Maison Blanche Postcard 1909

Maison Blanche Postcard 1909

This 1909 Maison Blanche Postcard pre-dates the Kress building.

maison blanche postcard

Maison Blanche Postcard

Maison Blanche Postcard from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1909. This photo shows a relatively specific point in time for MB and the 901 block of Canal Street. On the right, corner of Canal and Dauphine Streets, is the thirteen-story “second” MB building, now the Ritz-Carlton Hotel New Orleans. At the other end of the block stands the Audubon Building, a ten-story office building. The Grand Opera House stood in between these two buildings, but it Ain’t There No More! The property owners demolished the theater/opera venue right after MB completed construction of their store. So, that hole stood for just a few months. S. H. Kress came to New Orleans and built a store next to MB.

The 901 block

This postcard marks the last changes in the 901 block of Canal Street to this day. The Grand Opera House had a narrow frontage on Canal. The theater widened after the length of the Audubon Building, going back to Iberville Street. S. H. Kress did not build out as wide as the theater. So, the back part of the block filled in with buildings that fronted Iberville.

Transit

The Maison Blanche postcard shows four vehicles in the 901 block. One is a small automobile (at least I think it’s motorized rather than horse-drawn), passing in front of the Audubon Building. Another automobile rests in front of the entrance to the “Maison Blanche Office Building, next to the empty hole in the block. That large doorway led to a set of elevators which carried folks up to the sixth through thirteenth floors. Those elevators bypassed the retail space in the first five floors.

The other vehicle in the street appears to be a wagon, pulled by two horses. That leaves the streetcar, traveling outbound on the center, main line track. Streetcars operated on four tracks on Canal Street, until the neutral ground was renovated in 1957. The city cut back to just the two center tracks at that time.

The streetcar is a “Palace” car, built by the American Car Company. They first operated in St. Louis, for that city’s 1904 World’s Fair. New Orleans Railway and Light liked the design. So, they bought them for the Canal/Esplanade belts, and for the Napoleon line.

Postcard

Detroit Publishing Company printed a number of postcards of Canal Street, from the 1900s to the 1920s. The cover of my book is another Detroit Publishing photo.

#MBMonday

maison blanche postcard

Here’s an ad from this date in 1952, in the Times-Picayune newspaper. “Pineapple butter cream gold layer cake. The tangy taste of this pineapple butter cream icing will be enjoyed by your entire family. Just like home made . . . a super treat.” Just $1.05, from the Cake Department on the first floor.

Greatest Store South!

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche – The first store away from Canal Street.

tulane carrollton maison blanche - the strip mall at tulane and S. carrollton, prior to Maison Blanche

Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche

Two photos of the corner of Tulane and S. Carrollton, one prior to the opening of Maison Blanche Carrollton and the other as the store’s life was winding down. The strip shopping center at this corner dates back before World War II. After the war, it becomes Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche, as the department store expanded past 901 Canal Street. As the chain grew, the original Carrollton store moved to up Airline Highway. That store later re-located to Clearview Mall, where it remained until Dillard’s acquired the chain.

Tulane and Carrollton before MB

The earlier photo here shows the strip center with an A&P grocery store. While this photo, from Franck Studios (via HNOC), is undated, the A&P puts it between the construction of the center in 1940 and the closure of the grocery in 1946. Mid City Lanes opened in 1941. The bowling alley operated on the second floor of the lake side of the center. The ground floor contained a Morgan and Lindsey “dime store.” The ground floor, lake side appears to be unoccupied.

Walgreens

Even though the venerable drugstore chain Katz and Besthoff continues to own the hearts of locals, Walgreens opened its first store in the city in 1938. From that first location at 900 Canal Street, the chain branched out into other neighborhoods. Walgreens opened their Mid-City store here at Tulane Carrollton Maison Blanche, in 1941.

