Zoom Talk 2020-03-19
I’ve presented this talk to several groups in the last year or so. With everyone holed up because of Covid-19, I did the talk yesterday (19-March) via Zoom. It’s a bit long, because I was sorting out the use of Zoom, so you’ll need to fast-forward through the first 20 minutes of the talk to get to its actual beginning.
Also, TIL: it’s too long for YouTube. I’ll edit out that first portion and get it up there over the weekend. If you’d like to view it now, the link will let you download the MP4 version.
Canal Street Shopping 1895 – before the department stores
Mercier Buildings, 1892. Leon Fellman’s store on the left, A. Shwartz and Son right, on the corner.
Canal Street Shopping 1895
1895 was part of an interesting transitional time for Canal Street. Christ Episcopal sold their third church, at Dauphine and Canal, in 1884. The Mercier family bought the property. So, they demolished the church and built a series of commercial buildings. Retail space in the 900 block attracted merchants for a number of reasons. While Canal Street evolved, Christ Episcopal moved to St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street.
Ad in the New Orleans Times-Democrat, 8-Dec-1895, for S.J. Shwartz & Co.
Simon Shwartz was the youngest son of merchant Abraham Shwartz. Abraham was a wholesale merchant for most of his career. He opened a retail store on Decatur Street in the late 1880s. Abraham moved the business to the Touro Buildings in 1890. That location, in the 701 block, suffered a devastating fire in 1892. Therefore Simon moved the store to Canal and Dauphine Streets. So, Shwartz kept the name of the store, A. Shwartz and Sons when he moved. His brothers dropped out of the business, however. So, Simon changed the name to S.J. Shwartz in 1894. Shwartz aggressively advertised and competed with other Canal Street merchants. In 1897, he acquired the entire Mercier complex. He merged it into a single store he named Maison Blanche.
Note at the bottom of the ad, there is a reference to “the Picayune.” That’s The Daily Picayune newspaper. The Daily Picayune and the Times-Democrat would later merge, becoming The Times-Picayune.
The Fellman Brothers
Ad for L. Fellman & Co. in the Times-Democrat, 8-Dec-1895.
Leon Fellman wanted to move the family store from the 701 block to the Mercier Buildings. His brother Bernard objected. The Fellmans split their company. So, Leon moved up the street. While SJ Shwartz occupied the building at the corner of Canal and Dauphine, L. Fellman & Co. was located at the end towards the middle of the block. The Grand Opera House was right next to his store. The Grand Opera House was later demolished and became the S. H. Kress store, in 1910.
Ad for B. Fellman, 727 Canal Street, in the New Orleans Times-Democrat, 8-Dec-1895
Bernard Fellman continued to run the original Fellman Brothers store in his name. Like Abraham Shwartz, B. Fellman’s suffered severe damage in the 1892 fire. So, Bernard rebuilt and continued the business. After his death, his widow and son operated for a few years, eventually closing the company.
The landscape of Canal Street retail changed dramatically in 1897. Simon Shwartz acquired the entire Mercier property. He evicted the other tenants, including Leon Fellman. Fellman re-located his store to the old Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal (corner Caroldelet St.) Leon Fellman’s operated on that corner until Leon’s death in 1920. While Fellman operated his store at 800 Canal, he also purchased the property in the 1201 block of Canal in 1899. He later built the building that became Krauss Department Store. So, in 1903, he invited the Krauss brothers to lease his building.
The family changed the clan name from Fellman back to Leon’s original German surname, Feibelman, at that time. They operated the store at Feibelman’s, moving from 800 Canal to Baronne and Common in 1931. They sold the store to Sears, Roebuck in 1936.
S.J. Shwartz combined the separate Mercier properties into a single building. He opened Maison Blanche Department Store in the Fall of 1897. “Greatest Store South!”
Buy NOLA History Guy’s Books!
Canal Street – Streetcars, Maison Blanche, and Krauss!
The Krauss Service Building more than doubled the size of the Canal Street favorite.
