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!
The Liberty Monument defined Canal Terminal 1941
Street level view of a NOPSI arch roof streetcar circling Liberty Place, 1941 (Franck Studios/HNOC)
Canal Terminal 1941
A NOPSI arch-roof streetcar makes the turn around Liberty Place. This charming photo from 1941 shows one of our classic “green” streetcars circling around the Liberty Monument. After completing the circle, the motorman parked the car in the four-track terminal. He and the conductor took their break, then proceeded on their outbound run.
The obelisk known as the “Liberty Monument” stood at Canal and Front Streets in a small, oval-shaped green space. The New Orleans Traction Company contracted the engineering firm Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FBD), to evaluate the street rail system in New Orleans in 1893. They made a number of recommendations, including a re-design of the streetcar tracks at the foot of Canal Street.
Plan of the Canal Terminal designed by Ford, Bacon, and Davis, published by Street Railway Journal, 1905
The city completed construction of FBD’s Canal Terminal design in 1900. By this time, all the mule-drawn tracks were removed from service. While the city cut back the massive base of the Clay Monument at Royal and Canal, they left Liberty Place alone. They cut down Clay to allow the tracks to run straight. FBD designed a loop around Liberty Place. Streetcars traveled down the Uptown side of Canal Street. When they reached Liberty Place, they looped around and parked on the French Quarter side. The 1900 version of the terminal included the loop and eight tracks. In 1930, the city implemented a “beautification” program that cut back the number of tracks to four. That 1930 street program also included installation of our fleur-de-lis street lamps, also visible in this photo.
Canal and the river
The buildings on the right display advertisements for liquor and wine. “Three Feathers” was a popular blend of Scotch. So, the name refers to one of the heraldic badges for the Prince of Wales. The badge includes a plume of three ostrich feathers and the royal coronet of the prince.
The second sign visible on the right is for Franzia Wines. Franzia still has a warm spot in the hearts of New Orleanians. Supermarkets sell Franzia as a “box wine.” Box wines are popular for Carnival parades, picnics under the interstate, or out at the lakefront.
The building background right is the Port of New Orleans office building, at Eads Plaza. Those buildings were demolished to make way for the International Trade Mart building and Spanish Plaza.
Rounding Liberty Place to Canal Terminal
From the time of the Liberty Place loop’s construction to its removal in 1964, many routes used it to change directions. For example, the Canal Street/Esplanade Avenue “belt” service arrived on Canal Street at N. Rampart Street. The streetcars turned toward the river. They looped around Liberty Place, parked at Canal Terminal then headed outbound. Other lines, such as Gentilly and Desire, used the loop to change direction.
When NOPSI discontinued the Canal line in 1964, they city demolished Liberty Place. So, they placed the monument in storage. Therefore that began its tumultuous history as a civil rights flashpoint. When Canal Street service returned, NORTA constructed the current three-track terminal that exists today. NORTA connected the tracks for the Riverfront line to that terminal. Streetcars now run from the Cemeteries and City Park all the way to the French Market terminal.
NOPSI 866 as a Desire Streetcar 19-December-1947
Desire Streetcar 19-December-1947
NOPSI 866, in the barn on 19-December, 1947. The note at the bottom says “Stiglets Case,” meaning Franck Studios shot the photo as part of a lawsuit. NOPSI lawyers used Franck Studios regularly to run out and shoot accident scenes. They also photographed streetcars involved in other types of lawsuits. NOPSI 866 appears undamaged. So, it’s possible the “Stiglets case” involved something like a slip-and-fall incident. Riders regularly filed legal claims against the transit operator. A lot of things happen on a moving public transit vehicle. Therefore, people claim damages. This continues under NORTA as well.
Canal Street Station
Streetcars running on Desire usually originated from Canal Station, rather than Arabella or Carrollton. Canal housed and maintained the streetars on the “downtown” and “downtown backatown” lines. Canal Station dated back to the creation of the New Orleans City Railroad Company, in 1861. That company operated most of the downtown-side lines. So, when the company merged into New Orleans Traction, the station remained in service. Canal Station serviced streetcars until 1964. NORTA demolished the original station. The A. Phillip Randolph bus facility replaced Canal Station. NORTA constructed a streetcar barn behind the bus station in 2004. The 400-series Riverfront and 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars operated from there. NORTA transferred the green arch roof streetcars to the Canal barn as well. So, Carrollton Station now maintains the streetcars, while Canal houses them.
This streetcar ran on all of the lines in the city, from 1923 to 1964. NOPSI converted the Desire line to buses in 1947. They transferred the streetcars to the Canal and St. Charles lines. The “roll boards” (the signs indicating which line the streetcar was running on) still had all the old line names. Both streetcars and buses used roll signs. In the 1950s, tourists would ask the motormen on the remaining lines to change the roll board to Desire. The riders photographed themselves with the “Streetcar Named Desire.”
NOPSI demolished all of the 800-series arch roofs in 1964. They converted Canal to bus service. Only a couple of 800s remain today.
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.