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.
Wide shot of the strip mall that contained Maison Blanche Gentilly.
Maison Blanche Gentilly
Franck Studios photograph of a strip mall on Gentilly Boulevard at Foy Street. The address is 3043 Gentilly Blvd. Shot in 1950, the tenants in the still-standing strip changed a great deal in over seventy years. Walgreens anchors the strip on the left, and Maison Blanche’s Gentilly store on the right. In-between stand a Morgan and Lindsay dime store and Capitol Stores Supermarket. A billboard advertising JAX Beer (from the Jackson Brewing Company on Decatur Street). The brewery proclaimed JAX, the “best beer in town.”
The Maison Blanche Gentilly store opened in 1948. The company expanded from the single store on Canal Street that year. They opened two new stores almost simultaneously. The first stood in a strip mall at the corner of Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. This store catered to the Mid-City neighborhood. Gentilly witnessed an incredible boom after WWII. Men left their family homes as seventeen and eighteen year olds. They returned four or five years later, ready to get on with their lives. Rather than move back in with mom and dad, they chose Gentilly. While the area around Elysian Fields Avenue and Gentilly Boulevard (just two blocks from this strip mall) was developed, the neighborhoods heading out towards the lake stood relatively empty. Returning veterans bought lots and built homes there. The area around Elysian Fields and Gentilly transitioned into a retail nexus for the neighborhood. One short bus ride appealed to Gentilly residents, compared to riding all the way downtown.
Out to Gentilly Woods
As Gentilly continued to grow, Maison Blanche grew with the neighborhood. Developers opened the Gentilly Woods Mall, down the street, next to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, in 1957. MB moved the Gentilly store to that mall. The original Gentilly store became a budget annex. In 1974, the Gentilly store moved a second time, from Gentilly Woods to The Plaza in Lake Forest, in New Orleans East.
The 1929 transit strike in New Orleans snarled downtown traffic for over four months.
1929 Transit Strike
Photo of Canal Street, looking towards the river, July, 1929. The photographer stands at Canal and Rampart Streets, at the lake end of the 1000 block. The Audubon Building and Maison Blanche Department Store loom over the 901 block, on the left. A jitney bus, the light-colored vehicle in traffic on the right, offers what little service New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) could offer, with all the streetcars locked up in their barns. The antenna tower above MB is the transmitter for WSMB Radio.
Empty neutral ground
Streetcars remained off the streets from July 1 to July 4th, 1929. NOPSI tried to run streetcars using strikebreakers on Saturday, July 5th, but picketers and their supporters wouldn’t allow the cars to exit the barns, after the first streetcar departed Canal Station. That streetcar rolled this route, down Canal Street, followed by a massive crowd. The strikers burned that streetcar when it reached the ferry terminal.
Maison Blanche 1929
The MB building was twenty-one years old at the time of the 1929 transit strike. This photographer captured two signs on the building. The store’s name runs vertically on the lake side of the building. The roof displays the store’s name and its tagline, “Greatest Store South” on the roof.
The MB building is about ten years old in this photo. Doctors, dentists, and other professionals occupied the office building. The transit strike created problems for those tenants. Without public transit, it was difficult to get to the doctor. While grandma would hop on the Desire line or the St. Charles-Tulane belt, no streetcars meant someone had to drive her to Maison Blanche. Look at that traffic on either side of the “Canal Street Zone.”
On the retail side, the lack of public transit put the hurt on the Canal Street stores. Marks Isaacs, D. H. Holmes, Maison Blanche, all the way up to Krauss Department Store. Again, look at that traffic. In that first week of July, 1929, the retailers were furious. That the strike continued for four months did permanent damage to NOPSI and public transit in New Orleans.
Shop Talk was the employee monthly magazine for Maison Blanche Department Stores.
The June, 1970, edition of “Shop Talk,” the Maison Blanche employee magazine, featured a page of new fashions for the Fall and Winter. The idea was to offer some advance looks at the styles coming in. The buyers planned out merchandise a year in advance. So, by Summer, they presented new styles to employees. Then, folks working in all departments talked up the new stuff.
Shop Talk was more than just a marketing tool. The newsletter/magazine updated the MB community on many comings and goings. While much of the news and features were what one would expect from a company communication, there were personal stories and other items.
The newsletter described the Fall/Winter fashions for women as, “Do your own thing” —
Many new looks are seen for fashion this fall. At upper left, note the mixed length being used in skirts. Lower left is the gaucho pants outfit to be worn with boots. At right, note the new wide-brim hat and slit skirt. The wide belt with big buckle is important, too, this year.