Service Building, Krauss Department Store, under construction in 1951. (Franck Studios photo courtesy HNOC)
Krauss Service Building 1951
When Leon Fellman built the storefront that became Krauss Department Store, the original two-story building didn’t extend even half-way back in the 1201 block. The store’s first expansion opened in 1911. The Krauss brothers bought the rest of the block over the years. The 1201 block of Canal Street is bounded by Canal, Crozat, Iberville, and Basin Streets. The store occupied the entire block by 1927.
Leon Heymann was Thekla Krauss’ husband. The Krauss brothers turned over day-to-day management of the store to Heymann in 1920. After acquiring the 1201 Canal city block, he turned his attention to the block behind the store. By 1939, Heymann purchased the second block, bounded by Iberville, Crozat, Bienville and Basin Streets.
Planning the Service Building
Detail of the 1951 service building photo, showing the sign listing the companies that worked on the project.
In 1940, Heymann tasked his son, Jimmy and son-in-law, Leon Wolf, with the responsibility of planning out the expansion of Krauss. Jimmy Heymann and Wolf traveled to cities in the American midwest, looking at how department stores provided electricity and air conditioning to their sales floors. The pair returned to Canal Street, ready to hire an architect and contractor. The project ran into a major obstacle in 1941, World War II. The Krauss Company were strong supporters of the war effort. They put the expansion on hold.
Leon Heymann waited on the project, due to the post-war economy. He wanted things to settle down. Also, technology evolved in the ten years since Wolf and Jimmy Heymann developed their plans. So, the company hired the architectural firm of Favrot, Reed, Mathes & Bergman to update the project. R.P. Farnsworth & Co., General Contractors, turned those plans into a five-story expansion.
Connecting the buildings
This photo, taken on 26-Feb-1951, by Franck-Bertacci Studios, shows the progress of the project. The scaffolding on the left side covers part of the four-story connecter between the buildings. So, Iberville Street remained clear at the ground level. The multi-story connector allowed the store to move utilities and air-conditioning to the service building. Furthermore, he connector carried power and airflow back to the main store. Additionally, tockrooms re-located from the front building to the back.
The Service Building increased the retail floor space of Krauss by 90%.
Krauss Department Store 1910 – the first expansion of the 1903 building.
Rendering of the first expansion to Krauss Department Store.
Krauss Department Store 1910
Leon Fellman built the two-story building at Canal and Basin Streets in 1902. He leased it to the Krauss brothers. They opened “a veritable trade palace” that operated until 1997.
The first expansion
Krauss outgrew the original, two-story building quickly. By 1910, the brothers looked to expand. They acquired the property behind the original store and planned a five-story expansion. The New Orleans Times-Democrat reported on 20-March-1910 that:
Piledriving has begun for the handsome annex to the department store of the Krauss Company, Ltd., Canal and Basin Streets, and the work here is being pushed rapidly forward. The five-story annex to the existing building will afford the department store additional room for its rapidly growing business. It has been found absolutely necessary and will be occupied as soon as the contractor can turn it over to the company.
The Krauss brothers were savvy merchants. Their connections to the garment and retail industries in New York afforded them many opportunities to buy lots of merchandise at low costs. For example, Krauss would get word of a fire in a garment factory. Maybe five to ten percent of the merchandise received smoke damage. The factory dumped the entire lot at a cheap price. Krauss picked up those lots. The New Orleans shoppers were not aware of these New York fires!
As the store’s popularity grew, opportunities increased. Growing the floor space of Krauss Department Store 1910 meant hiring more staff. Clerks and buyers from other stores jumped to Krauss. They worked hard for the family-owned business, many remaining with the company for decades.
This expansion of the store opened in 1911, three years after the Southern Railway passenger terminal opened. Two more additions followed. The store grew all the way to Iberville Street, filling the block. In 1952, Krauss built a second building in the block behind the main store. They moved stockrooms and physical plant facilities to that building. This created more retail floor space for customers.
