My friend Derby Gisclair commented on the origins of Lazard Freres, the investment firm, a while back on Facebook. There’s a great hi-res scan of a 1910 photo of Canal. The photographer stands (or looks out of a window) on the second floor of a building in the 700 block. They catch the 701, 801, and 901 blocks nicely. On the Uptown side, they catch the electric sign for Lazard’s, and Leon Fellman’s at 800 Canal Street.
What we know now as the investment and asset management firm, Lazard, Ltd., began as a dry goods store in New Orleans. Alexandre, Lazare, and Simon Lazard opened the store in 1848. Simon, along with two other brothers, moved to San Francisco in 1851. The California Gold Rush of 1849 presented opportunities for financial managers, as miners became millionaires. The brothers expanded to New York City and Paris, and the mega-firm began. While the financial business grew on two continents, the family continued the dry goods business in New Orleans.
Canal Street in the 1910s
The Lazard’s in this photo operated as one store on a very-busy Canal Street. The merchants of the Touro Buildings across the street offered their goods. Daniel Henry Holmes and other merchants appealed to locals in the 801 block. S.J. Shwartz completed his new building for Maison Blanche, with S. H. Kress next door. Katz and Besthoff Drugstore and Adler’s Jewelers serviced customers just up from Lazard’s.
The small onion-dome visible behind the Lazard’s sign stands atop the Pickwick Building. Leon Fellman operated his department store there at 800 Canal, since 1897. His family changed the name from Leon Fellman’s to Feibleman‘s in 1920.
Lazards the brand
“See That Lazard’s Label Is in the Gift You Give Him.” While the founding Lazard brothers moved into the world of high finance, the store kept going. This ad in The Daily Picayune, December 21, 1912, suggested a number of gifts for men. Lazard’s focused on men’s clothing by 1912, rather than general dry goods.
Two more ads from November 3, 1925. That makes five railroad advertisements in the first section of the Times-Picayune newspaper for that day. Railroads, like streetcars, hit a peak of activity in the 1920s. WWI ended. The economy boomed. Americans embraced public transportation. Businessmen traveled by train, then took families on excursions. While many excursion trains operated seasonally, some destinations appealed to the traveler year-round.
Gulf Coast Lines
The Gulf Coast Lines operated as a system. GCL consisted of three railroads:
St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway – The railroad opened in 1904. They operated from Robson, Texas (near Corpus Christi) to Brownsville. In 1907, the railroad extended to Houston, then further west to the Rio Grand Valley
Beaumont, Sour Lake, and Western – B. F. Yoakum, owner of St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico, purchased this railroad. He joined the two in 1905. This extended the system eastward.
New Orleans, Texas, and Mexico Railway – Yoakum acquired this company in 1909, extending his trackage to New Orleans.
The Gulf Coast Lines system fell into bankruptcy in 1913. The entities were rolled up into the New Orleans, Texas, and Mexico by the receivers. Missouri Pacific acquired GCL in 1925. So, this ad dates from the MoPac ownership.
Louisville and Nashville
The New Orleans & Florida Limited, “Carries Through, Drawing Room, Compartment, Section Sleepers from New Orleans to Jacksonville. This overnight train operated as a “Limited” route. That meant fewer stops, not every small town along the way. L&N trains arrived and departed from their passenger terminal by Canal Street and the River, where the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas stands now. Their trains ran down the river to Elysian Fields, then turned north, then East at Florida Avenue. So, L&N trains crossed the Industrial Canal, then followed (more or less) Highway 90, crossing Lake Pontchartrain at the Rigolets Pass.
Amtrak attempted to extend the Sunset Limited eastward from New Orleans, following the L&N route to Jacksonville. Additionally, the railroad plans to resume this portion of the route in 2022.
NYC 3 is a restored Executive Car from the New York Central.
NYC 3 on the Crescent
The northbound (#20) Crescent delivered a treat on Tuesday, 2-November. A “private varnish” car brought up the rear, NYC 3, named “Portland.” This railcar served a different purpose than “business cars” operated to this day by the railroads. NYC-3 was an “executive car.” The NYC built it specifically for one of the New York Central’s owners, Harold S. Vanderbilt. From the NYC-3 dot com website:
This railroad car, New York Central 3, was built for Harold Sterling Vanderbilt, who worked as a director of the railroad founded by his family three generations previously. The car, built in 1928, was a typical executive car of this grand era. Such cars were called “private varnish” because of their varnished woodwork and exclusive uses; they served as traveling offices and hotels, and were used for railroad inspections as well as for personal travel and for business entertainment. NYC 3 frequently played host to film celebrities, wealthy tycoons, and even presidential campaigners in what politicians of the day called “whistle-stop” tours: Trains would stop in small towns and politicians would give speeches from the back platform before waving goodbye as the train departed. Adlai Stevenson campaigned on NYC 3 in this manner in his 1956 campaign against President Eisenhower and, far more recently, opera singer Cecilia Bartoli enjoyed its comforts between New York and her West Coast debut in Los Angeles.
Like many aspects of the pandemic, private varnish re-appears on the rails. Train-watchers report sightings on Amtrak fan pages (Facebook). New Orleans offers three opportunities to catch private cars. Charters come down from the Northeast on the Crescent. Some make a loop, traveling north again on the City of New Orleans, then return to New York Penn or other points in the NEC. The cars usually travel the Broadway Limited to get back east.