Regal Beer leased the roof space above the Walgreens. Their sign, which included a clock, towers over the intersection. The city’s minor-league baseball team, the Pelicans, played in their ballpark across the street. The St. Charles/Tulane Belt streetcar lines turned here, heading up and down Tulane Avenue. Behind the strip center, to the west, Tulane Avenue morphed into Airline Highway (US 61). Airline Highway connected New Orleans with Baton Rouge and other points west.

Maison Blanche on the corner

tulane carrollton maison blanche - the strip mall at tulane and S. carrollton, including Maison Blanche

After World War II, various retail chains in the city were free to implement expansion plans long held in check because of the war. Maison Blanche opened two “suburban” stores in 1947, in Gentilly and here in Mid-City. The store raised the height of the roof on the the A&P section of the strip. They offered shoppers the ground floor as retail space and stored stock on the new second floor.

This newer photo dates to the 1960s. While the changes to the corner around the strip center aren’t visible, they were significant. Pelican Park had been demolished. In its place rose the Fountainbleau Motor Hotel. Streetcar service on the Tulane line ended in 1951. The city ripped up the streetcar tracks and operated buses. With the New Canal now filled in, the Pontchartrain Expressway rose over the corner, leading auto traffic into town and to the Mississippi River Bridge.

Budget

MB Carrollton morphed into a “Budget Store” with the opening of MB Airline. The store sold discontinued items, markdowns, returns, etc., at its “Budget Annex,” located behind the main store, at Iberville and Dauphine Streets. When Airline opened, MB expanded its “budget” offerings to Carrollton. In Gentilly, they converted their first store in that neighborhood to a budget location, when the primary store moved to Gentilly Woods Shooping Center.

Department Store Artwork vs. Photography

Department Store Artwork vs. Photography

Department Store Artwork served as the foundation of newspaper retail advertising for over a century.

Department Store Artwork

Department store artwork vs. photography

Ads from D. H. Holmes and Maison Blanche Department Stores in the Times-Picayune, 4-March-1976. The Holmes ad presents ladies sportswear illustrations. The Maison Blanche ad features photographs of models wearing London Fog coats.

Department Store art departments

The artists that worked for Holmes, MB, Godchaux’s, and Krauss provided the ad copy to the newspapers. While some manufacturers offered “camera ready” artwork of their products, the store artists usually fashioned their own interpretations. They transformed illustrations and photos of anything from clothing to washing machines into ads. Even when provided with artwork, the ad creators still had to size and shape it into the newspaper-ready form.

D. H. Holmes

“Summer Separates by Koret of California” – this ad (top) entices ladies to the “Pontchartrain Sportswear” section of the chain’s stores. Additionally, note the mail order form in the bottom left. Holmes regularly presented ads in one section of Da Paper, with MB doing the same in another.

D. H. Holmes operated their iconic 819 Canal Street store, as well as locations at Lake Forest, Lakeside, Oakwood, and Southland Mall in Houma. Notice the ad, in the New Orleans newspaper, doesn’t list the mall’s name in Houma. Most folks in the metro area wouldn’t make the connection. The Lakeside and Houma locations listed here continue as Dillard’s stores.

Maison Blanche

Department Store Artwork

MB departs from the regular format on this day. While the ad features quality ladies fashion items, there’s a lot of text here. Three models present London Fog coats for women. The chain invited shoppers to meet Lou Ferrari, a representative of London Fog.

Additionally, Maison Blanche announced several events in this ad. In partnership with the Humanities Committee of Greater New Orleans, they presented a forum in the Canal Street store’s auditorium. Models made informal presentations at lunchtime at the Caribbean Room of the Pontchartrain Hotel, and the store sought instructors and staff for a new in-house program. MB operated their store at 901 Canal Street, as well as at Airline Village, Clearview, Lake Forest, and Westside.

Buy the book!

Mr. Bingle 1952

Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley

Want more photos and stories about New Orleans retail? Get my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.

