Today in New Orleans History

October 31

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 Jean Louis Allard Loses the Last of His Land
October 31, 1860


Five years after New Orleans was founded, the land which would be City Park was deeded to Francisco Hery in a 1723 French colonial concession. Some fifty years later, during Spanish rule, his widow sold the property to Don Santiago Loreins who would leave it to his daughter and son-in-law, Jean Louis Allard (born in 1777). The 1819 Spanish map above shows Allard's land (left of center), Bayou St. John (“Gran Bayu de sn Juan”), Bayou Metairie (“Arroyo de la Alqueria”), and Metairie Road (“Camino de la Alqueria”). Below iit s a modern map showing approximately the same area (Metairie Road, in this section has been renamed City Park Avenue).


Almost a century and a half ago Charles Gayarré wrote in his 1867 History of Louisiana, “On the bank of Bayou, or river St. John, on the land known in our days as Allard's plantation, and on the very site where now stands the large and airy house which we see [shown here], there was a small village of friendly Indians. From the bank opposite the village, beginning where at a much later period was to be erected the bridge which spans the Bayou, a winding path made by the Indians, and subsequently enlarged into Bayou Road by the European settlers, ran through a thick forest, and connected the Indian village with the French settlement of New Orleans”. Pictured is Julius Robert Hoening's 1898 painting by titled Plantation and Oak Tree (Allard Plantation). The house fronted Bayou St. John near Bayou Metairie. The 1910 photo on the following page offers a similar vantage point. The property was used primarily as a dairy farm. (Photo from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art)

Louis Allard was educted in France and returned home in 1798. On January 19, 1798, at the age of 21,  he was appointed syndic (a Spanish term for a representative) of Bayou St. John by Spanish Governor Gayoso.  When the French regained control of the city, Allard was named to the Municipal Court by Governor Laussat.  His duties included inspecting Charity Hospital, serving on the board of health regulating bakeries, and regulating roads and levees in the district of Metairie, Bayou St. John, and Gentilly. In 1806, he was a captain in the militia of the Territory of Orleans.  Allard was also a state representative for the Parish of Orleans from 1824-1826 and in 1831-1832.  He was anti-Andrew Jackson and anti-John McDonogh.


This 1828 map shows Allard's diminished property (lower center), as well as Bayou St. John flowing to Lake Pontchartrain (where a port with a lighthouse and Harvey Elkin's popular Spanish Fort Resort were thriving), Metairie Road (now City Park Avenue), Bayou Metairie, and Alexander Milne's property (which would soon boom as the Pontchartrain Railroad's Smokey Mary began its run in 1831) east of the Bayou St. John to the lake.
 An 1829 mortgage description of Jean Louis Allard's property indicates that it included a two-story master house on 18 arpents fronting Bayou St. John, bounded by Metairie Road (which was renamed City Park Avenue in 1902) for 53 arpents on the ridge which runs three feet above sea-level. Allard grew corn and sugar cane but used the land primarily as a dairy farm with 40 cows. Preferring to use his time in intellectual pursuits he had little interest in business and slowly lost portions of the property until all was sold or auctioned for taxes – which is how John McDonogh acquired the property which he willed to the city.
An 1845 Sheriff's sale resulted in the loss of 654 acres, 19 slaves, 10 horses and mules, 140 head of cattle -- all bought by John McDonogh for $40,000. After McDonogh purchased the property in 1845 he allowed Allard to live the remainder of his life there. He died on May 17, 1847 in the year his  collection of poetry Les Epaves was published. It was often said that he was buried in a quiet spot under a favorite tree (the Dueling Oak, shown here in the 1880s) however St. Louis Cathedral records indicate that Allard was buried on May 18, 1847 in St. Louis Cemetery #2, site #16. (Photo from the Library of Congress)
Despite the myth that Allard's body lay in a tomb under the oak became ingrained in the memory of many New Orleanians.  In 1904 the City Park Commission entertained the notion of adding an inscription to it, which would read "Robert Allard [Louis' brother], Died 1837".  Superintendant Victor Anseman noted that the year of death was inaccurate.  Another board member objected because, he said, no Allard family members had ever been buried there.  Felix Dreyfous thougt it best to leave things be, thinking that no inscription would allow visitors to keep the mystery alive.  In 1908 the commission discussed placing a fence around the tomb, indicating that it was a valuable feature of the park.   City Park's keepers maintained the tomb for more than a century. In fact, the tomb appeared to be in better condition during the 1930s than it did in the 1890s. The to "tomb" was recently removed.
On October 31, 1860, Allard's remaining land was up for Sherriff's auction. It was described as "Fronting the park and partly on Metairie Road with Bayou St. John and the Orleans Canal.  40 arpents front on Metairie Road.  Depth 18 arpents (a French unit of measure slighlty smaller than an acre) on each side  45 arpents on rear line.  except City Park, formerly Allard's Place and a parcel of land n Bayou St. John.  Will be sold as a bloc, and subject to a lease which includes the user of 16 negroes.  $1600 per annually.  Sold to John McDonogh".

