Streetcars Canals Baseball in Mid-City New Orleans
Heinemann Park, 1915
Streetcars, Canals, Baseball!
In one of our podcast conversations with Derby Gisclair, we discussed aerial photos of Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium. Derby explains the neighborhood around the stadium used by the Pelicans baseball club. While Heinemann Park wasn’t the first ballpark used by the AA-club, it was their home for most of their tenure.
This 1915 photo is amazing. It shows a football field, chalked out over the outfield, and a racing oval behind the fence. Derby suspects the racing oval dates from the amusement park the stadium replaced.
City Park Avenue to Tulane Avenue
Aerial view of the New Canal, running out to Lake Pontchartrain at the top, 1915
The Pelicans played ball at Crescent City Park, later known as Sportsman’s Park, until 1901. They moved to Tulane Avenue that year. Heinemann built the ballpark at Tulane and S. Carrollton in 1915. The team moved there that year.
Here’s the area behind the Halfway House, City Park Avenue and the New Canal. It’s a bit grainy, but you can see the patch of ground where Sportsman’s Park was located. NORD eventually built St. Patrick’s Park, a few blocks down, at S. St. Patrick and the New Canal.
Getting to the ballgame
S. Carrollton Avenue bridge over the New Basin Canal. It was demolished when the canal was filled in, late 1940s.
Pelican Stadium sat very close to the New Canal. A set of railroad tracks separated the park from the waterway. So, bridge crossed the Canal there. The streetcars used that bridge, then turned onto Tulane Avenue to continue their inbound run. So, baseball fans from Uptown rode the St. Charles line to get to the ballpark. Folks coming from downtown rode the Tulane line, down Tulane Avenue, to the ballpark.
So, I know we’ve talked about the Tulane line, particularly when it operated in “belt” service with the St. Charles line. It seems line some things pop up regularly. But hey, this is baseball! The area around S. Carrollton and Tulane was a nexus. The Tulane/St. Charles belt crossed the New Canal here. Passenger trains coming to town from the West rolled by, on their way to the Illinois Central’s Union Station. Folks bowled across the street at Mid-City Lanes. Therefore, the corner is important to many folks.
Especially baseball fans.
After the streetcars
Pelican Stadium, ca 1950
Belt service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines was discontinued in 1950. So, after that time, fans from Uptown rode the streetcar to its new terminus at S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne Avenues. They transferred to the Tulane bus line from there. The Tulane line provided trackless trolley service until 1964. After 1964, Tulane used regular diesel buses. While the railroads worked with the city on the new Union Passenger Terminal, they trains still stopped right here, a convenience for Uptown passengers. The other “belt service” in New Orleans was on Canal and Esplanade, which we discuss in my book on the Canal line.
This photo is likely from 1950, because the city resurfaced Tulane Avenue. So, they removed the streetcar tracks, leaving the overhead wires for trackless trolleys.
After Pelican Stadium
The stadium became the Fontainebleau Hotel after the stadium was demolished. So, the hotel became a mini-storage facility later. Now it’s condos and storage units.
During World War II, NOPSI Patriotic Support traveled the street rails.
NOPSI 832 running on the Desire line, 1942. (New Orleans Public Library)
NOPSI Patriotic Support
When America went to war in Europe, New Orleans stepped up and did her part to support the cause. In World War I, the retailers on Canal Street regularly used their advertising space to promote the sale of war bonds and war stamps. Those bonds and stamps paid for the war. Americans bought bonds. The government paid troops, and contractors with that money. After the war, the government paid bond holders back.
Streetcars carried advertising regularly. The mule-drawn “bobtails” of the 1870s and 1880s displayed advertisements for opera productions, musicals, and other events. Electric streetcars carried ad placards advertising anything from soft drinks to Scotch whiskey. During the two world wars, those standard advertising frames included appeals for buying war bonds.
NOPSI patriotic support rose to a new level in 1942. The transit operator and utility company turned an entire streetcar into a war bonds ad. NOPSI 832 was an arch roof streetcar. NOPSI ordered the 800-series cars in 1923. The Perley A. Thomas Company of High Point, NC, built most of them. (Some were outsourced to other streetcar makers.) By the 1940s, the 800- and 900-series arch roofs replaced early streetcars running on the street rails of the city. While earlier streetcars sported colorful liveries, NOPSI standardized the look, using the familiar green we still see today.
Life after New Orleans
NOPSI 832 at Pennsylvania Trolley Museum (Mike Huhn photo)
NOPSI discontinued use of the 800-series in 1964. The company converted the Canal Street line to bus service that year. They retained of the 900-series streetcars. While some of the 800s were sold/donated to museums, most were demolished.
NOPSI 832 was one of the lucky 800s. The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum acquired the car in 1964. The museum placed the car into service immediately, since their tracks are the same gauge as New Orleans. NOPSI 832 continues to delight visitors to the museum.
