
The school is located at 2300 Dumaine Street, in Faubourg Tremé. Its namesake was an enslaved woman who published a book of poetry in 1773. When Wheatley opened in 1954, it was a segregated, colored-only school.
In a July 4, 2009 Times-Picayune article, Lolis Eric Elie, then one of the paper’s regular columnists, described the constraints the school placed on Colbert. The biggest issue was size. The land set aside for the school was less than twenty percent the size recommended for a school of 800 students. Colbert designed a multi-story facility to fit in the small space. His cantilevered steel truss design featured classrooms raised above an open, ground-floor space. The raised building offered a play area underneath. So, since there was no space for a separate recess/playground, students used this covered area.
While Colbert’s design drew praise from architects, educators found numerous issues. Bilateral lighting appealed to designers. Teachers worked in classrooms with large windows. The glare from those windows obscured chalk boards.
Bathrooms presented another serious flaw in Colbert’s design. There were no bathrooms in the raised classroom building. Both students and faculty had to go downstairs to a separate building to use the lavatories. This goes hand-in-hand with the overall property constraints. To fit in the space, Colbert built a multi-story facility. The district provided no money for proper plumbing in the raised section.
Preservation as institutional racism
After Hurricane Katrina, preservationists opposed the school’s demolition. They argued that the mid-century modern design justified keeping the building. The problem here is when white preservationists don’t factor in the practical aspects. To re-purpose the 1954 building meant finding land to build a new school for 800 African-American students. Even now, ten years after the building’s demolition, its loss is mourned, without a mention of providing important educational services in the Tremé
NOTE: While the full version of most of blog posts are for patrons only, this one is open. That’s because a discussion about Wheatley started on Twitter. Thanks to NOLA History Guy patrons for understanding!
Sharkey’s Trumpet was a gold-plated award from the NOJC.
Mrs. Myra Menville presents an award trumpet to Sharkey Bonano in 1955. Bonano, who was born in Milneburg, played with a number of legends of New Orleans Jazz, including Freedie Newman and Chink Martin. He auditioned for The Wolverines when Bix Beiderbecke left the band in the 1930s, but was turned down. He eventually did play with The Wolverines, in New York. Bonano also joined the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, playing alongide Beiderbecke.
After World War II, Bonano returned to New Orleans. He played clubs on Bourbon Street, particularly the Famous Door.
The award trumpet
The New Orleans music industry regularly recognized the first generation jazz players. The caption for this award photo:
A gold plated $400 Trumpet “from a group of admirers in New Orleans” was presented to Sharkey Bonano Friday night as Sharkey and His Kings of Dixieland appeared at the third and climaxing jazz program of the Summer “Pops” concert in Beauregard Square. Shown are Mrs. John G. Menville, secretary, New Orleans Jazz Club, who made the presentation, and the jazzman. The award was “for his contribution to the revival of New Orleans music in New Orleans.”
The 1950s revival of “Dixieland” Jazz marked an important shift in the local music scene. Jazz historians, afficianados, and younger players realized that the first-generation musicians weren’t getting any younger. They took steps to preserve the music. We now usually refer to “Dixieland” as “Traditional” Jazz.
This presentation took place at a “Pops” concert series in 1955, held at Beauregard Square. While this name was well-known in the early 1900s, Modern New Orleanians may be more familiar with this area from its original name, Congo Square. After the Southern Rebellion, white New Orleanians brought the Lost Cause of the Confederacy to the forefront. Many locations were re-named to recognize figures from the rebellion. P. G. T. Beauregard was one of those.
So, during the French-Spanish Colonial period, Catholics usually granted the enslaved half a day to a day off on Sundays, ostensibly for worship. The enslaved would gather for drumming and dancing in an open area just north of the city limits, in what is now Faubourg Treme. This is how Place Congo got its name. Later, as the original parade ground, the Place d’Armes, evolved into Jackson Square, Place Congo became the city’s parade ground. Additionally, the city returned the original name to the Square in the 1970s.
Stephen B. Massicot was a “promising young Orleanian.”
Obituary for Mr. Stephen Massicot (click for a PDF copy), who passed away on June 4, 1898. This column ran in the Daily Picayune on Wednesday, June 8, 1898. Massicot graduated from St. Aloysius College in 1897.
St. Aloysius in 1898
St. Aloysius opened in New Orleans in 1869. The original campus was a house on Barracks and Chartres in the French Quarter. By 1890, the school outgrew that first location. In 1892, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart acquired a mansion just outside the Quarter from the Ursuline Sisters. The nuns desired an uptown location. They moved to State Street. Their campus, at the corner of Esplanade and North Rampart. reverted back to the Archdiocese. The archbishop leased it to the BOSH.
So, Stephen Massicot entered St. Aloysius in its second year on Esplanade Avenue. That mansion remained until 1924. That’s when the building known to generations of Crusaders was built.
Life after St. Aloysius
Stephen Massicot was valedictorian of the Class of 1897. After graduation, he went to work for Gotfried & Muller. They were cotton buyers. While cotton plantations no longer used the enslaved for labor, cotton was still huge in New Orleans. Riverboats still brought cotton down from the plantations. Mule -drawn wagons transported raw bales to cotton presses along the riverfront. Those presses compressed cotton for transport. Wagons returned the pressed cotton to the riverfront. Ocean-going ships took it up the east coast or to Europe.
So, cotton was a commodity. Buyers purchased cotton, either at the source (the plantation), or upon arrival in New Orleans. The grower moved on. The buyer then flipped the commodity, selling the pressed cotton to ship owners. They carried the product to textile mills. Those mills transformed raw cotton into bolts of fabric.
The obit describes how Stephen Massicot complained of discomfort and a fever two weeks before his passing. Doctors diagnosed his discomfort as typhoid fever. Five days after the diagnosis, the young man died.
The paper reports that the student body of St. Aloysius attended the funeral. His surviving classmates served as pall bearers. After the funeral, his mates laid him to rest in St. Louis Cemetery.