Stein’s Canal Street occupied three different locations over the years.
Stein’s Canal Street
Ad for Stein’s Clothing in the Times-Picayune, September 21, 1972. Stein’s was originally located at 800 Canal Street, corner Carondelet Street, but moved up in the 800 block in 1948. By the 1960s, the store returned to the corner, but on the 700 block side of Carondelet. The store, part of a national chain, featured men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. Stein’s first came to New Orleans when Feibelman’s Department Store moved from 800 Canal to the corner of Baronne and Common Streets, in 1931.
Fellman’s to Feibelman’s to Stein’s
The old Pickwick Hotel building, now Stein’s Clothing, 1940
When retailer Leon Fellman split with his brother Bernard in 1886, he opened his own store at 901 Canal. This was the old Mercier Building, which replaced Christ Episcopal Church, at the corner of Canal and Dauphine. By 1897, S. J. Shwartz acquired the entire Mercier Building for his new department store, Maison Blanche. Shwartz evicted Fellman. Leon went across the street. He convinced the owners of the Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal to let him convert their building into a department store. They agreed, and he opened Leon Fellman’s.
Leon passed away in 1920. His family dropped the Fellman surname, returning to the German version of their name, Feibelman. The family changed the name of the store from Leon Fellman’s to Feibelman’s. In 1931, the family acquired the old NOPSI building at Baronne and Common. They demolished the building (it had been severely damaged by fire) and constructed a new store there. That left 800 Canal available. Stein’s leased the building, bringing the chain to New Orleans.
Gus Mayer takes over
Stein’s, 810 Canal Street, 1948
In 1948, another out-of-town chain, Gus Mayer, bought the old Pickwick Hotel. Their New Orleans store was in a small building on the French Quarter side of the 800 block of Canal. Gus Mayer demolished the old building, constructing their flagship store in the city. That building remains at 800 Canal, occupied by a CVS Drugstore.
Gus Mayer’s purchase of the Pickwick building meant Stein’s had to find a new location. They moved next door, to 810 Canal Street. The store re-located a second time, to 738 Canal. So, by the 1950s, Stein’s stood on the river side of Carondelet and Canal, and Gus Mayer on the lake side of the corner.
Stein’s Gentilly Woods, 1960
In the late 1950s, Stein’s opened a second location, in Gentilly Woods. That explains the “Downtown Store Only” reference in this 1972 ad. The chain folded in the 1980s. Kid’s Footlocker currently occupies 738 Canal Street.
Advertising for Maison Blanche World War I focused on readiness.
Maison Blanche World War I
Two ads in the Times-Picayune, 24-August-1917, illustrate the targeting of Maison Blanche World War I. The smaller ad ran on page two, whereas the large ad ran on the back page of the fourteen-page edition. The smaller ad suggests buying your man a sweater, as he packs to leave for boot camp at Leon Springs in Texas. The larger ad offers the shopper discounts on a wide spectrum of items, from note paper to women’s shoes to various men’s items.
Entering the War
By the time of Maison Blanche World War I, Europe entered its third year of total war. The United States joined the war, on the side of France and the United Kingdom, on April 6, 1917. Money, goods,, and supplies traveled across the Atlantic almost immediately. American troops arrived in Europe in the summer of 1918. The summer of 1917 was that wartime period where excited young men joined up to defend their families. They went off to boot camp, returning home on leave in spiffy uniforms. Anxiety over trench warfare and the horrid conditions on the Western Front were distant.
Wives and mothers prepared for war with two approaches. First, they purchased clothing and supplies for the menfolk. While the Army provided the basics, there were always things soldiers needed and wanted. Second, the women prepared for rationing and other belt-tightening moves. Maison Blanche World War I recognized this. Instead of tantalizing the shopper with a new dress, fancy shoes, or furniture upgrades, we see a lot of practical items on sale.The department stores focused on page one and page two of the newspaper. With only fourteen pages in the edition, there was no full-page ad for MB in one section, Holmes in the next. Readers caught the latest news, turned the page, then spotted store ads. More extravagant sales and shopping came to New Orleans in the aftermath of the war.
