Today in New Orleans History

November 29

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Rault Center Fire
November 29, 1972
The horrific fire at the Rault Center marks November 29, 1972 as tragic day in New Orleans history.  Many of us still remember the loss of six New Orleanians lost that day.  Legislation requiring sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings were prompted by this tragedy, a perverbial silver lining which may have potentially saved many lives since.
The local news media has traditionally covered the story of the fire each year on its anniversary, so there's little doubt that you'll be informed of the details while watching the news today. Here, we will focus, with an homage to those lost, on a happier day, when the Rault Center was a shiny new 17-story building during an era when New Orleans was a growing hub in the petroleum industry.
On September 8, 1967, five years before the fire, the modern new structure formally opened as the first  high-rise in New Orleans to combine office spaces with residential living accommodations. Mayor Victor H. Schiro was on hand to cut the ribbon.  Henry Zac Carter, president of Avondale Shipyards emceed the opening ceremonies which were attended by Joseph M. Rault Jr, builder and president of Rault Petroleum Corporation which occupied the building; K.R. Joyner, vice-president of Mobile Oil Corporation which occupied eight floors; Richard Montgomery Jr, president of he New Orleans and the Region Chamber of Commerce; and Rex Homer Jolly, president of Loyola University among other guests of honor.  The Eureka Brass Band opened the ceremonies with The Star Spangled Banner.  
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1967September8RaultCenterOpeningCeremony.gifThe top three stories were occupied by the Roof Top Club, a members-only women and mens club featuring Old Lamplighter's rooftop cocktail lounge, a roof-top pool and sun-deck, a putting green, a spa for women, and a health club for men.  
Seven floors contained apartments and suites. A one-bedroom apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting could be had for a mere $137 per month. Twelve three-bedroom Penthouse Salon Suites with "automatic kitchens" rented for $197 per month. The kitchens were furnished with refrigerator/freezers, ice makers, dish washers, garbage disposals, and built-in Norge oven/ranges. Utilities were included, maid and room service was available, and a doorman was on duty 24/7 in the security guarded building. 
All floors were damaged in the fire.  Rault estimated that $2 million to $3 million would be needed for repairs, nearly almost as much spent to construct the building. The state fire marshal declared the fire a result of arson.  After the Howard Johnson Mark Essex sniper incident of January 7, 1973, Joseph Rault reported that two well-dressed men, one fitting the description of Essex,entered the Rault Center on the morning of the fire.  A security guard spotted them, acting suspiciously, entering the ground-floor lobby  elevator after reading the building directory.  They were later seen in the lobby by the guard. Rault offered a $25,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the arsonist who set fire to his building. 
The Rault Center remained closed for a year and a half after the fire, until 1973 when it was  converted into a 201 room, $6,000,000 hotel. The building was renamed the Dome Stadium Hotel, later named the Rault Hotel, later to become the Holiday Inn Superdome (1975). In 1981 the hotel hosted the Republican National Convention.  During the 1980s it was converted into apartments and time-share properties.  The Lamplighter Club remained opened through the years.  The building was up for auction in 1984, 1986, and 1988.  It is now vacant.

New Orleans born Joseph M. Rault developed apartment complexes and land use in Louisiana and Mississippi. He entered the Navy after graduating from Jesuit in 1943, and was the commander of the USS LCI-549 and participated in the atomic bomb test at the Bikini Atoll. In 1946, he entered MIT and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Marine Transportation in 1948. In 1955 he graduated from Tulane Law School and practiced Admiralty in Maritime Law until 1960 with the Terriberry Firm.  He then opened his own company building offshore vessels and semi-submersible drilling rigs. He merged one of these companies with John Laborde to create Tidewater Marine and contracted with PeMex to drill a number of wells in Mexico and import oil from Venezuela. He and his wife, Bonnie reside in Metairie. 

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As of September 2013 Drew Brees holds the record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass which stands at 54. He set the record on October 7, 2012 when he surpassed the streak of 47 consecutive games by Johnny Unitas which had stood since December 11, 1960.  Unitas had held the record for nearly 52 years when he surpassed Cecil Isbell's streak of 23 which had been established as the record in 1942. Brees record streak of 54 games ended on November 29, 2012 against the Atlanta Falcons.  Brees also holds the record for consecutive uninterrupted games with a touchdown pass including playoffs with 49, surpassing Brett Favre's record of 39. Tom Brady holds the record for most consecutive regular season uninterrupted games with at least one touchdown pass with 50, setting the record on December 2, 2012, surpassing Brees' 43. Both players had surpassed Favre's record of 36, set in 2004.