Allard's land evolved to become one of the largest and oldest public parks in the nation -- New Orleans City Park. Filling 1,300 acres it is 457 acres it is larger than New York's Central Park. Its age allows for the display of the many architectural styles which came into vogue during its history – neo-classical, art nouveau, art deco, arts and crafts, mission, and modern  

Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to City Park but the old tomb remained until September, 2011 when the City Park Improvement Association removed it.  A member of the board of directors stated that it was a "hazard".  John Hopper, Chief Development Officer, said that Allard had never  been buried there, therefore it was of no historic value, thus the decision was made to remove all traces of it.  The Dueling Oak is still, fortunately, there.

From New Orleans City Park (Images of America) by Catherine Campanella. 

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On October 31, 2005 the Michoud Assembly Facility reopened to all personnel for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Thirty-eight NASA and Lockheed Martin employees stayed behind during Hurricane Katrina to operate the pumping systems. They pumped more than one billion gallons of water out of the facility and more than likely were the reason that the Michoud Facility suffered very little damage. These employees were each awarded the NASA Exceptional Bravery Medal, NASA's highest bravery award.

Photo of post-Katrina recovery crews at the venerable headquarters of Hibernia Bank, 313 Carondelet Street, which reponed post-Katrina on October 31, 2005. The landmark white tower atop the building, one of the CBD's most recognizable symbols, had been lit since September 15 (at first by generator power).

Main Library, 219 Loyola Avenue, New Orleans Central Business District. Opened in 1960. In Hurricane Katrina, some broken windows and floor damage from roof leaks; basement stayed dry. Partially reopened on 31 October 2005; fully operational as of August 2007. Some of the Main Library facility was used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies and contractors working on disaster recovery.

Nix Branch, 1401 S. Carrollton Avenue, Carrollton neighborhood. Opened in 1930. Katrina damage: broken windows on all sides; reopened 31 October 2005. It was damaged by a tornado on 13 February 2007, forcing a temporary closure for repair, and reopened the following month.

The Algiers Point Branch/Cita Dennis Hubbell Branch of the New Orleans Public Library reoponed for the first time post-Katrina on October 31, 2005.

Joseph M. Orticke Jr., was promoted to grade of major in the New Orleans Police Department on October 31, 1990, being the first black major in its history.  He became the superintendent on August 2, 1993.

Photo of  Joseph Maselli and Mayor Ernest N. Morial in Pastari's Restaurant at the Louisiana World Exposition (World's Fair) on October 31, 1984.

On October 31, 1982, Mayor Ernest "Dutch" Morial received an "invitation" from U.S. attorney John Volz to appear before a federal grand jury. (NOPL)

Elizebeth Smith Friedman, born on  August 26, 1892, "America's first female cryptanalyst" [code breaker].   Her testimony in cases in Galveston, Houston, and New Orleans in 1933 resulted in convictions against thirty-five bootlegging ringleaders who were found to have violated the Volstead Act. Ringleaders were directly linked with suspected shipping vessels as a result of the information arising out of her analysis. She died on October 31, 1980. Related reading: An Encyclopedia of American Women at War [2 volumes]: From the Home Front to the Battlefields

Milton Latter Memorial Branch library on St. Charles Avenue, a gift to the citizens of New Orleans from Mr. and Mrs. Harry Latter, opened on October 31, 1948.

