The Camps are Swept Away
Bruning's and Fitzgerald's Heavily Damaged
On September 28,
1998, Hurricane Georges, a Category 2 storm made landfall in
Mississippi. Some 500,000 residents in Louisiana evacuated from low-lying areas. Mayor Marc
Morial declared a state of emergency to allow federal assistance into the state. After nearly
1.5 million people were urged to evacuate coastal areas, officials described the evacuation
as likely the largest ever achieved. The Superdome was opened as
an evacuation shelter.
Winds gusted to 55 mph at New Orleans Lakefront Airport and pressure fell to 29.37".
Storm surges above seven feet overflowed some of the land surrounding Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne. Many homes located outside the levee system were
flooded by the storm's storm surge. An estimated 160,000
residences were left without power and severe beach erosion took place due to the extremely
slow movement of the hurricane. Waves reached airplane wings on the flooded
runway at the Lakefront Airport. In Little Woods, storm
waters undermined a section of railroad track, jeopardizing
rail service there. The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened 67 shelters
throughout the state. Two lives were lost in Louisiana.
Despite those damages and
losses, the city of New Orleans and the metropolitan area had mostly dodged a proverbial bullet. But along the lakefront
a way of life in two areas of our unique city changed forever on September 28, 1998:
Georges was the final blow at West End where restaurants had struggled for years to survive. Bruning's Restaurant,
originating in 1859, was badly damaged and part of the
recently closed Fitzgerald's restaurant collapsed -- "At least
half of it's in the lake," said owner Andrew Jaeger. The
17th Street Canal was littered with wood and other debris
from Bruning's. "We had no idea it was going to be so bad," said owner Jimmy
Bruning Urrate, 51, who had worked there for 38 years. "We figured
we would have minor damage, but not a total loss like
this." Urrate reopened his business in a nearby location but the old building
was never repaired due to insurance problems. Hurricane Georges was the death blow to many other West End businesses
which did not reopen after the 1998 storm.
Along Hayne Boulevard
and in Little Woods 80 camps were completely washed away with only their pilings remaining as evidence that they had ever
been there -- some for over 80 years. The shoreline was heavily covered with their bouyant remains, including an ancient
cistern. The lake bottom was checkered with claw-foot tubs, antique stoves, and other furnishings too heavy to wash
away. Only six camps survived which would be repaired to allow families a few more years of life on the lake before
Katrina came through seven years later.
Gennaro's Bar owners Charles and Conchetta's son made a name for himself on Broadway during the 1950s. With Jerome Robbins,
Peter Gennaro choreographed West Side Story in 1957. He danced and choreographed his own troop and coached guests who appeared
on Perry Como “Kraft Music Hall” from 1960 through 1963. In 1977 he was awarded a Tony for choreography for
the smash hit “Annie”. Born on November 23, 1919, Peter Gennaro died in September 28, 2000 at
the age of 80.
The World War II Liberty, Ship Paul Tulane, was launched at Delta Shipyard on September 28, 1943. In
1938 she was sold to a private owner and scrapped in 1969.
Airline Highway originally was a two-lane road that ran from Prairieville to
Shrewsbury (now Metairie). The first section, running between Williams Boulevard in Kenner and Shrewsbury Road, opened in
June 1927. It was begun by the Jefferson Parish Police Jury as a local road and incorporated into the plan for Airline
Highway during construction.
The remainder of the highway was
built between 1928 and 1933 by the Louisiana Highway Commission with federal aid, as the road would carry US 61 upon completion.
The section north of the spillway was officially opened on July 4, 1933, and the section on the south side followed three
weeks later. (Various sections had been temporarily opened to traffic beginning in October 1931.) Completion of the bridge
over the Bonnet Carré Spillway was delayed until 1935, necessitating a detour over the Jefferson Highway (River
Road) via temporary gravel roads along the spillway guide levees. The eight-lane extension into Tulane Avenue (reached
by a now-demolished six-lane bridge over the former New Basin Canal) was officially opened on August 26, 1940.
The Bonnet Carre Spillway, as well as the spillway bridge on Airline Highway,
was dedicated on December 13, 1935 as part of the Mississippi Flood Control Project at a cost of more than $13
million. Its construction was prompted by the devastating floods of 1927. The spillway flood-way would route 250,000
cubic feet of water per second from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain then Lake Borgne and into the Gulf of Mexico,
thus sparing the Greater New Orleans area from high-water river flooding.
determined that 19th century Bonnet Carré Crevasse, about 33 river miles above New Orleans would be the ideal location.
Between 1849 and 1882, four major crevasses had occurred here. During the flood of 1849, a 7,000-foot-wide natural crevasse
at Bonnet Carré flowed for more than six months.
mile-long (7698 feet) structure contains 135,000 cubic yards of concrete in 350 weirs spaced 22 feet apart on center.
Wood "needle-control" lumber slip into and out of the structure to control the flow of water. These "pins"
are lifted by cranes which ride a track along the top of the structure. The flood-plane encompasses 7860 acres.
The spillway's levees were completed in the summer of 1932. Three railroad crossings (including the one easily viewed
from the Interstate over Lake Pontchartrain) were finished in February 1935. The automobile bridge had opened to traffic,
months before the dedication, on September 28, 1935
. The concrete spillway gates were completed
in February 1937.
