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.
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.
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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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Bus and streetcar routes in New Orleans were laid out in NOPSI Maps.
1928 NOPSI transit map
Maps of the local transit system are essential for riders. While those maps are most often found online these days, proper paper maps existed for generations before handheld devices with Everything.
Lots of interesting things here, on this 1928 map. This is a year before the 1929 Transit Strike (the origin of the po-boy, etc.). In terms of total miles of track, this is the zenith of streetcar operations. The 1929 strike changed how New Orleans commuted. NOPSI worked to get riders back, but it was not an overnight process.
Some things here that caught my eye:
- The Napoleon line went all the way out to Shrewsbury Road in Metairie. Streetcar service in Metairie ended in 1934.
- The Canal and Esplanade lines ran in “belt service” at this time. NOPSI provided “Cemeteries” service that ran to the end of Canal Street.
- The “Canal Bus” ran on Canal Blvd, out to Fillmore Ave.
- NOPSI offered no service on North Carrollton Avenue. Mid-City, between Canal Street and Bayou St. John contained the Bernadotte Street railroad yard and extensive industry. NOPSI services the neighborhood with the City Park line.
- West End ran out to the lake, along the New Canal. While the regular Spanish Fort line no longer operated, NOPSI maps indicate the seasonal shuttle line.
The Canal/Esplanade belts defined service in Mid-City at the time. While there were shorter, “support” lines, the neighborhood relied primarily on the Canal line.
NOPSI provided extensive streetcar and bus service Uptown. So, NOPSI maps show the St. Charles and Tulane lines running in “belt” service. While the original operators consolidated years before this map, the older lines continued on. Prytania, Laurel, and Tchoupitoulas operated at this time. So, Claiborne, Freret, St. Charles, and Magazine lines operated as the main cross-Uptown lines. Those lines operate today.
The Gentilly line ran from downtown out to Dreux Avenue on Franklin Avenue. Bus service on Elysian Fields only operated to Florida. The Pontchartrain Railroad still ran out to Milneburg at this time.
Vintage New Orleans Transit is a fun group on Facebook, if you’re active on that platform.
Finally, check out NOLA History Guy Podcast!
Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion – electric with no rails
NOPSI Trackless Trolley on the Magazine line. Undated Franck-Bertacci photo, ~1948-1952
Magazine Street Trackless Trolley Conversion
Riders Digest flyer, 11-February-1948 (courtesy Aaron Handy, III)
New Orleans Public Service, Inc (NOPSI) discontinued streetcars on a number of lines after World War II. Magazine Street was one of these lines. While most lines transitioned to diesel buses, Magazine Street used “trackless trolleys” from 1948 to 1964.
Mules to Electrics to Buses
The Magazine Street line began operation in June, 1861. It used mule-drawn streetcars until 1895. The line electrified in 1895. The first electrics on Magazine were open-vestibule cars that were quickly replaced by single-truck Brills. When the arch roof cars began service on Canal, the 1905-vintage “Palace” cars shifted to Magazine and other upriver-downriver lines. Eventually, the 800-900 series arch roofs operated everywhere in the city.
NOPSI planned to convert streetcars to buses in 1940, but WWII delayed that. The War Department refused the conversions, saying the increased consumption of rubber and diesel fuel were unacceptable.
NOPSI 931 at Arabella Station on Magazine Street, 1947. (Franck-Bertacci Studios, THNOC)
Magazine originally ran outbound on Camp, inbound on Magazine Street. Streetcars ran up to Toledano Street. The direction on Camp and Magazine flipped in the 1920s. Since then, line runs inbound on Magazine Street to St. Andrew. The inbounds turn there onto Sophie Wright Place, then onto Camp Street at Felicity. From there, they run to Canal Street. The end of the line is on Canal and Magazine. Outbound travels all the way up on Magazine, to Audubon Park. Magazine continued past the park, up Broadway to S. Claiborne until 1933. The service cut back to the park when the Freret line opened.
Ripping up the streetcar tracks on Camp Street, 1948 (NOPL)
The government lifted wartime restrictions in 1947. NOPSI discontinued streetcar operations as soon as possible. While West End and other long-haul lines switched to buses, The city ripped up the tracks in after trackless trolleys began operation in February, 1947. The overhead wire remained until 1964.