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.
Department store ads over generations are fun.
Department Store Ads
Ads for Godchaux’s Department Store. The first appeared in the Loyola Maroon in 1929. The second demonstrated the store’s sort for the New Orleans Opera Guild. It appeared in the program for “Romeo and Juliet” in 1947.
Godchaux’s on Canal
Yesterday, local author (and someone I’m proud to call friend) Derby Gisclair shared a photo of the Macheca Building at 828 Canal Street (next to the Boston Club). This building was the second Canal Street home of Godchaux’s Department Store. The store moved from 501 to 828 Canal after World War II.
So, the 1929 ad lured shoppers to the 501 Canal Street location. This building housed offices for several of Leon Godchaux’s business interests. Those included his sugar cane farms and processing plants. The family opened a retail store in 1840. The lower floors of the building housed the store. Marriott acquired the 501 block and demolished the building in the early 1970s. The block now features the chain’s hi-rise hotel.
Down the block
As the 501 Canal building aged, the store sought out a new location. The building at 828 Canal served downtown as commercial office space. After World War II, Godchaux’s bought the building. They renovated the interior and moved the store in 1947. Godchaux’s remained at the location until the chain closed the downtown store in the 1980s. After that, the Lakeside store assumed the mantle of flagship location.
The Maroon ad from 6-December-1929 promotes the “Established English University styles” of Charter Suits. Manufacturers paid for these “co-op” ads. The ad sold a particular brand, with mention of the local store carrying it. The Maroon regularly presented department store ads to the students.
The 1947 Opera Guild ad for Godchaux’s features their hats. Ladies attending the opera required the right hat. The Millinery Department on the store’s sixth floor enticed opera-goers with a charming hat selection.
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.
Chartres Street was one block down from the Clay Monument
600 block of Canal at Chartres, 1890. (Mugnier photo)
From the book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, this is a Mugnier photo of Chartres Street at Canal. The Custom house is barely visible in the background. The trees in the neutral ground masked the streetcar tracks and activity. Because this is a winter photo, they’re barren.
The shoe store at the left of the photo anchors the Touro Buildings in the 700 block. The 600 block lacks the Godchaux Building. That dates the photo prior to 1892. The electric pole means the photo dates no earlier than 1890. The bare trees indicates this is likely the winter of 1890-91.
Leon Godchaux, the sugar magnate, demolished the buildings on 600 Canal in 1891. In their place, he erected a six-story retail/office building. That building survived until 1969. It was demolished to make way for what is now the Marriott Hotel Canal Street.
Mule-drawn streetcars on electrified streets
The streetcar in the background is a Johnson “Bobtail” car. These mule-drawn cars operated on the Canal line until 1895. Street electrification started in the late 1880s. Electric lighting replaced gas lamps. So, as the street lighting changed, commercial buildings desired lighted signs. Interior electrification allowed retail stores and shops extended business hours.
When I wrote the Canal streetcar book in 2004, I didn’t give much thought to “fading signs.” Even later on, when I wrote the Maison Blanche book, I looked past most of them. The new book changed the way I look at some of these photos. Because I’ve examined most of the walls of Canal Street buildings, this ad at Chartres and Canal caught my eye. I didn’t remember it. That’s because it vanished a year after this photo! Godchaux’s building contained too many windows to make a solid canvas for an ad.
So, what did this sign sell? I see:
World is the
I can’t make sense of that. Anybody have an idea?