Photo of Police Superintendent George Reyer, Captain Joseph Cassard, and Fidel Aragon counting quarters collected by passing a bucket among the Crescent City's firemen, October 31, 1939. The money was used to make it possible for local orphans to hear the U.S. Navy Band in concert at the Municipal Auditorium.  Photographer unknown.  Anonymous gift, 2000.

Favrot, Reed, Mathes & Bergman submitted a plan for the construction of Lakeview Elementary School at 1300 Harrison Avenue on October 31, 1931.

Bartholomew and Associates submitted a "Report on a System of Recreation Facilities and Civic Art, New Orleans, Louisiana" on October 31, 1929.  It was revised by the Recreation Committee of the City Planning and Zoning Commission. 

Charles Willard Moore, born on October 31, 1925, designed the exuberant, postmodern archetype Piazza d'Italia which was dedicated in 1978.  He was also an educator, writer, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and winner of the AIA Gold Medal in 1991.  Moore passed away on December 16, 1993.

LSU's largest loss margin came on October 31, 1914 in a game against Texas A&M in Dallas, Texas. The final score was Texas A&M 63, LSU 9.

BAUDUIT, Agnes Leonie, educator. Born, New Orleans, October 31, 1884. Education: New Orleans public schools; pursued an education curriculum at Southern University Normal, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of California and Tuskegee Institute. Also studied supervision methods at the University of Chicago and observation and supervision methods at the University of California. Before joining New Orleans Public School System in February 1908, taught school in St. James Parish, La. Remainder of her career in New Orleans; taught at Bayou Road, 1908-1911, and Thomy Lafon, 1911-1914; served as principal at Daneel No. 2, 1914-1921, and McDonogh No. 6, 1921-1950. With others, advocated establishing in-service training programs; departmentalizing primary grades; establishing student councils. Encouraged the establishment of a dental clinic, centralized library, a remedial reading program, and a visual aids program. Died, New Orleans, September 3, 1950; interred St. Vincent Soniat Cemetery. F.J. Source: Robert Meyer, Jr., Names Over New Orleans Public Schools (1975).  From Related reading: A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana: A Personal Biography

George T. Ruby was a prominent black Republican leader in Reconstruction-era. In January 1864, he moved to Louisiana and began teaching school, first in a Baptist church in New Orleans and then, as the Union occupation force expanded its educational efforts into the hinterland, in St. Bernard's Parish. The army dropped its responsibility for schooling at the war's end, but the American Missionary Association needed teachers, and Ruby worked for them in New Orleans, and, when the Freedmen's Bureau schools started up, became a teacher there. In 1866, he went to Jacksboro in East Feliciana Parish to open a Bureau school there. A white mob attacked him and tried to drive him out. With the return of Democrats to power in 1874, Ruby went back to Louisiana. He found work on the New Orleans "Louisianian," a black Republican newspaper edited by Louisiana's former lieutenant-governor, Pinckney B. S. Pinchback. The government provided him with a job in the New Orleans custom-house, but Ruby's main occupation was newspaper work. He remained on Pinchback's paper until 1878 and then became editor of the New Orleans Observer, a paper of his own through the 1880 election. After its demise, he began the New Orleans Republic. In the late 1870s, he became a strong supporter of the Exoduster.  movement.  Still an influential spokesperson for black interests in Louisiana, he died on October 31, 1882 of malaria at his home on Euterpe Street, New Orleans.  (From Related reading: Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