November 29, 1987 - Saints held on with 2 magnificent goal-line stands in the 4th quarter to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-16 ... the victory ensured Saints' 1st-ever winning record ever

Dixieland jazz pianist, clarinetist, and drummer Ollie "Dink" Johnson (October 28, 1892November 29, 1954) was a  was born in Biloxi, the younger brother of the bass player/bandleader William Manuel Johnson. He worked around Mississippi and New Orleans before moving out west in the early 1910s. He played in Nevada and California, often with his brother Bill. Most prominently he played with the Original Creole Orchestra (mostly on drums). He also played clarinet in Kid Ory's band. For many years he was based in Los Angeles where he led a band in the 1920s and later ran a bar called Dink's Place at 4429 Avalon Blvd. He was visited there in March 1946 by Bill Russell, who organised most of his piano and one man band recordings. Russell wrote in his diary that Dink had a room at the back for selling bootleg whisky, and kept a gun in a saucepan "because the police would never look there". He told Russell that he had "always lived outside the law." He made his first recordings in 1922 on clarinet with Kid Ory's Band. He made more recordings in the 1940s and 1950s, mostly on piano, although also doing some one-man band recordings, playing all three of his instruments through over dubbing.  Johnson's piano style was influenced by Jelly Roll Morton (his brother-in-law); his clarinet playing by Larry Shields. Johnson also wrote tunes, including "The Krooked Blues" (recorded by King Oliver) and "So Different Blues" .  (From wikipedia)

Francesco Todaro was an Italian-American mobster and onetime boss of the New Orleans crime family. Todaro briefly succeeded Corrado Giacona upon his death on July 25, 1944. Francesco "Frank" Todaro was born in the area of San Cipirello, Province of Palermo, Sicily in about 1889. Son of Giuseppe Todaro and Giuseppa DiMaggio. Frank Todaro along with brothers Carlos "Charlie", Giuseppe "Joe", and Salvatore "Sam" immigrated to the United States in 1907 and settled in New Orleans Another brother, Angelo Todaro, remained in Sicily. Frank married to Nunzia "Nancy" Giammalva on July 14, 1914 in New Orleans and they had four children two sons, Joseph and Clement, and two daughters, Jacqueline and Josephine. Frank Todaro was alleged to be underboss of the New Orleans Mafia and to have briefly served as head of the New Orleans family before his death. Further it has been erroneously reported by John H. Davis that he was the father-in-law of Carlos Marcello. Carlos Marcello was in fact married to Todaro's niece Giacomina (Jackie), the daughter of his brother Joseph. Frank Todaro died at his residence on S. Broad Street in New Orleans at 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday November 29, 1944 from complications related to throat cancer. He was about 55 years of age. His funeral was held on December 1, 1944, the wake was conducted at Lamano-Panno-Fallo Funeral Home, a Roman Catholic Requiem Mass was held at St. Mary's Church and he was interred at Metairie Cemetery.  From

Frank Fagot Jr. was an agent for the Parish Department of Conservation (a game warden). On November 29, 1927 he was shot and killed at the age of 37 while chasing a man in Crestmont Park (Old Metairie) who was allegedly shining rabbits.

The November 29, 1909 edition of the New York Times reported the final reports on the cotton crop of 1909 as 10625000 bales.

Richard Clague artist. Born, Paris, France, May 11, 1821; son of Richard Clague and Justine Delphine de la Roche. Education: New Orleans, Geneva and Paris. Encouraged by family to pursue a career in art. Studied the techniques of landscape and animal painting under Jean-Charles Humbert; returned to New Orleans after his father's death in 1836 and studied under Léon Pomerède, a muralist, 1842-1843. Returned again to Paris in 1844; studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the neoclassicist Edouard Picotin in 1849; began teaching art in 1851. Travelled in Egypt as a draftsman on the expedition of Ferdinand de Lesseps down the Nile, November 1856-March 1857; returned to New Orleans to stay in 1857. Opened a studio with Paul Poincy (q.v.), painted portraits and landscapes and conducted art classes. Civil War service: joined the 10th Louisiana Infantry as a second lieutenant at Camp Moore, Tangipahoa Parish, La., July 22, 1861; resigned, February 12, 1862. Considered the preiminent landscape artist of the nineteenth-century South; founded the "Bayou School" of landscape painting, specializing in scenes of cabins, camps and boats on backgrounds of hazy swamps, streams, and moss-bedecked oaks. Formed a liaison with Pauline Touze, ca. 1849. Children: Marie (b. 1850), Pauline Amalie (b. 1853). Member, Roman Catholic church. Died, New Orleans, November 29, 1873; interred St. Louis Cemetery II. Source:

A transfer ceremony for the Louisiana Purchase was held in New Orleans on November 29, 1803. Since the Louisiana territory had never officially been turned over to the French, the Spanish took down their flag, and the French raised theirs. On November 30, General James Wilkinson accepted possession of New Orleans for the United States. A similar ceremony was held in St. Louis on March 9, 1804, when a French tricolor was raised near the river, replacing the Spanish national flag. The following day, Captain Amos Stoddard of the First U.S. Artillery marched his troops into town and had the American flag run up the fort's flagpole. The Louisiana territory was officially transferred to the United States government, represented by Meriwether Lewis. The Louisiana Territory, purchased for less than 3 cents an acre, doubled the size of the United States overnight, without a war or the loss of a single American life, and set a precedent for the purchase of territory. It opened the way for the eventual expansion of the United States across the continent to the Pacific.

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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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