Color photo: New Orleans Public Library
NOPSI 832 in Pennsylvania: Michael Huhn
Early Baseball in New Orleans by S. Derby Gisclair
This week’s NOLA History Guy Podcast goes long-form! Listen to our conversation with S. Derby Gisclair about his book, Early Baseball in New Orleans: A History of 19th Century Play. Derby will be talking baseball and signing his books tomorrow night at Octavia Books at 6pm.
Riders wait for the Broad line at a bus stop Iroquois Street Gentilly
Broad line bus stop Iroquois Street at Gentilly Boulevard
Bus Stop Iroquois Street Gentilly
Bus stop at Gentilly Blvd. and Iroquois Street, 10-Jun-1946. This Franck Studios photo has a court docket number in the corner. I haven’t looked up why NOPSI lawyers hired their go-to photographers to shoot this location yet.
There wasn’t much in Gentilly, below Franklin Avenue, at this time. In May of 1946, the Southern Baptist Convention upgraded the New Orleans Bible College to a seminary. The increased interest in the school motivated the SBC. They moved the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to its present location, directly across the street from this bus stop, in the 1950s.
The Broad Street line ran across town, from out here in Gentilly to Lowerline Street, uptown. Folks studying at NOBTS and their families at this time took the Broad bus to Franklin Avenue. They transferred to the Gentilly streetcar line, heading inbound, to get downtown. NOPSI discontinued the Gentilly streetcar line in 1957. The Franklin Avenue bus line replaced the streetcars.
The Broad line offered a lot of options to the rider. I used Broad to get from Brother Martin High School back to #themetrys in my high school years.
Times-Picayune ad announcing the opening of Maison Blanche Gentilly, September 12, 1947
In 1946, Maison Blanche was still a year from opening their store in Gentilly. The store opened its second location, closer to Elysian Fields, in September, 1947. The store at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues followed a few months later. By the 1950s, the Gentilly Woods subdivision grew rapidly. Maison Blanche recognized this. They moved their Gentilly store, from Frenchmen and Gentilly Blvd., to just down the street from NOBTS. MB rode that boom, then moved on to the next boom, New Orleans east. They moved the store to The Plaza at Lake Forest mall in 1974.
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
Lots of photos of those stores in my book, “Maison Blanche Department Stores” – check it out!
A not-to-scale 1945 streetcar track map shows many changes in the system.
1945 streetcar track map
I found this 1945 streetcar track map on a blog called “NOLAgraphy.” That blog appears to be in suspended animation.
1945 NOPSI highlights
This diagram shows only streetcar tracks. R. S. Korach drew the map. While the map is not to scale, it offers NOPSI rail employees an easy to view layout of the system. The miles of track shown here dropped dramatically compared to the 1928 system map we presented a couple of weeks ago. NOPSI converted many of the lines to buses just before WWII. They resumed those conversions as soon as they had clearance from the War Department in late 1945.
The map shows the basic track flow around the streetcar barns like Arabella Station.
Usable but Unused
The diagram shows segments of track from lines converted to bus service. NOPSI left track on many streets.
- The tracks around the “ball park” would be near Pelican Stadium, at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. The New Canal existed at this time. Streetcars crossed the canal near here. The purpose of those unused sections isn’t quite clear here.
- A second track existed on St. Charles and Camp Streets. The segments connected into a “U” via the outside track on Canal Street.
- Unused track on Ursulines Street remained after NOPSI converted the City Park line to buses.
- NOPSI discontinued belt service on Canal and Esplanade lines before the war. Esplanade then operated as a bus line. Usable streetcar track remained on Esplanade.
- Tracks with a passing siding connect Canal and Tulane at Dorgenois. The 1928 doesn’t show this connection.
- The diagram indicates that the outside track on the French Quarter side of Canal was unused at the time, with the exception of the Royal-Bourbon segment. Desire used this track to turn for the outbound run.
I have questions!
Decline of streetcars
As a visual tool, this map sums up the switch to buses. As a NOPSI map, many things on here require further research.
NOPSI bus roll signs remind me of my high school years
Roll sign used by NOPSI buses
NOPSI bus roll signs
A different story today for #StreetCarMonday. Aaron Handy shared several “roll signs” from NOPSI buses to the Vintage New Orleans Transit group a while back. Through some Facebook strangeness, the images came across my phone, while reading another post in that group. I time-traveled immediately back to my peak bus-riding days, the mid-1970s.
Elysian Fields lines
The first (top) image shows a roll sign for several of the lines in the eastern part of town. They operated out of Canal Station I’m not sure why “ST. CHARLES” is there, since that line was (and still is) street rail. I rode the “Elysian Fields Pont. Beach – U.N.O.” line regularly. The other Elysian Fields line ended at Gentilly Blvd. Most of my rides covered Gentilly to the lake. On days when I wanted t go all the way downtown, I’d walk down to Gentily Blvd. and catch the first bus available. The UNO bus came from up the street. Te Gentilly Blvd. bus would be in the turnaround on the river side of the intersection. So, it was easy to see which line to take.