Rex Dumbo 1960

Rex Dumbo 1960

Rex Dumbo 1960 – the flying elephant appeared in the big parade.

rex dumbo 1960

Rex Dumbo 1960

“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” in the 1960 Rex parade, 1-March-1960. This photo, by Howard “Cole” Coleman, offers a great “unpack.” It features several Canal Street stores, Maison Blanche, Katz and Besthof, Chandler’s Shoes. The K&B had been converted to the “Camera Center” by this time. The parade rolled down St. Charles Avenue from Uptown. It turned left going the wrong way up Canal, then made a u-turn at Rampart. Rex then rolled down to the river.

901 Canal Street

Maison Blanche dominates the 901 block. The store boasted five floors of retail space. The two towers of the “Maison Blanche Office Building” rose up an additional seven floors. The store’s entrance was at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Street (right behind Rex Dumbo 1960 here). The “office building” entrance stood at the other side of the building. A separate set of elevators lifted you up to a myriad of doctors, dentists, and other businesses above the store. The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans uses the old office building entrace as the main entrance of the hotel.

Katz and Besthof

K&B opened their store in the 800 block of Canal in the 1920s, to service those going to doctors in the MB building. By the late 1950s, the store became redundant, as the chain also operated a store across the street. So, K&B created the “Camera Center.” They sold cameras and photographic supplies on the second floor. The Camera Center grew in popularity, to the point where it took over the first floor as well.

Chandler’s to Baker’s

The Edison Brothers opened the first in their chain of Chandler’s Shoe Stores in 1922. By the 1930s, they expanded to New Orleans. They opened a Chandler’s in the 800 block, next to Lerner’s, just up from Gus Mayer and D. H. Holmes. The Edisons opened a second chain they called Baker’s Shoes. The New Orleans Chandler’s became a Baker’s in the 1970s. Baker’s eventually moved out to the malls. The chain closed the CBD location. The retail front of the building is now a spa/massage place.

King of Carnival

While many of the retail outlets on Canal Street erected grandstands, the stores in the 801 block chose not to. That offered prime parade-watching spots to folks who just wandered around. Cole Coleman stood on the neutral ground to get his photos. Additionally,Coleman crossed the neutral ground to take shots of the parade on the other side of Canal. At this time, Rex toasted his queen and the court at the Boston Club at 824 Canal.

The streetcars stopped, as they do today, at Liberty Street. They “switch-back” there, beginning their outbound runs.

Mugnier Rex 1907

Mugnier Rex 1907

George Mungnier Rex 1907 – A different angle from Allison’s.

mugnier rex 1907

Mugnier Rex 1907

George Francois Mugnier also caught the Rex Parade in 1907. His photo shows the parade moving lakebound, in the 800 block of Canal Street. A “riding Lieutenant” stands behind a float. A classic jazz band is behind the rider. The stores of the 801 block appear background right. the Mercier Building, with its golden cupola, rises, background center. The crowd stands on either side of Canal Street, as the parade goes up the Uptown side, turns around, then goes down the French Quarter side. Mules, draped with white canvas, pull the floats. The flagpole, flag furled around it, is likely the Lazard’s store.

Maison Blanche 1907

In our #AllisonUnpack earlier today, Alexander Allison caught the steel frame of the “new” MB building in distance of his 1907 photograph. Allison stood in the 500 block of Canal to catch this parade. Mugnier’s perspective, standing in the 700 block, offers more detail of the progress of the new store. The Mercier Building went up at 901 Canal in 1884. The Merciers acquired the corner from Christ Episcopal Church. The church chapter auctioned off their gothic-spire church that year. The sale netted the chapter enough to build the current Christ Episcopal Cathedral. That church towers over St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street. That corner is also a busy area on parade days.

So, Shwartz opened the Maison Blanche in the Mercier building in 1897. Ten years later, he felt growing pains. He planned a building with five stories of retail space. On top of that he built two office towers. The towers brought the total height of the building to twelve stories. A thirteenth story was added to the rear tower later. This became the studios of WSMB Radio.