On the day of the dedication special trains
from the Louisiana and Arkansas railroads awaited passengers, dignitaries, and delegate at Union Station on South Rampart
Street to transport them, beginning at 9 a.m., to the spillway bridge which lay between Norco and Montz. A white ribbon
spanned across the south end of the passenger bridge, waiting to be cut at 10:30. But that was just the beginning of
a long day of celebration. After the spillway dedication, attendees walked six blocks along the spillway levee back
to the train which took them to Kenner where they boarded the steamer Capital for a lavish luncheon to the tunes of the LSU
Tiger Band (which had also played at the ceremony). Upon debarking at Eads Plaza (now Spanish Plaza near the foot of
Canal Street), a twenty-one gun salute from the Washington Artillery began more ceremonies which included a pageant ("Man's
Conquest of the River") performed by students from McMain, Warren Easton, Peters, and Kohn high schools and a parade
to Claiborne Avenue and back with the bands from Tulane, Loyola, Easton Peters, the New Orleans Public Service, and the Celotex
Company band. The evening of dedication day brought a 6:30 banquet for 1,000 people at the TipTop Inn of the Roosevelt Hotel.
The Airline Highway spillway bridge is still holding up
rather well, considering its age. The spillway itself has been opened ten times since its construction -- in 1937, 1945,
1950, 1973, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1997, 2008, 2011. It remains as it was originally constructed with no significant modifications
as none have been needed. It is an excellent example of how low-tech design can endure and work perfectly. It is
listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photos of the spillway structure under construction on November
30, 1930 from the Louisiana Digital Library.
Front page news in the Daily Picayune on September 28, 1911 announced the arrest of Miss
Annie Crawford, 28 year-old resident of 1011 Peters Avenue, for the poisoning of her 24 year-old sister Elise at their home.
on September 23. Elise had been ill for quite some time before her death.
The Crawford family had
lost three family members within the past 15 months. On June 25, 1910, another sister, Mary Agnes Crawford died
suddenly -- the cause of death was attributed to Acute Meningitis. Three weeks later on July 15 her
father, Walter C. Crawford passed away -- the cause of death was allegedly Uremic
Poisoning. Two weeks after that, on July 29 her mother died -- it was thought that she also succumbed
to Uremic Poisoning. Upon the death of Elise suspitions were raised that the family
might have been victims of murder.
Dr. J.C. McGuire who had treated Elise claimed that her
symptoms were not connected with the heart trouble she had suffered but that they more closely
resembled morphine poisoning. Dr, McGuire admitted Elise to Charity Hospital where she
died the following morning. The coroner's report concluded that morphine had been found in her stomach after her body
was exhumed from St. Patrick's Cemetery Number 3 for examination. Relatives reported that Annie had an addiction
to morphine. She had worked in the drug department of the New Orleans Sanitarium (renamed
Presbyterian Hospital) but was discharged for alleged irregularities in her accounting of medications.
In her position at the hospital she became familiar with the actions of poisons and other drugs.
of work since losing her job, it was determined that she was the
insurance beneficiary of each deceased family member; Mary Agnes was insured for $300, her father for $800,
her mother for $800, and her sister Elise for $250. Another sister, Gertrude,
said "I don't want Annie to nurse me if I ever get sick. She gives such funny medicine".
District Attorney St. Claire Adams said, "It was established today the that Annie Crawford
is a drug fiend and probably is addicted to morphine. It is also established that she had
access during the past three weeks to morphine and was in a position to obtain it in practically
any quantity. During the indisposition of Elise Crawford she bitterly complained that her
food and drink were drugged. I have charged Annie Crawford with the murder of her sister Elise".
case came before the Grand Jury on October 10 and Annie Crawford was indicted. On March 13, 2012 the began and she pled
not guilty. She had admitted to poisoning Elise with morphine capsules but said that she accidentally administered the wrong
medication -- she thought she had given Elise calomel tablets which she had purchased at Waldorf's
Pharmacy. She also admitted to being a morphine addict.
Elise's body was, once again, exhumed for further
examination. Laboratory slides harvested from her organs were brought to the courtroom as evidence. Annie's attorney
Lionel Adams exclaimed that this was a "macabre display" while District Attorney St. Claire Adams objected.
Tempers flared and the two began to physically scuffle. While others in the courtroom attempted to quell the melee the
slides were pushed and went crashing to the floor. Annie was led from the room while fainting. During the trial,
professors from Tulane Medical School were called in as expert witnesses. Some opposed the opinions of others.
Tulane students aligned with the professor whose opinion favored Annie's innocence rushed to Parish Prison in an attempt to
carry her away. Police formed a ring of guards around the building and the students were barred from the courtroom.
spectacular trial, which attracted national attention, ended as a mistrial on March 26, 1912 as a mistrial. The jury
had voted 9-3 in favor of an acquittal but were deadlocked and failed to reach a verdict. Anne Crawford was not
tried for the murder of her mother, father, or other sister because they had been buried
too long for current forensics to determine if they had been poisoned. On March 27, 1913, Elise's organs were
released to Annie and her remaining siste and reburied at St. Patrick's. The two sisters reported that they planned
to move to Port Arhtur, Texas.
On June 10, 1912, Senator Schator Williams introduced a bill to prohibit written and
oral confessions of prisoners. Citing Annie Crawford's case as a "cruel example" of third degree methods
used by Distrct Attorney Adams' office as an example of coercive tactics, the bill passed with only one nay vote.