Some cars continue west on the Sunset Limited. Back in the early part of the 20th century, the Southern and Southern Pacific offered “through car” service from New York to Los Angeles. Private varnish currently follows the Crescent-to-Sunset path.
901 Canal Then/Now shows the block in 1910 and present day.
901 Canal Then/Now
Two views of the 901 block of Canal Street, one from an old postcard from 1910, the other from this afternoon. While the contemporary shot appears timeless, the old postcard is a very specific time-shot. It presents the block after the Grand Opera House was demolished. That building made way for the S. H. Kress store. The space between the Audubon Building (on the corner of Canal and Burgundy) and the Maison Blanche Building (corner of Canal and Dauphine) stood empty. While the Kress facade appears original, the building inside now serves as a parking garage. Cars for the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, in the MB building, pull into the Kress building.
Re-imagining the block
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In the early 1900s, the 901 block of Canal Street consisted of, from Burgundy to Dauphine, two small American-style buildings, the Grand Opera House, and the Mercier Buildings. In 1907, Maison Blanche, decided to demolish the Mercier Buildings. Owner Simon Shwartz desired a larger and more modern store. Other investors purchased the other corner, Canal and Burgundy. Additionally, a third group acquired the French Opera House. Everything on the block was demolished. The Mercier Buildings went in stages, as Maison Blanche demolished the rear first, building the back office tower. When that was complete, they moved everything from the old storefront to the new section. Then they tore down the front section. The front office tower and retail space appeared in its place.
Construction began on the eight-story Audubon Building on the other side of the block. After it was completed. The Kress company filled in the middle with their store.
The postcard shows the block looking river-to-lake. My photo from this afternoon approaches the block from the opposite direction. So, I walked from the temporary end of the Canal streetcar line at Liberty Street, up to Magazine Street. The three buildings called out, demanding a photo.
The Amtrak Crescent runs from New Orleans to New York City daily.
Amtrak Crescent, train #20 on the timetable, departing New Orleans on 6-October-2021. There are a couple of things about this particular run of note to train fans, so why not make a blog post about them! This train is pulled by two GE P42DC “Genesis” locomotives. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, the Genesis locos are the backbone of Amtrak operations. This train consists of the two locomotives, three coach cars, a cafe car, two sleepers, and a full baggage car. When the pandemic forced schedule changes, the Crescent cut back to 3-days-a-week service. Then it returned to daily service with two coaches. Now it’s back to daily with three. The Crescent departs New Orleans daily at 9am Central time.
New Orleans to New York
Viewliner coach on the Amtrak Crescent
The Crescent’s roots go back to 1891. In 1906, the route was named the New Orleans and New York Limited. By 1925, it was dubbed the Crescent Limited. Amtrak operates the Crescent in “local” service, so they dropped “Limited” from the name.
The train departs Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans (Amtrak code NOL) at 9am Central. It reaches this point, the underpass at Canal Boulevard, about 9:26am. The Norfolk Southern “Back Belt” has no grade crossings in Orleans Parish. The Amtrak Crescent won’t stop until it reaches Slidell.
This full baggage car is atypical for the Crescent lately. The train usually runs a “Bag Dorm” car at the end. That car is half-baggage compartment, and half “roomettes.” The crew takes rest breaks in those compartments.
Dining and sleeping
Viewliner Cafe car
The Crescent operates Amtrak’s “Viewliner” equipment. While the other two trains running out of NOL use the two-level “Superliner” cars, the Crescent requires single-level equipment. The Superliners won’t fit in the tunnel going to Penn Station in NYC. So, passengers booking full bedrooms or roomette compartments ride in cars like the one above.
Viewliner sleeper car
Amtrak discontinued full diner cars on the Crescent in 2019. The train ran both a diner and Cafe cars like the one above. So, to cut back on expenses, the railroad only uses the Cafes
LMEA Marching Festival brings local bands together to perform.
LMEA Marching Festival
Each year, District 6 of the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA) holds a “Marching Assessment” in the Fall. Crusader Band (along with other local bands) call it “Marching Festival.” At the end, when the scores are announced, the officers of the participating bands gather on the field to accept their awards. For the 2007 Festival, Crusader Band’s Drum Major and two Band Captains, along with the co-Captains of the Dominican Debs wait for wait for their scores. I don’t have names for these young men and women at this time. If you know them, let me know. (I sent the photo to my class of 2012 kiddo, who was Brass Captain in his senior year, but he’s in Palo Alto and not awake yet).
Football Season for Crusader Band
In the Fall, Crusader Band is a football band.Going back to the beginning, the band turned out to perform in the stands at games. While some band programs place football as a second priority, behind band competitions, the Crusader Band’s mission was to support the team. The school and the Athletic Department recognized this, and funded a good bit of the program’s expenses. So, as a five-year band dad, I remained silent when parents whose kids attended other schools fussed about money. They were going out of pocket for trips to competitions. I paid a $50 uniform cleaning fee.
The late Mr. Marty Hurley, long-time Band Director, had a solid strategy for preparing for Festival. The festival program called for performance of three tunes and a percussion performance. Hurley chose a theme, picked three tunes, then worked up the drum routine. One of the tunes always featured the auxiliary unit. Crusader Band partners with the “Debs” of Dominican High School.
The band wore the NJROTC service dress blues in those early years. When NJROTC became an elective course track, Crusader Band switched to a classic-style uniform. The style changed over the years. They wore this set of uniforms through my son’s senior year (2011-2012).