Today in New Orleans History

January 15

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Tulane Streetcar Begins -- West End Streetcar Ends
The West End streetcar made it's last loop today in history on January 15, 1950.  Having begun on April 20, 1876, it ran along the New Basin Canal (now West End Blvd.) when the area was largely undeveloped with the exception of the West End amusements, hotel, restaurants, bars, and camps on the lake. On this day also, the "new" West End Boulevard was dedicated/opened with ceremonies conducted by Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison.
Photo of the West End Boulevard dedication ceremony, January 15, 1950 [Photography by Photography Unlimited]
The Tulane Avenue streetcar  (originally Canal & Common) ran its first route today in New Olreans history on January 15, 1871.  From 1900–1951 the St. Charles and Tulane lines operated in a loop as the St. Charles-Tulane Belt, taking passengers past the beautiful homes on St. Charles Avenue, up South Carrollton Avenue. past the St. Charles Line's present terminal at South. Claiborne Avenue, across the New Basin Canal (now the Pontchartrain Expressway), turning at the former Pelican Stadium (at Carrollton and Tulane) onto Tulane Avenue. and back downtown. It's final run was on January 8, 1951.  It was replaced by a trolley bus and later a diesel bus route. 

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Superbowl XII between the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos was played on January 15, 1978 in the Superdome.

January 15, 1972 - Joe Frazier retains his world Heavyweight title with a five round knockout of Terry Daniels in New Orleans.

Photo of the dedication of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. monument on South Claiborne Ave. at St. Andrew St., January 15, 1981 (left to right) Rev. Climon Smith, Rev. Marie Galatas, and Rev. Samson "Skip" Alexander.

Photo of Martin Luther King Day Celebration, January 15, 1981 -- Mayor Ernest N. Morial (speaking).
Photo of Martin Luther King Birthday, January 15, 1981 -- Mayor Ernest N. Morial; (at Mayor's left) Israel Augustine; (behind Mayor) Reverend Avery Alexander.

Photo of groundbreaking for a new fire station at Robert and Clara Streets, January 15, 1958. Photograph by Photography by Plaideau.

The Delord-Sarpy House at 634 Howard Ave. [formerly Delord St.] was the oldest house above Canal Street until it was demolished in 1957 to make room for an approach ramp for the Mississippi River Bridge. The house was built in 1818 on land that had once belonged to Bienville and was later in the possession of the Jesuits.  Alexander Allison photographed it on January 15, 1957, not long before the wrecking ball hit. (From the New Orleans Public Library)

Photo of Earhart Boulevard over the Washington Avenue Canal, January 15, 1954 [Photograph by Leon Trice]

On November 30, 1926, property tax payers of New Orleans voted to approve the sale of $2,000,000 in public improvement bonds to fund the construction of a “Municipal Auditorium or Convention Hall.” A few months later, the Commission Council adopted ordinance 9472 CCS (January 12, 1927) establishing the Municipal Auditorium Commission, which was charged with identifying the site for the construction, architects and engineers to design and construct the building, furnishings. The commission was also to administer and oversee the operations of the auditorium, once it opened.

The Commission was comprised of 9 members (required to be qualified voters and property tax payers) appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the Commission Council. The membership was increased in 1950 to 11 members. The mayor himself also served ex-officio. The members served terms of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 years (10 and 11, after 1950) without compensation, with the Mayor designating the term of each member and naming the Chairman.

The Commission was authorized to appoint officers, create committees as necessary, and to establish whatever rules and regulations it needed in order to conduct its business. It was also authorized to “select and employ such necessary persons to carry out the purposes for which it [was] created.”

The Commission met quarterly, but meetings could be held at any time on the written request of any three members or on the call of the Chairman or mayor. It was also to make quarterly reports to the Mayor and Council concerning its activities and its future recommendations.

The Municipal Auditorium was formally turned over to the City of New Orleans on January 15, 1930 and was dedicated on May 30, 1930.

The Municipal Auditorium Commission ceased to exist with the passage of the Home Rule Charter on May 1, 1954. Its functions were more or less continued by the Municpal Auditorium Advisory Board, which, after December 1955, became the Municipal Auditorium Advisory Committee. Over the next decade or so, the Advisory Committee's responsibilities and influence seems to have gradually diminished, and the Auditorium, for all practical purposes, came to be managed by the Department of Property Management through a Managing Director. It is not clear exactly when the Advisory Committee ceased to exist finally, but it may have been during the mid-late 1960's, when development of the Cultural Center began. 

Among the building plans deposited in the City Archives by the Department of Safety and Permits are 10 sets of plans for various repairs, alterations, or additions to the Auditorium, dating from 1966 to 1997, including plans for the transformation of the Auditorium into a temporary home for Harrah's Casino (1993-1994) and alterations for an arena for the New Orleans Brass hockey team (1997).

(Text above is from the New Orleans Public Library)

By the 1960s, The Municipal Auditorium had become obsolete for convention-exhibition purposes. The modern center for such activities was to face the Mississippi River, relate to the recently completed International Trade Mart Tower, and tie these two elements together by means of a spacious pedestrian plaza.  The designated site, six city blocks, was bounded by Canal, Poydras, South Peters Street, and what is now Convention Center Boulevard. The 1964 photo on the right shows the streetcar turn at the foot of Canal Street, the Liberty Monument, and the three and four-story buildings dating from mid nineteenth-century which would be demolished to make way for the Rivergate.  Left of center is a partially demolished warehouse dating from c. 1905. (Photo by Rolland Golden; printed by Robert S. Brantley, Historic New Orleans Collection.)

