Turner’s Canal Street at Night

Turner’s Canal Street at Night

Unpacking Homer E. Turner’s Canal Street at Night painting offers interesting details.

canal street at night

Turner’s Canal Street at Night

Painting, “Canal Street at Night” by Homer E. Turner, 1950. The artists stands in the neutral ground of Canal Street at N. Rampart. Turner looks up Canal, towards the lake. Released from the restrictions of the war, neon signs dominate the street. While there are numerous color photos from the period, this painting is so detailed, it’s not surprising that casual viewers take it for a photograph, maybe on a rainy evening where the camera lens was a bit misty.

Homer E. Turner

Born in 1898, Turner painted New Orleans scenes from 1938 to 1950. The landmarks captured in this painting place it at the end of that period. He died in 1981. The New Orleans Art League, an offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Club of New Orleans. took notice of Turner’s work and exhibited his paintings. The League featured visiting artists in shows at their gallery 630 Toulouse Street. They also held annual exhibitions at the Delgado Museum of Art (now the New Orleans Museum of Art).

Canal Street, 1950

Turner captures Canal Street, above Rampart. The established retail stores in the city stood in blocks closer to the river. Starting with Godchaux’s in the 501 block, shopping came to an end in with Maison Blanche in the 901. j

That changed in the first half of the 20th Century. Leon Fellman, bought the houses in the 1201 block of Canal in the late 1890s. He built a new store building there and leased it to the Krauss Brothers. By 1908, Southern Railway moved their passenger terminal to Canal and Basin Streets, next to Krauss. Move theaters, such as the Saenger, Loews, and Joy, popped up. While not physically on Canal Street, the Roosevelt Hotel, (originally the Grunewald) towered over Canal.

Turn on the lights

Nighttime changed the vibe of Canal Street. The stores closed around 6pm daily. So, nobody ran downtown to pick up something in the evening. Streetcars carried workers and shoppers alike to the residential sections of the city. By dusk, signs on Canal Street enticed riders and drivers with things other than shopping. Some signs were practical in nature, such as The Roosevelt’s, directing drivers to turn onto Baronne Street and the hotel’s entrance.Other hotels, such as the Hotel New Orleans (now the Vinache) and the Jung, made sure visitors and taxi drivers knew where they were going. So, advertisers presented large neon clocks to those on the street. They kept people looking up. Additionally, the marquees of the theaters proclaimed what was playing that evening, and you didn’t want to be late.

Food and beverage products used neon, enticing passersby to eat Blue Plate products, such as mayonnaise and coffee. Then there was Three Feathers, a popular blended American whiskey. You might

It was not uncommon for stores to light up the night in front of their main entrances. The one prominent exception to this on Canal Street was Maison Blanche. So, its thirteen-story building (behind the artist in this painting) stood large without illumination.

After the rain

Turner shows the streetcar tracks in the center of Canal Street as if it’s just rained. The neon reflects on the concrete. the rows of fleur-de-lis lamposts reflect as well. That rain was likely welcomed by diners and moviegoers waling the street in its aftermath.

 

 

 

 

Maison Blanche Origins

Maison Blanche Origins

The Fellmans and Marks Isaacs contributed to the formation of Maison Blanche Origins.

Pickwick Hotel 1895

The Pickwick Hotel, 800 Canal Street, 1895. Two years later, Leon Fellman moved his store to this location.

Maison Blanche Origins

The “Greatest Store South,” Maison Blanche Department Store, opened in 1897. These three ads, from The Daily Picayune on 16-February-1890, present a segment of the New Orleans retail scene at the time. L. Fellman & Co., operated in the 901 block of Canal Street. Leon’s brother, Bernard, continued solo in the 701 block. The Kaufmans and Marks Isaacs dominated the Dryades Street corridor. These men shaped the decisions made by S. J. Shwartz as he planned the Maison Blanche.

