The Maison Blanche Snack Shop was a wonderful bakery.
Maison Blanche Snack Store on Iberville
Franck Studios photo of the corner of Dauphine and Iberville Streets in the French Quarter in 1951. Maison Blanche opened a Bakery department in 1934. That concept extended into the “Snack Store” in 1945. The original snack store opened in the rear of the ground floor of 901 Canal Street. The company acquired the building at the corner in the mid-1940s. They renovated the interior and moved the Snack Store into it in 1946. The Snack Store closed in 1957 and the building was demolished.
Times-Picayune ad for the 2nd anniversery of the MB Bakery, 7-August-1936
MB entered the bakery business on August 7, 1934. In two years, as this ad shows, the bakery offered “Strawberry preserve silver layer cakes” and Lady Baltimore cakes as anniversery specials.
Times Picayune ad for the MB Bakery, 8-May-1935
The Angel Food Cake was so memorable, Judy Walker, the Times-Picayune’s food editor/columnist, got requests for its recipe as recently as 2007.
The Bakery stood on the ground floor of the store, in the section that joined the two MB office towers. It had a separate entrance at 135 Dauphine Street.
Bakery to Snack Store
Ad in the Times-Picayune, 28-January-1949, featuring imported soups, frozen strawberries, and Danish cherry wine
MB expanded the square feet of the Bakery Department in March of 1945. They added liquor, wine and liqueurs, along with a selection of “gourmet” canned foods, such as whole ducks, chickens, and guinea fowl. After the war, as rationing policies lifted, the Snack Store offered more fresh-cooked food, such as holiday turkeys. By 1949, they even sold live lobster, acting as a retail outlet for Seafood Delivery Services.
Expanding the building
Google Maps photo of the present-day Courtyard by Marriott, Iberville and Dauphine.
The two photos of the corner of Dauphine and Iberville show how the store did not extend all the way back into the block from Canal Street. When the Merciers acquired Christ Episcopal in 1884, the property extended about two-thirds of the way back to Customhouse Street (Iberville’s name at the time). They demolished the church (which re-located to St. Charles Avenue), building the Mercier Building. Shwartz converted that building into Maison Blanche in 1897. He demolished it in 1908, building out the retail and office space that stands at 901 Canal now.
So, that left the other third of the block, with its three-story building. Like several of the other big Canal Street stores, it took MB some time to acquire all of the space. They accomplished this by the 1940s. The Snack Store (along with the Bakery) was a good candidate to outright move into the new space. The corner building offered a separate entrance. Additionally, the move freed up retail space in the main store.
The company’s ultimate goal, however, was to expand the main store. They did so by demolishing the Snack Store building in 1957. MB extended the five-story retail space all the way to the corner. So, the store finally ran the length of the block. (By comparison, it took Krauss until 1952 to grow their store all the way to Iberville in the 1201 block.)
When new ownership converted the store into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, they planned to open the section facing Iberville as a separate concept. They planned to make the 1950s back section into luxury condos/short-term rentals. The market rejected that concept. The owners re-modeled those units into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
If you like the story of Maison Blanche, you’ll want to get my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, available at all the usual suspects.
This 1909 Maison Blanche Postcard pre-dates the Kress building.
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.
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.
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.
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 – The first store away from Canal Street.
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.
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
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.
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 served as the foundation of newspaper retail advertising for over a century.
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.
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!
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 – the flying elephant appeared in the big parade.
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.
George Mungnier Rex 1907 – A different angle from Allison’s.
Mugnier Rex 1907
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.
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.