In the other direction, I rode the Elysian Fields line up to UNO, to hitch a ride with my dad. He worked at the university for over thirty years. I rode in from #themetrys with him. He dropped me off a Brother Martin, and then it was up to me how I got home. Some days, we’d hop the Elysian Fields bus, then jump off at Mirabeau, to catch the Cartier line. Other days, we’d go all the way up to Robert E. Lee Blvd., to stop at he comic book store, before catching the Lake line to Spanish Fort.
The Esplanade line opened in June, 1861. It ran mule-drawn “bobtail” streetcars, before electrification in the 1890s. Esplanade and Canal ran in “belt” service for a time in the early 20th Century. NOPSI discontinued that belt service in the 1930s. Esplanade converted to bus service.
In the mid-1970s, the Esplanade line ran from Canal Street, down N. Rampart Street, then up Esplanade to Bayou St. John. From there, the line turned onto Wisner Blvd., then up City Park Avenue, to Canal Blvd. The Carrollton line started its inbound run at Elysian Fields and Gentilly Blvd, at the same turnaround used by the Elysian Fields-Gentilly Blvd. line. From there, Carrollton ran up Gentilly Blvd., to De Saix Street. It crossed the bayou there, then down Wisner Blvd. From there, it ran up Carrollton, to S. Claiborne Avenue. One of the options to get to the Veterans line was Carrollton to Esplanade.
NOPSI roll signs
The lines with numbers operated in “express” service. For an extra nickel (when the regular fare was a quarter), riders bypassed a significant number of stops, on the way toward the end of the line. For example, the Canal express lines, 80 and 81, made no stops on Canal Street from City Park Avenue to Claiborne. Express 91 and 92 made no stops on their respective streets from Gentilly Blvd to St. Claude.
Express 80 and 81 occasionally fit into the going-home calculus. In addition to he NOPSI bus roll signs, expres buses used amber flashing lights. The rider saw the lights and knew whether to get aboard. We’d take the Cartier or Lake lines from Elysian Fields to Spanish Fort. Usually, the next leg was Canal – Lake Vista via Canal Blvd. If the only bus at Spanish Fort was express, you had to decide if it was worth the extra nickel. Most of the drivers did let us slide. They knew we planned to get off at Robert E. Lee and Canal Blvd., or at the Cemeteries.
Then the process repeated itself. At Canal Blvd., we transferred to Canal – Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd. We rode that line to Veterans, by the old State Police station.
Modern bus routes
As time went on, NOPSI bus roll signs went digital, in the NORTA era. NORTA changed the route map dramatically in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While these same trips require fewer transfers, there are fewer buses, too. It’s much more of a challenge.
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Talking green streetcars and Benjamin Butler in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.
NOPSI 865, rounding the turn from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue in 1960
NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019
Two segments this week. We talk about our pick of the week from Today in New Orleans History. Then we “unpack” a photo from 1960.
May 1, 1862
top of the broadside printing of Butler’s proclamation of martial law and occupation, 1-May-1862
While the United States Navy compelled the surrender of New Orleans on 25-May-1862, it was the Army that did the heavy lifting from there. Major General Benjamin Butler, USA, issued a proclamation on 1-May-1862, announcing that New Orleans was under the control of the federal government. He also declared martial law.
The rebels lost the war on the night of 24-25 April, 1862. While many people died and much was destroyed before the formal armistice, it was all over when New Orleans returned to Union control. Farragut forced the rebels to retreat north of the city. Butler came over from Ship Island with his invading force and moved in. Once martial law was established, most of the occupying force moved North as well, in pursuit of the rebels.
Butler was pretty much an awful person. He had a massive ego. To be fair, so did Farragut and Porter. All three commanders claimed credit for the victory in New Orleans. It’s hard to say who was the worst in this respect, but Butler received the most disparagement. The Lost Cause mythos plays out locally, portraying Butler as a venal man and petty thief. The “spoons” legend is an example. Butler and the USA had orderly procedures for occupying New Orleans. They confiscated gold and silver from residents. Butler didn’t pocket spoons, he sent his troops to loot entire houses!
May 1st is Inauguration Day in New Orleans. Two notable 1-May inaugurations were in 1978, when Ernest Nathan “Dutch” Morial officially became the city’s first African-American mayor. Last year, 2018, Latoya Cantrell became the city’s first woman mayor. It’s important to note that 1-May was set as inauguration day by the charter changes of 1954. As much as grumpy liberals who hate Mitch Landrieu want to slander him, he didn’t engineer a way to stay around through the city’s Tricentennial.
NOPSI 865, 1960
Our photo this week is of NOPSI 865, a vintage-1923 arch roof streetcar. This “Charley car” turns from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue, on an inbound run. We unpack the photo in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.
I’m working on a long-form pod about Da Paper, now that it looks like John Georges is going to vaporize it. That will go up in 2-3 weeks. Working on preserving the memories of the “digital” years.
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