Buy the book!
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, by Edward J. Branley.
Riders wait for the Broad line at a bus stop Iroquois Street Gentilly
Broad line bus stop Iroquois Street at Gentilly Boulevard
Bus Stop Iroquois Street Gentilly
Bus stop at Gentilly Blvd. and Iroquois Street, 10-Jun-1946. This Franck Studios photo has a court docket number in the corner. I haven’t looked up why NOPSI lawyers hired their go-to photographers to shoot this location yet.
There wasn’t much in Gentilly, below Franklin Avenue, at this time. In May of 1946, the Southern Baptist Convention upgraded the New Orleans Bible College to a seminary. The increased interest in the school motivated the SBC. They moved the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to its present location, directly across the street from this bus stop, in the 1950s.
The Broad Street line ran across town, from out here in Gentilly to Lowerline Street, uptown. Folks studying at NOBTS and their families at this time took the Broad bus to Franklin Avenue. They transferred to the Gentilly streetcar line, heading inbound, to get downtown. NOPSI discontinued the Gentilly streetcar line in 1957. The Franklin Avenue bus line replaced the streetcars.
The Broad line offered a lot of options to the rider. I used Broad to get from Brother Martin High School back to #themetrys in my high school years.
Times-Picayune ad announcing the opening of Maison Blanche Gentilly, September 12, 1947
In 1946, Maison Blanche was still a year from opening their store in Gentilly. The store opened its second location, closer to Elysian Fields, in September, 1947. The store at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues followed a few months later. By the 1950s, the Gentilly Woods subdivision grew rapidly. Maison Blanche recognized this. They moved their Gentilly store, from Frenchmen and Gentilly Blvd., to just down the street from NOBTS. MB rode that boom, then moved on to the next boom, New Orleans east. They moved the store to The Plaza at Lake Forest mall in 1974.
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
Lots of photos of those stores in my book, “Maison Blanche Department Stores” – check it out!
The Bernadotte Street Yard ran from Canal Blvd. to Jefferson Davis Parkway
Sanborn fire map from the 1940s, showing detail in Mid-City New Orleans. Full PDF here.
Bernadotte Street Yard
Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, the portion of Mid-City that ran from Jefferson Davis Parkway to City Park Avenue was much narrower than the neighborhood is today. On the western side, Mid-City extended to the New Canal. From there, the neighborhood ran west, crossing Banks, Canal, and Bienville Streets. Mid-City hit a dead end one block past Bienville. So, the Bernadotte Street railroad yard began at Conti Street, essentially cutting off Mid-City from Bayou St. John.
New Orleans Terminal Company
The New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) built a railroad link from Canal and Basin Streets. It ran through Faubourg Treme, then down St. Louis Street, out to Florida Avenue. So, this connected the company’s passenger terminal downtown with the “Back Belt” owned by Southern Railway. Southern moved their passenger operations from their station on Press Street to Canal Street in 1916. Therefore, NOTC made a solid investment.
In addition to connecting Canal Street with the Southern Railway’s track, the NOTC link became the foundation for an industrial corridor. So, NOTC built a railroad yard at the Canal Blvd end of the link. Southern Railway leased the yard from NOTC. Southern referred to it as the “Bernadotte Street Yard.”
The image above is part of a Sanborn fire map from the 1940s. It shows the American Can Company factory on the right, on Orleans Avenue.The map details the various warehouses and other industrial sites. The borders are Jefferson Davis Parkway to N. Carrollton Avenue, Bienville Street to Orleans Avenue. Additionally, this area included a Southern Railway engine facility. That facility had a turntable and roundhouse.
To be contnued…
The Bernadotte Street Yard is relevant to a number of my research interests. So, I’ve got a fiction project in my head that may play out on passenger trains. That means Terminal Station. The station’s proximity to Krauss Department Store is also significant. I regularly watch rail activity on the Back Belt, on Canal Blvd. The mouth of the yard is not far away. In other words, come back periodically for more on this area.