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.
Limmud Fest New Orleans 2018
Limmud Fest New Orleans 2018
We’re going to Limmud Fest New Orleans 2018! Mr. Hugo Kahn and I will discuss Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store. The presentation is on Sunday, March 18th, 10:20am, at the Jewish Community Center Uptown. We’ll gladly sign the copy of the book you buy from Octavia Books at the event.
What is Limmud Fest New Orleans 2018?
From the Limmud Fest website:
LimmudFest New Orleans is a weekend festival of Big Tent Jewish learning, arts, culture and spirituality — all planned by volunteers. It is part of a global movement inspired by the idea that when Jews from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate and learn about everything Jewish, the entire community is enriched.
Krauss Department Store on Canal Street is steeped in New Orleans history. Since the Krauss Brothers, their brother-in-law, Leon Heymann, and his family, and Hugo Kahn, the top-level ownership and management of the store through the years, are all Jewish, the store is a cornerstone of Jewish retail history. It’s a great topic for a weekend of Jewish learning.
Hugo Kahn – President of Krauss, Incorporated.
Mr. Kahn is the reason the book has been so well received. When Hugo closed down the store for the Heymann family in 1997, instructed that all the stuff from the offices be boxed up and brought out to the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans. Those twelve linear feet of photos, documents, and memorabilia were essential to telling the Krauss story.
At talks and presentations I’ve done since the book dropped last September, Hugo will gladly join in. He answers questions from guests and shares his memories and thoughts on the store. For Limmud Fest New Orleans 2018, Hugo is the star, and I’m looking forward to him taking the mic. Hugo’s involvement with Krauss began in 1967, when the late Jimmy Heymann hired him as Controller. Hugo, working for Jimmy and later, his son, Jerry, ran the store, from Jimmy’s passing to the store’s closure.
Edward Branley, the NOLA History Guy
Yeah, I’ll be there, too.
Sunday, March 18th
Come out and hear Hugo tell the story! I’ll be along with photos and background on the origins of the store.
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The Touro Buildings
Touro Buildings, 1873 (public domain image courtesy THNOC)
The Touro Buildings – Canal Street Retail
This pod begins a series we’ll be presenting on the connections between Krauss Department Store and other merchants up and down Canal Street. The logical place to start is the 700 block of Canal Street, between Royal and Bourbon Streets. From it’s beginnings as the first location of Christ Episcopal Church, to the end of the 19th Century, the 700 block is the story of the Touro Buildings and the merchants who set up shop there.
Second Christ Episcopal, Bourbon and Canal (public domain image courtesy THNOC)
700 Block of Canal Street, ca 1842. (public domain image courtesy THNOC)
Christ Episcopal was founded in 1805. They built their first church on Canal and Bourbon in 1816. That church lasted about 25 years. Because Protestant Americans kept moving to New Orleans, they outgrew the church. So, the chapter demolished the first church. They built a second on the same corner. The second church looked like a Greek temple, with six massive Ionic columns. The second church serviced the congregation until 1846. The chapter needed more land for a larger church. They purchased the corner of Canal and Dauphine, in the 900 block of Canal Street.
The chapter sold the second church to businessman Judah Touro. Touro worked to buy up the 700 block of Canal. While he acquired the rest of the block, he set up Temple Sinai in the church in the 700 block. While Touro wrapped up the 700 block, he moved Temple Sinai further uptown. He demolished the buildings in the 700 block of Canal. He built the “Touro Buildings,” a set of four-story buildings with shared walls, townhouse-style. Touro opened the buildings for lease in 1852.
A. Shwartz and Sons
Sanborn Fire map of 700 block of Canal St, 1856 (public domain image courtesy Tulane Howard-Tilton Library)
Abraham Shwartz was born in 1820. He opened his store, A. Shwartz Dry Goods, in the 1840s. In 1852, he moved into the newly-opened Touro Buildings. So, the store become A Shwartz & Sons in the 1870s, when Abraham’s firstborn, Nathan, joined the company. Abram’s second son, Leon, soon followed. When third son Simon was old enough to join the company, he traveled to New York, to become the company’s buyer in that city.
Bernard and Leon Fellman
Touro Buildings, 1880s. (S.T. Blessing photo in the public domain)
Bernard and Leon Fellman came to New Orleans in the 1860s, and opened their first store in the Touro Buildings in 1873. In 1878, they expanded from the first store at 133 Canal, opening a second store down the block at 129 Canal. In 1889, The brothers split. Leon bypassed the 800 block of Canal, moving to the Mercier Buildings in the 900 block. So, Bernard closed 133 Canal, keeping 129 Canal as B. Fellman Dry Goods.
The Fire, 16-February-1892
Fire in the 700 block of Canal Street, 16-Feb-1892 (public domain photo courtesy THNOC)
Almost the entire 700 block of Canal Street, the Touro Buildings, were destroyed in a fire on February 16, 1892. The fire burned out both the Shwartz and Fellman stores. The impact of the fire was dramatic. Abram Shwartz died weeks later, of a heart attack. The family always said the loss of the store killed him. Bernard Fellman’s store burned as well. While Bernard’s health was not good before the fire, the circumstances did not improve him. He passed away on September 3, 1892. His family did continue to operate the store into the 20th century.
The MB Book!
Maison Blanche Department Stores