Streetcars and Walgreens at 900 Canal Street!
900 Canal Street
This Peter Ehrlich photo from 2008 features some next details. Most notably, NORTA 968 runs inbound on the Canal Street line. This was the period post-Katrina where the Canal and St. Charles lines crossed over. The 2000-series Von Dullen cars flooded at Canal Station. The arch roofs survived the storm, buttoned up on high ground at Carrollton Station. Unfortunately, the wind uptown blew down over sixty percent of the overhead wires on the St. Charles line. So, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) combined the two.
Perleys back on Canal
The overhead on Canal required only minor repairs. They re-built the trucks and propulsion on the 2000s. The Rail Department towed green streetcars down St. Charles to Canal Street. Once on Canal, the streetcars ran on their own. So, they went into service. Notice that NORTA 968 sports “SPECIAL” on the rollboard. The roll signs no longer include “CANAL,” since their national landmark status locks them into St. Charles. The thirty-five remaining 900-series cars haven’t run on Canal since 1964. The green streetcars present a powerful symbol of the history and strength of the city. Running them on the Canal line added resiliency as a statement.
Behind NORTA 968 stands the Walgreens Drug Store at 900 Canal Street. This store opened in 1939. All that neon dates back to 1940. A lot of transplants to New Orleans see the bright lights and express disdain. They don’t realize just how long that Walgreens has been a part of the CBD. (On a side note, the folks that work there are fantastic. I’ve actually done a book signing there.)
The old Chess, Checkers and Whist Club building stood at the corner of Canal and Baronne for generations. By the 1930s, the structure fell apart from the inside. Walgreens bought the property, demolished the old building, and built the drugstore.
The palm trees appeared during the 1957. The 900 block received greenery, as the “beautification project” that year cut back the four streetcar tracks in the neutral ground to two. Hard freezes killed those first palm trees, but New Orleanians love them. So, the city replaced them, over and over.
Behind Walgreens is the Roosevelt Hotel, with its rich and colorful history in the CBD.
Unpacking 1200 Canal, including neon, radio, and streetcars.
Unpacking 1200 Canal Street
Franck Studios photo, shot from Canal and Basin Streets, looking towards the river. HNOC dates this at approximately 1932. The fleur-de-lis lampposts and relatively-new improvements to Canal Street support this. Those were part of the 1930 “beautification” program for Canal. The city approved the road work and new lights after the disastrous transit strike in 1929. Ridership remained incredibly low in the wake of the strike. The city hoped that road work would both improve Canal Street and discourage individuals from driving automobiles downtown. Transit ridership never recovered its pre-strike numbers.
View from 1200 Canal Street
The photographer, who is not identified beyond working for Franck Studios, stands in front of Terminal Station, at Canal and Basin Streets. Krauss Department Store is behind him to the left. The Saenger Theater stands to the left, the Loews to the right. Neon signs and street-level advertising bombard pedestrians and streetcar riders alike, as they approach the main retail area of the city. The Maison Blanche building sports two large antennae on the roof. These are the transmission towers for WSMB Radio. The call letters “WSMB” stood for “Saenger-Maison Blanche.” The department store and theater partnered in radio. The theater promoted movies and shows, the store sold the hardware. Eventually, WWL radio bought WSMB, to get access to the Rush Limbaugh Show. Now, the station’s call letters are WWWL.
NOPSI 429, operating on the West End line
NOPSI 429 runs outbound, up Canal Street, on the West End line. West End stopped at all stops until Claiborne Avenue. The streetcars ran up Canal to City Park Avenue without stopping. They then turned left-and-right to head up West End Boulevard to the lake.
Perley A. Thomas designed the 400-series arch roofs while working for Southern Car Company. New Orleans Railway and Light liked the design. They bought a number of them for the St. Charles/Tulane Belts, as well as West End. The Canal line continued to use the Palace streetcars from American Car Company, until 1935.