Although the Rivergate was conceived and designed as a convention-exhibition facility, it was also used as the venue for Mardi Gras balls, high school graduations, and the lying in state of New Orleans native Mahalia Jackson in 1972).  But like the Municipal Auditorium, the Rivergate became obsolete in its usefulness as a convention and exhibition center.  The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was being planned  in 1978.  As of 2006, it has about 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space, covering almost 11 blocks, and over 3 million square feet of total space.  It is the 5th-largest facility of its kind in the United States and would dwarf the old Rivergate.

Some events which occured in the Municipal Auditorium, aside from the graduation ceremonies of countless New Orleans area high school students (myself included) were Carnival balls, circuses, conventions, athletic events, and more.  Some of the notable ones include:

Boxer Wilfred "Willie" Raleigh Pastrano made his professional debut at age 16 on September 8, 1951 against Leo Bayard at Municipal Auditorium and won the light heavyweight championship there on
April 10, 1964 against Argentina's Gregorio Peralta

April 22 -- 26, 1970 -- New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival held at Beauregard Square (now Armstrong Park) and the Municipal Auditorium.  Music from noon to midnight.  Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Preservation Hall Band and "Hundreds of Others" according to advertising posters.  Produced by George Wein.  Tickets available at Werlein's, 605 Canal Street. 

Dorothy "Dottie" Lamour came home to celebrate her 50th birthday on December 10, 1967 while on a tour starring in "Hello, Dolly!" which ran at the Municipal Auditorium on Saturday, December 16.  

Led Zeppelin concert -- May 14, 1973.

Paul Capdevielle, the forty-second Mayor was of French descent. He was born in New Orleans, January 15, 1842. His father, Augustin Capdevielle, was born in France, but settled in New Orleans in 1825, becoming a prominent merchant in the commission business and active in politics. It was from his father’s interest in politics that young Paul inherited his interest in governmental affairs. His mother, Virginia Bertrand, was born in New Orleans in 1816.

Paul Capdevielle was educated at the Jesuit’s College in New Orleans from which he was graduated in 1861. He served with credit in the War between the States, enlisting in the New Orleans Guard Regiment of Infantry, but in 1862 joined Boone’s Louisiana Artillery, and was wounded at Port Hudson.

After the close of the war he returned to civil life, taking up the first employment that offered itself, studied law in April 1868 was graduated from Louisiana State University. In 1892, he gave up law to accept the presidency of the Merchant’s Insurance Company. He served as its President for sixteen years, until it was liquidated and sold.

His political history began in 1877 when he was appointed to the School Board. Later he was a member of the Orleans Levee Board, a Commissioner of Prisons and Asylums and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the drainage commission. Mr. Capdevielle was an outstanding figure in Louisiana politics from the time of his election as Mayor of New Orleans in 1899. He was appointed auditor of Public Accounts in 1904, and re-elected three times, and held this office up to the time of his death. He survived the political storms attending the fall of the state administrations, the last in 1920, when Governor Parker was swept into office.

The Flower administration was a turning point in the history of New Orleans. It closed one epoch and opened another. With it began the period of commercial prosperity which extends into the present time.

Mayor Capdevielle’s administration was noted for two events, both inseparably connected with the beginning of New Orleans’ industrial development; the installation of the modern sewerage system and the organization of the Public Belt Railroad. The Board of Port Commissioners also began to function actively during this period.

City Park stands as a monument to his energy and civic spirit. The upbuilding of the park was his constant care, and he served continuously as President of the City Park Improvement Association for more than two decades, holding the office at the time of his death.

The new administration went into office May 9, 1900, at the beginning of the twentieth century when a wave of prosperity passed over the country and was felt in New Orleans. Mayor Capdevielle in his inaugural address spoke of the drainage system about to be constructed and stated if the city desired to have its own electric light plant it could do so without great additional cost by using the power house of the drainage system.

The contract to erect a modern jail, to be called the House of Detention, was awarded for $112,800 and the site of the old Marine Hospital, on Tulane Avenue and Broad Street, was selected.

The Henry Clay statue, being in the way of safe operations of the street cars, was removed from Canal Street to the Lafayette Square on January 12, 1901. The consolidation of various street railways into one corporation under the name of the New Orleans Railways Company was an important factor of the years 1901-1902.

On May 1, 1901, New Orleans was honored by the visit of the President of the United States, William McKinley, accompanied by Mrs. McKinley and Secretaries John Hay, Charles Emory Smith, and E. A. Hitchcock. He was received in the Cabildo by the Governor of Louisiana, attended by his staff in full uniform. The bells of the Cathedral of St. Louis announced the arrival of the President and his cabinet, escorted by Mayor Paul Capdevielle, and a committee of distinguished citizens. As the cortege entered the Supreme Court Hall, Chairman Zacharie announced in a loud voice “The President,” and the assembly arose and remained standing while the Chief Justice conducted the President to a seat of honor at his right on the Supreme Court Bench. The Governor of Louisiana took a seat on the left of the Chief Justice, and the Mayor of New Orleans the one on the right of the President, the Justices occupying seats immediately in the rear of the bench. Chairman Zacharie then conducted the members of the cabinet and their wives to places on the left of the dais, where a seat, filled with roses, had been reserved for Mrs. William McKinley, who, at the last moment, was too ill to attend.

In 1873, Paul Capdevielle married in New Orleans, Miss Emma Larue, who died several years ago. Three sons and two daughters blessed this union; the sons are Christian, Auguste and Paul, Jr., and the daughters are the Misses Edith and Yvonne Capdevielle.

Paul Capdevielle was found dead at his home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, August 13, 1922, following a long illness, at the age of eighty years and six months and is buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. Besides his children, a sister, Mrs. Virginia Buddecke and five grandchildren also survived.  (From the New Orleans Public Library)

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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