L. Fellman & Co.

maison blanche origins

“Dry Goods and Fancy Goods!” Leon Fellman immigrated to New Orleans in the 1870s, following his older brother, Bernard. He adopted Bernard’s anglicized surname, going from Feibelman to Fellman. After working for other established retailers, the brothers opened a store of their own in the 701 block.

In 1884, the chapter of Christ Episcopal sold their church at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Streets. The The Mercier family constructed what became known as the Mercier Building. They sectioned into separate retail spaces. That’s why L. Fellman & Co. lists 173, 175, and 177 Canal Street as addresses.

Leon Fellman operated a “Dry Goods” store that sold “Fancy Goods” as well. He sold fabrics and accessories for women and men. The concept of a “department store” selling ready-to-wear clothing was not yet a thing in the South. So, Leon’s advertising focused on the tried and true:

The many friends, patrons, and strangers would do well to pay a visit to our Grand Emporium before going elsewhere. Having the advantage of procuring all of our merchandise from the “Fountain Head” — the Center of Manufactory — be they Foreign or Domestic — we can with pride declare that our assortment CANNOT BE EXCELLED, OUR PRICES NOT LOWERED, this side of Mason and Dixon’s Line. We shall mention only a few prices. EVERYTHING WILL BE REDUCED!

Competition with Shwartz

maison blanche advertising

Fellman occupied the lake-side of the Mercier Building, “Next to the Grand Opera House.” After the devastating fire in the Touro Buildings in February, 1892, Simon Shwartz moved his family’s business, A. Shwartz and Son, to the other half of the building. Shwartz, backed by his father-in-law, Isidore Newman, acquired the entire Mercier Building. Leon moved out in the Spring of 1897. Shwartz opened the Maison Blanche that October..

Leon moved his store across the street, to the Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal Street. His store evolved into a department store in the style of Maison Blanche.

Krauss

While Leon’s involvement with Shwartz and MB was as a competitor, his investments sparked other Canal Street retail. Fellman bought the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal in 1899. He demolished those buildings. In their place, a new, two-story store rose, in 1903. Since Fellman’s store at 800 Canal (corner Carondelet) was well-established and successful, he invited the Krauss Brothers to lease 1201 Canal. Thus began the 94-year run of Krauss Department Store.

Bernard Fellman

maison blanche origins

Leon’s older brother preferred to stay in the Touro Buildings (701 block of Canal Street). Maybe it was his age, perhaps his health, but the brothers parted. Bernard operated his dry good store, declaring it, “The Pioneer Of Low Prices.” So, Bernard competed not only with his brother, but with Abraham Shwartz. A. Shwartz and Son stood at the lake-side corner of the 701 block, Canal and Bourbon Streets. This ad lists an extensive inventory of dry goods. He also advertises “over 2000 Jackets, Cloaks and Wraps, from the lowest ordinary to the best.” A half-off sale always garners attention!

Dryades Street

maison blanche origins

Charles Kaufman’s first store opened on Poydras Street in 1877. Charles partnered with his older brother Simon in the venture. In 1889, Charles joined with Marks Isaacs in a partnership. They opened Kaufman and Isaacs. The partners encouraged shoppers to “Join the Procession of Wise and Discerning People” to their store, on Dryades, Euterpe, and Polymnia Streets. They leveraged their proximity to the Dryades Public Market.

In 1901, Marks Isaacs left the partnership. He joined S.J. Shwartz at Maison Blanche. Charles Kaufman passed in 1917. The family continued operation of the store until 1961. They closed the store and sold the building, in the midst of a great deal of strife related to the Civil Rights Movement. The Kaufman’s building is now the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. Dryades Street now bears the name of Civil Rights pioneer Oretha Castle Haley.

Connections

So many connections among the Jewish retailers of New Orleans! You’ll find more history on MB and Krauss in my books:

Maison Blanche Department Stores

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

Additionally, lots of photos of Canal Street in my history of the most important streetcar line in New Orleans:

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

 

 

 

Canal Street 1958

Canal Street 1958

Canal Street 1958 is a view from the roof of the Jung Hotel.

canal street 1958

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.

