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NOLA History Guy Podcast 05-April-2020 presents the first of a four-part series on the Riverfront Streetcar line.
Rollboard sign on NORwy&Lt 208, showing it running on the Tchoupitoulas line, 1925
NOLA History Guy Podcast 05-April-2020
Two segments on NOLA History Guy Podcast 05-April-2020, our pick of the week from NewOrleansPast.com, and the start of a series on the Riverfront Streetcar line.
Today in New Orleans History
Ad in the Times Picayune, 28-March-1924
Our Pick of the week from the Facebook group, Today in New Orleans History, is Campanella’s entry for April 2nd. Daniel Henry Holmes opened his store on 2-April-1842. The first store was not the Canal Street location. He opened up at 22 Chartres, in the French Quarter. The store did well, and Holmes moved to the 800 block of Canal Street in 1849. D. H. Holmes is an icon, from “meet me under the clock” to the selection of merchandise, to the suburban stores.
There’s nothing more New Orleans than a discussion on social media about which store your momma liked better, Holmeses or Maison Blanche! We thought about adding a discussion or quote section in NOLA History Guy Podcast 05-April-2020, but it can get ugly.
The 2-April entry at New Orleans Past shows two ads from the Times-Picayune. The first is from 28-March-1924. It includes a pictorial history of D. H. Holmes around the border. Very nice!
Da Clock! Ad in the Times-Picayune, 2-April-1938
The second ad is from 2-April-1938. To celebrate the store’s birthday, D. H. Holmes ordered a 400-pound birthday cake, featuring, naturally, the clock!
Riverfront Streetcar History
NORwy&Lt 208, Ford, Bacon & Davis car, on the Tchoupitoulas line in 1925 (Franck Studios/HNOC)
We present a four-part series on the Riverfront Streetcar Line. The line rolled for the first time in 1899. The series:
I. Background – streetcars running along the New Orleans Riverfront
II. The Riverfront line, 1988-1997
III. The updated line, 1997-present
IV. NORTA 461 – History of a Riverfront streetcar
Today: Part I – background leading up to 1988
Johnson Bobtail streetcar passing the French Market, ca 1880
Prior to the Riverfront line, streetcars didn’t operate close to the riverfront. That’s because the wharves and railroad tracks occupied the space. The closest streetcars were on the streets servicing the Riverfront, like Tchoupitoulas, Laurel, and Annunciation Streets uptown, and N. Front and Decatur Streets to the French Market on the downtown side.
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Transit maintenance on Canal Street is our photo breakdown this week
Workers from the New Orleans City RR Company, inspecting overhead wires for streetcars on Canal St, 1901
This is a wonderful photo, just to enjoy. It offers a lot to break down as well. The scene is 1901 or 1902, Canal Street, right by the rear of the Liberty Monument. Prior to electrification, streetcars running on the Canal Street line stopped in the 200 block. They turned around there and headed outbound.
Liberty Place in 1906
The photographer taking our breakdown photo stands right behind the Liberty Monument. For the sordid history of this obelisk (now removed after being designated a public nuisance), start with its Wikipedia entry. In 1894, the two main streetcar operators in town hired the engineering firm of Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D), to make recommendations on how to proceed with electric streetcars in New Orleans. They made a number of suggestions, along with designing a single-truck streetcar specifically for operation in the city.
Streetcar tracks around Liberty Place, 1899
The photo above shows the Liberty Monument, looking from the river, opposite from our breakdown photo. FB&D designed a single-track loop around the monument for streetcars. The inbound cars looped around, then parked on layover tracks behind the monument, in the 200 block.
By 1899, all streetcar operations merged into a single company. They adopted the name, New Orleans City Railroad Company (NOCRR). This was the name of the company that originally operated the Canal and Esplanade lines, as well as a number of other backatown lines, beginning in 1861. Their main streetcar barn and maintenance facility was in Mid-City, at Canal and N. White Streets. So, our work crew here likely came down Canal from that station, or possibly up St. Claude Avenue, from their Poland Avenue barn. They bring this mule-drawn wagon and two big ladders to Liberty Place. They set up the ladders in the back of the wagon, leaving the mule unattended! I don’t know f I’d have that much faith in the mule to stay still.
There are three types of streetcars in the photo. There are two FB&D single-truck cars, two Brill single-truck cars, and one of the 500-series double-truck streetcars from the American Company. These were the forerunners of the venerable “Palace” streetcars that were so popular on the Canal, West End, and Napoleon lines. This car, 510, ran on the West End line. It’s finished the loop around the monument, preparing for its outbound run to the lakefront. The streetcar system grew rapidly after 1900. So, transit maintenance was important!
Today in New Orleans History – March 17, 1930
Hibernia Bank Building, location of the offices of the Mississippi Steamship Company, 1930s
In addition to our transit maintenance photo, we offer our pick of the week from Campanella’s NewOrleansPast.com website (also as a Facebook group, Today in New Orleans History) is from March 17, 1930. Ms. Campanella takes us back to a story from the late, wonderful, historian and storyteller, Gaspar “Buddy” Stall. Stall wrote that the first “coffee break” in America happened on this day, in the Hibernia Bank Building on Carondelet. The Mississippi Steamship Company (later re-organized as the Delta Steamship Company, operators of the Delta Queen cruise steamer/riverboat) called their eighty employees together at 3:30pm, for a gathering where they served coffee, in the Brazilian tradition. Word spread around in America, and that’s how we got the “coffee break.”
Buy Edward Branley’s books, Catherine Campanella’s, and Buddy Stall’s!
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.
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Royal Street Photo Breakdown on this week’s podcast!
100-200 Blocks of Royal Street, 1916.