BARRETT, John Augustus, funeral director, politician. Born, Algiers, October 31, 1865; son of Micheal [sic] John Barrett and Johanna Kirby. Education: New Orleans Public schools, Western College of Embalming, Iowa City, Iowa. Employed by V. & A. Meyer Cotton Dealers; clerk, Southern Pacific Railroad Company; owner, real estate firm and funeral undertaking establishment. President, Directors' Association of Louisiana for several years; member, city council of New Orleans for four years, representing the Fifteenth Ward, 1904-1908; chairman of campaign committee of state Democratic ticket of Judge N. C. Blanchard (q.v.) for governor, 1904. President, seven years, of Young Men's Social and Benevolent Association; filled all the chairs of the Halcyon Lodge No. 66, Knights of Pythias, representative to the Grand Lodge several times. Member, board of managers of Orange Camp No. 9, W.O.W.; prominent member of A.O.U.W.; secretary, 1895-1896, junior warden, 1902, of the Saints John Masonic Lodge No. 153, F & A.M.; Catholic. Married, October 30, 1895, Imogene Isabella Cassidy of New Orleans, daughter of John Cassidy and Jane Henderson Bruce. Children: twins, John Bruce (q.v.) and Michael Kirby (b. 1896), John Augustus, Jr. (b. 1897), Imogene (b. 1899), Helen (b. 1901), O'Neill (b. 1903), Cassidy Francis (b. 1906), Wilson Joseph (b. 1908), Viola (b. 1912). Died: October 18, 1921, New Orleans; interred Metairie Cemetery. C.M.B. Sources: J. A. Barrett family records; birth certificate, marriage certificate, and death certificate, New Orleans Vital Records; Dr. C. V. Kraft, The Herald, Vol. XIII, special edition; marriage certificate, Holy Name of Mary Church, Algiers, La.; obituary, New Orleans Times-Picayune and Algiers Herald; Louisiana census, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910. From

Various documents from the Survey Engineer relative to the new levee on the batture were received by the Cabildo (Spanish government officials) on October 31, 1818.

Josephine Louise Newcomb, born in Baltimore on October 31, 1816 to Mary Sophia Waters and Alexander Le Monnier, received her education in Baltimore and in her father's native France.  After her mother died, Le Monnier went to live in New Orleans, where her older sister Eleanor Anne and brother-in-law William Henderson had settled.  There, Le Monnier met Warren Newcomb, and the couple married in Christ Church Cathedral on December 15, 1845.  The couple moved to Louisville, KY, and had a son, Warren, Jr., who died shortly after his birth in 1853. They later moved to New York, where Josephine gave birth to their second child, Harriott Sophie Newcomb, on July 29, 1855.  Harriott Sophie died in 1870 at the age of 15.  Through Josephine's philanthropy, H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College at Tulane University was established as a memorial to her daughter.  Following an initial donation of $100,000, Josephine made gifts totaling $3 million.  She died on April 7, 1901.  In December 2005 the Tulane University board of directors announced that the university would be reorganized on July 1, 2006, to accommodate needed changes due to losses following Hurricane Katrina. The board also approved the recommendation of a special Tulane Renewal task force to name a revised, co-educational, single undergraduate college Newcomb-Tulane College. Related reading: Newcomb College, 1886-2006: Higher Education for Women in New Orleans

On Saturday, April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed by Robert Livingston, James Monroe, and Barbé Marbois in Paris. Jefferson announced the treaty to the American people on July 4. After the signing of the Louisiana Purchase agreement in 1803, Livingston made this famous statement, "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives...From this day the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank."  The United States Senate ratified the treaty with a vote of twenty-four to seven on October 20. The Senators who voted against the treaty were: Simeon Olcott and William Plumer of New Hampshire, William Wells and Samuel White of Delaware, James Hillhouse and Uriah Tracy of Connecticut, and Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts. On the following day, the Senate authorized President Jefferson to take possession of the territory and establish a temporary military government. In legislation enacted on October 31, Congress made temporary provisions for local civil government to continue as it had under French and Spanish rule and authorized the President to use military forces to maintain order. Plans were also set forth for several missions to explore and chart the territory, the most famous being the Lewis and Clark Expedition. France turned New Orleans over on December 20, 1803 at The Cabildo. On March 10, 1804, a formal ceremony was conducted in St. Louis to transfer ownership of the territory from France to the United States. Effective on October 1, 1804, the purchased territory was organized into the Territory of Orleans (most of which became the state of Louisiana) and the District of Louisiana, which was temporarily under the control of the governor and judges of the Indiana Territory.

