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.
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.
Cash Boys moved the money before cash registers
D.H. Holmes used Cash Boys up to the 1920s. Here’s a group of them in 1910.
Cash Boys were employees of large dry goods and department stores. Before cash registers, these stores puzzled over how to control money on the sales floor. Cash drawers meant money spread out everywhere. Managers trusted their employees, but they didn’t trust customers. Shoplifting required security. Cash required even more security.
Stores centralized cash, usually at a “cashier” station. In some stores, a clerk sat in a booth like that of a bank teller. Sales people worked hard to please customers. Sending the shopper to a cash cage cut into customer satisfaction.
Enter the Cash Boy. The sales clerk wrote up the transaction. The customer paid. The Cash Boy ran the money from the sales counter to the cash desk. The cash clerk made change, stamped the receipt as paid. The Cash Boy ran those back to the customer.
Stores, from Fellman’s to MB, to Holmes, trusted Cash Boys. They were usually children of store employees. They knew that stealing would cost the parent their job. Besides, being a Cash Boy had interesting perks. At Krauss, a couple of cash boys grabbed a quick nap. They slept longer than planned, though. When they woke up, the store closed for the evening. To survive the night, they made their way to the candy counter and sugared up! They didn’t suffer dire consequences, though, since everyone was glad they were all right.
Mechanization of the transaction
Multiple cash drawers required multiple locks and keys. It’s easy to pop open a simple cash drawer. As recently as the 1980s, Radio Shack stores used simple cash drawers. The drawers unlocked by pulling two or three levers under the drawer with your fingers. Simple enough, but a strong pull on the drawer forced it open. When the chain added computers to the sales counter (ironic, given they sold computers for years), a more-secure drawer became part of the system.
Canal Street stores stuck with Cash Boys until well into the 20th Century. Concerns over child labor motivated changes. Some stores converted to cash registers. Krauss Department Store favored a centralized system. They installed a pneumatic tube system in the store at 1201 Canal. They ran tubes from sales counters throughout the store to the office. A five-foot-by-five-foot box fan provided the airflow in the tubes. When a clerk sold something, they wrote up the transaction and put the cash and sales slip into a pod. That pod went in the tube and flew up to the office. The cash clerk processed the sale and returned the slip and change via the tube. Cash boys went back to school.
Feibelman’s replaces Leon Fellman’s upon the passing of the patriarch
Feibleman’s Department Store, 1923 ad in the Loyola Maroon
The department store operated at 800 Canal Street, corner Carondelet, for eleven years. The store was Leon Fellman’s until 1920. The store’s name changed when Leon Fellman passed away in 1920. So, the family operated the store under the original German name after that.
The store occupied the old Pickwick Hotel building. In 1897, Leon Fellman lost his lease on his space across the street, in the Mercier building. Simon Shwartz acquired that building, at 901 Canal Street, for his new department store venture. So, Fellman convinced the owners of the hotel to lease the building to him for a store. Shwartz opened Maison Blanche at 901 Canal and Fellman moved to 800 Canal.
Lippman Feibelman left Germany to join his older brother in New Orleans in the 1860s. His brother already changed his name to Bernard Fellman. Lippman followed his brother’s lead, changing his name to Leon Fellman. The brothers established themselves in the local Jewish retail community. Eventually, they opened a store on Canal Street. The brothers split in 1884, when the Mercier Building opened at 901 Canal. Bernard stayed in the 700 block. Leon opened a new store at Canal and Dauphine.
In 1899, Fellman bought the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal Street. In 1902, he demolished those buildings. So, he built a store in their place. Fellman leased 1201 Canal Street to the Krauss Brothers. The four brothers opened Krauss Department Store there.
The name change
Leon Fellman’s became one of the big stores on Canal Street. When Leon’s health declined in 1918-1919, he worked with the Krauss brothers and their brother-in-law, Leon Heymann, to consolidate The Krauss Company. Fellman sold his interest in the store to Heymann. Krauss became totally family-owned.
Upon Fellman’s passing, his family made several legal moves. They re-organized the corporation what owned the store. The Fellmans changed the name of the store, but with a twist. The family used the spelling, “Feibleman”, rather than the brothers original name, Feibelman.
The family moved the store to the corner of Baronne and Common in 1931. They sold the store to Sears Roebuck in 1936.
I’ve yet to sort out why the family went to such lengths to distance themselves from Leon Fellman.
This ad is from 1923. Feibleman’s advertised regularly in Loyola University’s student newspaper, the maroon. College students often didn’t have “good clothes”. So, all of the downtown department stores advertised in the Maroon.
More about Leon Fellman
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store by Edward J. Branley
Fellman was an important part of the Krauss story. You can learn about it in my book, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store.
Retail Giants at the Tennessee Williams Festival!
The Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival is a fantastic annual event. It’s in the French Quarter. I’ve been asked to be part of a panel titled Retail Giants. The panel will be on Friday, March 23, at 10am. It will be in the Queen Anne Ballroom of the Hotel Monteleone.
The Festival runs from Wednesday, March 21 to Sunday, March 25. Festival HQ is open on the Mezzanine level of the Hotel Monteleone. The hotel is at 214 Royal Street. HQ operates from Thursday-Sunday, from 9am to 4pm. There’s lots of interesting talks, discussion panels, and other events. Check out the full festival schedule.
Retail Giants – The Panel
Here’s the blurb on the panel:
New Orleans is a nostalgic town that cherishes its diehard institutions, particularly the retailers who became household names over multiple generations. David Johnson of the New Orleans Museum of Art moderates a panel of authors whose work chronicles where New Orleanians made groceries, furnished homes, and browsed for bric-a-brac. David Cappello is the biographer of John G. Schwegmann; Ed Branley writes about Krauss Department Store, and John Magill is the author of a recent book about that popular commercial and social thoroughfare, The Incomparable Magazine Street.
I’m looking forward to this. The authors know their stuff! So, I’ll be the lightweight in this group.
Krauss, Maison Blanche, and Streetcars!
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
I was invited to participate on this panel because of the latest book, Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, but my earlier book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, fits the subject wonderfully. I’ll be talking both Krauss and MB, and how retail evolved on Canal Street. There’s lots of New Orleans history here, as Canal Street was the nexus of many separate communities, as folks came downtown to shop. Therefore, we’ll talk a bit about streetcars as well, since they were an integral part of shopping on Canal and Magazine Streets.
There will be a lot of stories and fun on Friday. I’m looking forward to seeing y’all there.