Royal Street Photo Breakdown
Derby Gisclair shared a neat photo from 1916 earlier this week on social media. The photographer stands in the middle of the 100 block of Royal Street, looking down into the 200 block. As I was looking through some other photos, I came across a 1956 photo of Royal, where that photographer stood almost in the same place. Time for a Royal Street Photo Breakdown!
At the top of the page is the 1916 photo, with Solari’s on the left, an electric sign for Fabacher’s Restaurant hanging over the street, then the Commercial Hotel and Union Bank on the right.
Franck-Bertacci Studios photo of the 100-200 blocks of Royal Street, 1956.
Fast forward to 1956. Solari’s is still on the left. The Commercial Hotel is now the Monteleone Hotel. Fabacher’s Restaurant, which was the hotel restaurant for the Commercial, is long closed. Walgreen’s drug store replaced the bank building in the late 1940s. That drug store remains today.
In the 1916 photo, streetcar tracks and the overhead wiring are visible. The Desire streetcar line ran inbound on Royal Street. The streetcars turned right onto Canal Street. They ran up one block, then turned right again. They ran down Bourbon Street for the French Quarter portion of the outbound run. We’ve talked about the Desire line before, and how it was the main connector for the Quarter.
Buses replaced streetcars on Desire in 1948. So, by the 1956 photo, the tracks and wires are long gone. The maroon-and-cream NOPSI buses serviced Desire.
NewOrleansPast.com – January 15th
NOPSI 817, operating in Belt Service in the 1940s.
Our pick of the week from NewOrleansPast.com (Facebook page, Today in New Orleans History) is Ms. Campanella’s entry for January 15th. The Tulane streetcar line rolled for the first time on 15-January-1871. Mules pulled the streetcars then. The line switched to electric streetcars in the 1890s. Tulane operated in “belt service” with the St. Charles line from 1900 to 1951. Listen to our podcast episode on “Riding the Belt” for more details on that.
NOPSI converted the West End streetcar line to diesel buses on 15-January, 1950, as part of the trend away from electric street rail operations. West End operated as steam train service until the 1890s. After that, electric streetcars ran out to the lakefront, along the east bank of the New Basin Canal. NOPSI retired streetcars on West End in 1950. The line ran until the 1960s, when it became the Canal-Lakeshore line.
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Streetcar Ticket for the St. Charles Line
New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company streetcar ticket, 1868. (public domain image)
Streetcar Ticket from 1868
Riders paid for their fare in the 1860s by purchasing a streetcar ticket. This was the style of the ticket for the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Company (NO&CRR) in 1868. While the NO&CRR continued operations through the Southern Rebellion, only one new company the New Orleans City RR Company (NOCRR) operated streetcars during the rebellion years. Streetcar expansion took off in 1866.
The company operated the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, from 1835 to 1902. In addition to St. Charles, the company operated the Poydras-Magazine, Jackson, and Napoleon lines. The NO&CRR absorbed other operating companies throughout the 1870s to the end of the 19th Century.
Streetcar electrification in New Orleans began in the 1890s. The NO&CRR survived until 1902. The remaining operating companies merged into the New Orleans Railway Company at that time. That company re-organized into the New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) in 1905. That consolidated entity became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) in 1922.
Mule car operation
When the NO&CRR began operations in 1835, St. Charles used steam engines. The smoke and noise generated complaints up and down the line. So, the line was converted to mule-driven operation in the 1850s. The company followed the NOCRR in the 1860s, operating “bobtail” cars from the Johnson Car Company, up to electrification.
Streetcar protests 1862-1867
Streetcars in New Orleans were segregated until 1958. When Louisiana seceded from the union in 1861, many of the white men went off to war. Their jobs around town still had to be done. So, employers hired free men of color. The lines ran “star” cars, which permitted African-Americans to ride, but all other cars were whites-only. Black men experienced difficulty in getting to work. While employers complained to the transit companies, the operators weren’t very responsive. More “star” cars were needed.
The dynamics changed when the Union Army occupied New Orleans in May, 1862. African-Americans protested segregated operation from then until 1867. Hilary McLaughlin-Stonham details those protests in her article, Race and Protest in New Orleans: Streetcar Integration in the Nineteenth Century. It’s worth a read.
Stop by my Walgreens Book Signing!
Walgreens Book Signing 13-December
Stop by the Walgreens Drug Store, 900 Canal Street, on Friday, December 13th, and buy my books! I’ll be signing New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, and New Orleans Jazz, from 3pm-5pm. I’ll also gladly sign any of my other books the store has in stock, when you buy them.
Walgreens, 900 Canal Street
Walgreens, 900 Canal Street (courtesy Frank Aymami III)
While it continues to be a target for “shop local” folks, they’re often unaware of how long this Walgreens has been on Canal Street. I have a photo of this store in the book, from 1939! The neon sign gave way to LEDs a few years ago. They’re more efficient. Frank’s talent really brings out the scene in the photo, above.
The Streetcar Book
New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line is my first book for Arcadia. I wrote it in 2004, when the Canal line returned to streetcar service. It’s a photo history of the street and the line, which dates back to 1861. There was a forty-year bus interlude, from 1964 to 2004. I rode those Canal buses so much in my high school and UNO days.
The Jazz Book
When HBO’s series, Treme, was still in production, I pitched a book on Faubourg Treme to Arcadia. The next day, I got an email back, asking if I’d be interested in writing a book with a broader scope. I was hesitant at first. Jazz is such an integral part of our DNA in New Orleans, and has been since the 1890s. I went for it and am very pleased at the reception New Orleans Jazz continues to receive.
Walgreens photo by Frank Aymami, III
If you’re not familiar with Frank’s work, you want to be. Check him out, and hire him if you need a great New Orleans photographer!