A duplicate of the letter from the King, concerning the removal of the Ursuline Nuns to Havana was read to the Cabildo on October 31, 1777.   At this meeting it was also made known that the last fire was caused by a defective chimney at the Warden’s Office, and caused heavy damage to the roof of the jail.

President Taft Requests No Creole Food

On Saturday, October 31, 1909, President William Howard Taft arrived in New Orleans at Canal Street after riding the steamboat Oleander down the river from St. Louis. His fleet included boats transporting  23 governors, some  200 congressmen and senators, and many delegates which joined along the way from various river states -- visitors to the great Waterways Convention sponsored by the Lakes-to-the-Gulf Deep Waterways Association. The president's arrival was saluted by guns on the warships at the harbor.
Taft had visited New Orleans before, as President-Elect. The Times-Democrat reported that, on the prior occasion "Mr. Taft didn't know very much about Creole dishes [or imbibements] and their peculiar capacity for putting curlicues and crimps in the digestive apparatus". He asked not to be served Creole food during this visit and requested that all dinners be as simple as possible -- a seemingly odd  entreaty from the nation's heaviest president.  Archbishop Blenk, said to be a good friend, did not heed his request -- immediately after arriving in town, Taft was whisked from the river, down Royal Street, and to the Archbishop's mansion on Esplanade Avenue and served a luncheon which included broiled pompano, terrapin (turtle) chops, green peas in pods, Roman punch served in apples, omelet souffle with oyster patties, teal duck with almond dressing, artichoke hearts with drawn butter sauce, cheese, nuts, cakes, chocolate esquimaux (Eskimo pie) carrying American flags, and cafe noir.  The luncheon table was set in red, white, and blue. The mansion was decorated in a patriotic motif.  No speeches were given and no formal addresses presented, even though at the table were the nation's Secretary of War, the Post Master General, Secretery of Commerce and Labor, congressmen, the governor, the mayor, Professor Alcee Fortier, President of the Progressive Union Phillip Werlein, and other prominent local businessmen.
The president was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans at 8:00 a.m. whereupon he would have been driven by automobile from the wharf, down Canal Street to Elks Place, back to Canal, down Camp Street to Howard Avenue then St.Charles Avenue to Jackson Avenue, on to Lee Circle, and finally to the St. Charles Hotel (at St. Charles and Common) -- all so that the citizens of New Orleans could catch a glimpse of him. He was then planning to review a massive parade from the hotel gallery.  None of that happened; the president did not arrive until 12:30.  However, the massive parade did roll (photo above of people waiting wearily for it on Canal Street).  After several hours of delay parade Grand Marshall Colonel John P. Sullivan gave the go-ahead for 3,000 men from 15 companies from warships in the harbor to proceed -- in their starched white uniforms along with military bands, the Washington Artillery Camp 15 members, mounted police, and various dignitaries -- along much the same route the president was to have taken.
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1909October31TaftStartsVisitInAutoTeunissonLSM.gifAt 2:00 Taft delivered his address to the convention after Phillip Werlein called the meeting to order, Bishop David Sesums delivered the convocation, and W. K. Kavanaugh,  President of the Lakes-to-the-Gulf Deep Waterway Association, presented his address. An estimated 5,000 delegates and 1,000 of visitors were in attendance for the duration of the convention. At 4:00 Taft was taken to Pelican Park where he watched the end of the L.S.U vs. Sewanee game.  Then he was off to Tulane for a glimpse of a Mississippi vs. Tulane match.  His entourage then drove down St. Charles Avenue which was lined with people, paused at the Atheneum at St. Charles and Clio to admire the elaborate decorations put in place for the convention, and on to the hotel where photographer John N. Teunisson had left an album of photos from Taft's earlier visit (when Taft's "digestive apparatus" had been upset).  At 8 p.m. the president had dinner at the Pickwick Club followed by a reception at the French Opera House where "La Juive" was presented.
The presidents 7th floor suite at the St. Charles Hotel was comprised of three rooms; a parlor furnished with a piano, a pianola, and a music box; a reception room; and a bedroom -- all painted pale green and appointed with fine mahogany furniture.  Taft hosted several visitors there including the New Orleans Postmaster.  Secretary Michler and Captain Butt (his aid) had adjoining rooms.  According to the Picayune, "The president's valet, Walter Brooks, a negro of the mullatto variety, occupies a room in the servants' quarters".
On Sunday, Taft attended services at the Unitarian Church at Peters Avenue and South Rampart. He then was driven down Royal Street to St. Peters, Chartres, Esplanade, Rampart, and Canal Street where he boarded a boat to Jackson Barracks for lunch and sight-seeing tour of Chalmette. He returned to the city for a Sacred Concert performed at Tulane which included both Newcomb and Tulane students who sang "Dixie", among other selections.  Then the president's work was done for the day and he retired to the hotel to rest before a scheduled departure to Jackson Mississippi at 3:00 a.m. the following morning.
Newspapers throughout the nation ran stories which included that Taft had "paid a compliment to the women of New Orleans and predicted that if the convention remained two or three days they would forget that there was such a thing as a river".  On October 30, 1909, the Los Angeles Times headlined an article  "HALF OF NEW ORLEANS NOW DRINKING TAFT COCKTAILS".
Both photos shot on October 31, 1909 by John Norris Teunisson -- from the Louisiana State Museum.