The Mercier Building at Canal and Dauphine Streets was the first Maison Blanche.
Mercier Building 1885
Photo of the construction of the Mercier Building in 1884. Photographer is unidentified. Source is the Louisiana Photographs Collection, Earl K. Long Library, UNO. The third incarnation of Christ Episcopal Church stood at the corner of Canal and Dauphine until the 1880s. The chapter put the property up at auction in 1884. The Mercier family demolished the church. They built this commercial structure. Christ Episcopal moved uptown. They built a new church, uptown at St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street. In 1897, Simon J. Shwartz acquired the Mercier Building, opening the Maison Blanche Department Store there.
Church to Store
Episcopalians in New Orleans founded Christ Church in 1803. The chapter held services in various locations at the start. In 1816, they built a church on the corner of Bourbon and Canal (river side). The congregation outgrew that building by the 1830s. In 1837, Christ Church dedicated a new church on the corner. This second church was in the style of a Greek temple. Businessman Judah Touro made the chapter an offer they couldn’t refuse for the building, in 1845. He loaned the church to a Jewish congregation, but then demolished the block, to build the “Touro Buildings.” Christ Episcopal moved from Canal and Bourbon to Canal and Dauphine Streets. Rather than accept a private offer for the now-valuable property, the chapter sold it at auction.
The Merciers built their building as separate locations with shared walls. Multiple retailers leased the space. Leon Fellman split from his brother, Bernard. Leon opened a store in the Mercier Buildings, while his brother continued the original store in the Touro Buildings. When the Touro Buildings caught fire in 1892, S. J. Shwartz moved his family’s store, A. Schwartz and Son, to the Mercier Buildings. Shwartz bought the building in 1897. He terminated the leases of Fellman and other tenants. Shwartz then re-modeled the interior of the building, turning it into a single store, Maison Blanche.
Construction, not demolition
UNO captioned this as “Mercier Building being dismantled, Canal Street, New Orleans,” but the photo actually documents the construction. This photo was taken in 1885, not 1906.
Canal Street 1958 is a view from the roof of the Jung Hotel.
Canal Street 1958
Franck Studios photo of Canal Street, looking inbound towards the river. The Franck Studios photographer stands on the rooftop of the Jung Hotel, at 1500 Canal. Krauss Department Store stands in the 1201 block to the left, with the Hotel New Orleans in the 1300 block on the right. The Saenger Theater is across Basin Street from Krauss, with the iconic buildings of the 901 block (Audubon Building, Kress, and Maison Blanche) in the background, left. The studio shot this photo in 1958 or 1959.
Krauss in the 1950s
This photo offers a great view of the expansion progress of Krauss. The original store, built by Leon Fellman in 1903, consists of the two-story section fronting Canal Street. Fellman acquired the property in 1899. He built that first 2-story section and leased it to the Krauss Brothers. The brothers acquired the property behind the building, along Basin Street. In 1911, they built a five-story expansion. You can see the line/seam after four windows on each floor. Leon Heymann (the “Krauss Brother-in-Law”) built the third portion of the store in 1921. Heymann continued expanding the store until it filled the block between Canal and Iberville Streets.
While HNOC dates this picture at “approximately 1955,” the streetcar tracks narrow it down for us. Note the two-track configuration in the Canal Street neutral ground. With streetcar operation limited to Canal and St. Charles, the city ripped up the two outside tracks on Canal. The lines using those tracks had been converted to buses by 1948. So, Canal operated on the two tracks running from Liberty Place to City Park Avenue. One block of the inbound outside track remained, between Carondelet Street and St. Charles Avenue. St. Charles streetcars turned for their outbound run on that track.
The city planted the palm trees in this photo as part of the 1957 “beautification project.” They also built planter boxes along the neutral ground. Unfortunately, those palm trees only lasted about three years, because of a couple of cold winters.