Rear tower first

To keep MB operating during the construction, Shwartz moved everything from the store into the front half of the Mercier Building. The rear was then demolished. The rear tower rose in the empty space. When that tower was complete, MB moved into the new space. They tore down the front of the old building (alas, losing that magnificent cupola). In its place rose the front of the current building.

Transition

Mugnier may never have caught this transitional period for Maison Blanche, were it not for the Rex Parade. Allison’s and Mugnier’s photos are courtesy New Orleans Public Library.

1907 Rex Parade #AllisonUnpack

1907 Rex Parade #AllisonUnpack

Alexander Allison caught the 1907 Rex Parade from the 500 block of Canal Street.

Rex Parade 1907

1907 Rex Parade

The parade of Rex, King of Carnival, heading down Canal Street, on 12-February-1907. Photograph by Alexander Allison. The photographer stood on the roof of a building in the 500 block of Canal, looking up the street. The photo shows the 601, 701, and 801 blocks of Canal Street. The structure of the Maison Blanche Building is visible on the far left side.

Alexander Allison’s photographs

Allison was an engineer for the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board from 1900 until his retirement in 1959. He carried a camera with him all around the city. When Mr. Allison passed in 1964, his daughter donated his photo collection to the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL).

Allison’s photographs document the growth and changes in New Orleans in the first half of the 20th Century. His photos are an incredible resource.

Unpacking 1907

So, Allison catches the Rex parade on Canal Street. The parade came down St. Charles Avenue from Uptown. They turned left at Canal, going on the wrong side of the street. Not a problem, of course, since the parade route was closed. This enabled Rex to pass in front of the Boston Club, in the 800 block. Rex toasted his queen and court there. The parade went up to Rampart Street, where it made a u-turn. They paraded down Canal, turning onto N. Front Street, where they disbanded.

Retail Shops

Almost every building on the French Quarter side of Canal Street erected reviewing stands for Carnival. Mayer’s anchored the corner of Canal and Chartres Streets, at 601. The four-story Touro Buildings in the 701 block remain very much as they were when built in the 1840s. After the big fire of 1892, the building at the corner of Canal and Bourbon Street was raised to five stories. The dry goods store, B. Cohn Company, occupied that space in 1907. The first two floors of the Touro Buildings held retail shops, usually owned by Jewish retailers. Judah Touro rented to fellow members of that community, and the practice continued throughout the 19th Century. Marks Isaacs, previously partnered with Charles Kaufman on Dryades Street. He then joined with S. J. Shwartz at Maison Blanche. In 1907, Isaacs left MB, opening his own store in the Touro Buildings. The Marks Isaacs store closed in the 1960s. The 801 block included Hanan & Son Shoes, Kreegers, and D. H. Holmes. Allison’s position in the 500 block compresses the view of the 801 and 901 blocks.

Maison Blanche

The steel superstructure of the “new” Maison Blanche building is visible on the far left of the photo. S. J. Shwartz demolished the 1884-vintage Mercier Building in 1907. He tore down the back of his store, building the rear section first. When that structure was complete, Maison Blanche moved everything into the new building. They then tore down the rest of the old building, that fronted Canal Street.

Identifying the photo

The NOPL record for this photo lists several inaccuracies that made it a challenge to identify. While the photo said 1908, the theme of the parade and the Viking float at bottom right puts this as the 1907 parade. The MB construction also confirms this. The location listing says Allison was at the Chess, Checker, and Whist Club, but that is also inaccurate. That club stood further up, at 900 Canal Street. So, for this photo, Allison was five blocks further down. NOPL expresses concern about the accuracy of Allison’s dates and locations. The errors on this photo indicate they were likely made by someone going back through the collection, not Allison himself.

NOLA History Guy Patrons

Since this post is the first #AllisonUnpack of the series, it’s not behind the Patreon wall. We’ll elaborate on some of this in a second, patron-only post. After this, these unpacks will be in the usual format. Everyone will see the first 100ish words and the image, with the full story available for patrons.