 Maison Blanche Reopens
as "The Finest Department Store in the South"
October 30, 1897


 October 31, 1897 Front Page of the Daily Picayune Announces the Redesign/Reopening of Maison Blanche -- "The Finest Department Store in the South"

On October 30, 1897, three "New Orleans boys all under thirty" (according to the Daily Picayune) welcomed all to the noon opening ceremony of their newly redesigned department store in the ten-year old Mercier Building on the corner of  Canal and Dauphine streets in the 900 block of Canal.  The Picayune reported that the "Maison Blanche no longer resembles its old self".  In fact, Simon J. Shwartz, Maison Blanche's general manager, had already been doing business at this location since 1892. He had formerly worked in his father Abram's fine emporium, A. Shwartz and Son, which employed some 200 people, in the 700 block of Canal.  In 1889 Simon married Clara Newman, daughter of Isadore Newman, one of  New Orleans' wealthiest businessmen and most generous philanthropists. At that time, Schwartz was a buyer for his father's business, residing in New York. After a massive fire on February 17, 1892, which destroyed his father's store (and badly damaged D. H. Holmes, Werlein's, and Kreeger's), Simon opened S. J. Shwartz & Company in the Mercier building. 

On July 11, 1892 Simon went into partnership with Gus H. Schulhoefer, continuing to operate under the business name S. J. Shwartz & Company.  Schulhoefer who would manage the second and third floors of Maison Blanche was Isadore Newman's brother-in-law.  On July 12, Simon legally withdrew from his father's firm and on Monday, October 17, 1892, S. J. Shwartz & Co. advertised a new "Grand Opening" in the New Orleans Item.  

Hart D. Newman, original office and advertising director of Maison Blanch, was the master of ceremonies at its 1897 grand opening. Newman had previously worked with A. Schwatz & Son as well as S. J. Schwartz & Co.  He was Isadore Newman's son.  Many historical sources tell us that Isodore Newman founded Maison Blanche but in local author Edward J. Branley's word in Maison Blanche Department Stores (Arcadia Publishing), Isidore Newman actually  "funded" it. Branley added "One of [Isidore] Newman's best investments was in his son-in-law's career".

The day the store named "Maison Blanche" opened its doors, a luncheon for the press was followed by a press tour of the building, and finally a general view for the public in the evening. "The Maison Blanche welcomes thousands", said the Picayune which, in the flowery prose of the day, elaborately described the 60,580 square feet of selling space,  two passenger elevators at either end of the building, pneumatic tubes which transported currency from each department to the cashiers' office and flew back with customers' change. Exterior display windows, lit with "electric bulbs like the lights of a great stage" spanned 125 feet along Canal street and 115 feet on Dauphine -- backed my mirrors which reflected the merchandise back to window shoppers.  On Dauphine Street was a marble step to ease customers' arrival and departure via carriages.  On the corner a tessellated floor, spelling out "S. J. Schwartz & Co." in mosaic stone reminded one of MB's origin.  The store's corner vestibule adorned with white marble and antique oak, was designed with semi-circular weather doors to keep customers out of the rain when awaiting transportation to and from the store.  It also, according to the Picayune, allowed "ladies who are waiting for relatives or friends at the emporium, and who wait in the doorway, to be sure not to miss them, will not be stared out of countenance by ill-bred youths, who display themselves and their bad raising on the great thoroughfare. They can remain in the vestibule secure from the stares.

