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.
The Krauss Service Building more than doubled the size of the Canal Street favorite.
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
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.
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!
The Bernadotte Street Yard ran from Canal Blvd. to Jefferson Davis Parkway
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
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.