Streetcars

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.

1201 Canal Street 1919 #KraussFriday

1201 Canal Street 1919 #KraussFriday

1201 Canal Street viewed from the Elks Building.

1201 canal street

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.

Railroads

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.

Storyville

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.

Krauss 1938 #KraussFriday

Krauss 1938 #KraussFriday

Krauss 1938 shows the badge of the Eighth National Eucharistic Congress.

krauss 1938

Krauss 1938

The Catholic Church in the United States held its Eighth National Eucharistic Congress in New Orleans. The Congress ran from 17-October to 20-October, 1938. Since Krauss Department Store stood next to the Southern Railway passenger terminal on Canal Street, the store put up the logo for the Congress. Yes, the Krauss brothers were Jewish. Yes, they turned the store over in 1920 to their Jewish brother-in-law, Leon Heymann. No, that didn’t matter, when all those Catholics got off trains, emerging into the Canal Street sunlight, next to their store.

Eucharistic Congress

The Catholic Church holds large events called Eucharistic Congresses. While synods and such are political/business events, a Eucharistic Congress is for the faithful. These events included meetings, seminars, lectures, and, naturally, Mass. The ultimate event for a Congress was usually a big, outdoor Mass for hundreds, even thousands of attendees.

Shopping and Trains

Krauss 1938 promoted the Eucharistic Congress that year. The Southern Railway ran a special train, from Washington, DC, to New Orleans, prior to the opening of the Congress. That special run transported Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and others from the Northeast to New Orleans for the event. Other trains brought clergy and lay attendees to the city from across the country.

While trains converged upon all five passenger stations, Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets concerned Krauss 1938 the most. This passenger terminal serviced trains from Southern Railway and Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio. So, Catholics from all destinations in those systems ended their journey to the Congress on Canal Street. Right next to Krauss.

As attendees got off the trains, many naturally realized they forget this or that from home. A full-service department store right next to the station attracted these folks. Guests at nearby hotels like the Roosevelt walked over to Krauss for shopping and souveniers. That huge logo welcomed them with open arms.

 

Krauss 1903 #KraussFriday

Krauss 1903 #KraussFriday

Krauss 1903 was the first year of the store’s operation.

krauss 1903

Krauss 1903

Front-page ad in The Daily Picayune for Krauss Department Store, May 15, 1903. The store opened to the public in April of 1903. So, at this point, Krauss was about a month old.

The ad features a “Special Sale of House Furnishings,” mostly linens and other bedding accessories. The Krauss Brothers had been in the dry goods business for years, prior to opening their store. Their network of wholesale connections along the east coast was extensive. Throughout the store’s history, the company acquired lots of merchandise for quick sale.

Location

Krauss appeared quite different in May, 1903, than it did when it closed in October, 1997. The original store was just the two-story front section, facing Canal Street, in the 1201 block. Leon Fellman purchased the buildings fronting the 1201 block in the late 1880s. He sat on the property for about ten years. At that time, Rampart Street, the northernmost part of the French Quarter, stood as a hard boundary for retailers.

When Fellman learned that the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad planned to build a passenger rail terminal in the next block, he tore down the existing buildings. Prior to 1908, the railroad terminal at Basin Street connected Canal Street with Spanish Fort. The NO&NE operated out of the terminal on Press and Royal Streets, in the Ninth Ward. The move to Canal Street promised to boost the neighborhood. The 1201 location marked the entrance to the Storyville District.

Fellman built the initial two-story store. Since he already had his own store at 800 Canal (corner Carondelet), Fellman convinced the Krauss brothers to lease the property. Two of the four brothers operated a store in the 801 block of Canal, closing it in 1901. The four came together to operate the store at 1201. They turned the store over to their brother-in-law, Leon Heymann, in 1920.