This page offers sales associates talking points that even a college student like your humble NOLA History Guy could work with. And I did, when I worked at MB Clearview a few years later. Skirt lengths were all over the place in the late-60s/early 70s. The store, like the wider world, didn’t have a definitive statement on skirts:
No subject has come in for more discussion in years. Every woman (and man) keeps asking: Are they going down or staying up? The answer is yes. Misses hemlines will be mid-knee, one or two inches below the knee, or slightly longer than mid-calf. Juniors may be up to three inches above the knee to three inches below. That should be something to suit everybody. The real mini seems to be out, but legs are still very much alive. They will be seen in still-short skirts, in mixed lengths — garments combining medium and long hems — and in the new slit skirts, sometimes slit clear to the hip.
Fall/Winter 1970 promised to be exciting at MB!
1201 Canal Street viewed from the Elks Building.
1201 Canal Street
John Tibule Mendes took this photo of Krauss Department Store and the train station on 30-March-1919. Mendes stood on the roof of the Elk’s Home, just across Canal Street, at 127 Elks Place. Leon Fellman built the store’s first two floors in 1903. The five-story addition behind that first building dates to 1911.
To the left of the store stands the offices of the Texas Company, better known as Texaco. The billboard on the roof displays the company’s familiar star logo. That site is now a rental car parking lot. Texaco would later acquire the block at Canal and Marais Street. They built the “green building” there, as their headquarters, in the 1960s.
To the right of Krauss is Terminal Station. The Frisco Railroad formed the New Orleans Terminal Company in 1907 to build the station, which was completed in 1908. While there isn’t any documentation to this effect, I’m certain that Fellman either knew about the railroad’s plans, or speculated correctly, when he purchased the properties in the 1201 block of Canal in 1899. A small station for the Spanish Fort train stood in the Basin Street neutral ground. The right-of-way established, it was easy for the railroad to build out from there. The station bears the name of Southern Railway in this photo. Southern acquired the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, along with New Orleans Terminal Company, in 1916.
The smokestack, background right, marks the location of the Consumers Electric Company. The company leased the smokestack for advertising. It features Regent Shoes at this time. Regent Shoes aggressively placed ads on large outdoor fixtures and mis-matched wall space around the city.
While the Storyville District officially closed in 1917, many of the houses just to the left of Krauss remained in business, two years later. Anderson’s Saloon and the higher-end “sporting clubs” stood behind Krauss.
The Godchaux Building stood in the 501 block of Canal Street.
Postcard of Canal Street, 1916. The Godchaux Building, at 527 Canal, rises in the foreground, right. The 501 block numbering begins with the building across the Dorsiere Street from the Godchaux Building. The Maison Blanche Building, 901 Canal Street, stands to the left. The streetcars operating in the “Canal Street Zone” are single-truck Brills and Ford, Bacon, and Davis.
Godchaux, an Alsatian Jew, came to the United States in 1837. He opened a dry goods store on Canal Street in 1845. Leon leveraged the profitable store to buy the town of Bonnet Carre, in St. John the Baptist Parish. Changing the town’s name to Reserve, he acquired a number of sugar cane plantations in the area. Eventually, his sugar cane holdings totaled twelve plantations. To process that raw sugar cane, Godchaux built what would become the largest sugar refinery in the country.
While Godchaux operated his store on Canal corner Chartres, his company erected this building in 1892. It housed both the retail store and offices for the sugar businesses. The building stood just a few blocks away from the Louisiana Sugar Exchange, which opened in 1883. The Sugar Exchange was a co-operative filtering tower and molasses warehouse, at Iberville Street and the river.
Godchaux’s the store re-located to the Macheca Building, at 828 Canal Street, in 1926. The store expanded, acquiring an annex whose entrance faced Baronne Street, in the 100 block. The store expanded to the suburbs in 1960. They opened a Godchaux’s in Lakeside Shopping Center, at Causeway and Veterans, in Metairie.
Leon Godchaux’s daughter, Blanche, married Leon Fellman. Fellman, another New Orleans retailer, started out with his brother, Bernard, later opening his own store, first in the 901 block of Canal, then moving it to 800 Canal. Fellman also built the first storefront of Krauss Department Store, at 1201 Canal Street.
The Godchaux Building was demolished in 1972. The Marriott Hotel Canal Street stands in the 501 block now.