The ground floor of Maison Blanche was undivided by walls.  Mirrored showcases displayed the finest goods.  The carpeted second floor contained the ladies department. The third floor was reserved for upholstery, home goods, and toys.  On the fourth floor was the wholesale department, and the fifth floor was used for stock.  Eight white wagons drawn by white horses, housed along Iberville Street, were at the ready for hourly deliveries.  The store occupied 901, 903, 905, 907, 909, 913, 915, and 917 Canal Street as well as numbers 1 through 15 on Dauphine Street. 

On page one of the Wednesday, September 1, 1897 Daily Picayune readers saw, "When the future historian of New Orleans comes to review the material development and trade growth of the year 1897, he will have a lot to say about Maison Blanche, which he will go on to tell was an extension of the department store idea, not heretofore dared or dreamed of in the south" and "Anything from a pin or a postage stamp to the finest made dresses that ever decked her Royal Highness, the Queen of Carnival will be on sale". The Picayune also lauded the proprietors who, despite a resurgence of Yellow Fever (after a four-year lull) which resulted in  businesses suffering from quarantines and locals fleeing the city, optimistically opened the grand new store which employed 600  people.

In 1901 Simon bought brought Marks Isaacs into the company and Maison Blanche operated under the Shwartz & Isaacs Co. Ltd.  

Through the years, Schwartz systematically changed the Mercier Building but always kept the Maison Blanche store open.  He first demolished the back in 1907 and replaced it with a thirteen story tower with five floors of retail space. It was the tallest building on the French Quarter side of Canal Street.  He then demolished the front along Canal Street and moved the entrance to Iberville Street until the new section was completed. 

In 1922, after Schulhoefer died, Schwartz and Newman merged MB into City Stores, Inc., based in Philadelphia which was later under the presidency of Isodare Newman II.  In 1925 WSMB radio was founded with its home on the 13th floor and its towers atop the store.  In 1947 Mr. Bingle was created and designed by employee Emile Alline -- puppeteer Edwin "Oscar" Isentrout gave the little guy life and a voice during  the 1950s.

1947 saw brought the first new MB on Gentilly Road followed by locations in Metairie's Airline Village Shopping Centers and Westside Shopping Center (1950s), Gentilly Woods (1960s), Clearview (1969), and Lake Forest Plaza, Northshore Square, and Bon Marche in Baton Rouge (1970s).  In 1979 City Stores filed for bankruptcy.  Maison Blanche was sold to Goudchaux's of Baton Rouge (not Godchaux's of New Orleans).  In 1991 Goudchaux's dropped their name, dubbing the stores "Maison Blanche" again, then changed it to Dillard's.  In the summer of 1998 the Canal Street store closed for good.  In 1999 it was sold to Ritz-Carlton. New Orleanians can now spend the night at the old MB.  

A little know fact -- there was a Maison Blanche long before this business opened. On June 10, 1866 Mssrs. Gallot and Chavannes announced the opening of The Maison Blanche on Canal Street and described it as such in the Picayune, "This is the name of a very beautiful liquor store at 157 Canal Street (next to D.H. Holmes).  The interior decorations of which have been gotten up in the most artistic and elaborate manner is perhaps the finest store of the kind in this country".  They would sell preserved fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and pate and would open the store "tomorrow evening".  Later advertisements in 1866 touted "fancy food", Havana cigars, a sample room, and/or a "back saloon". By 1870 it was run by Soloman and Planellas.  Ironically, in 1849 a Mr. Gallot had a dry-goods store at Canal and Dauphine -- the location we know of as the Maison Blanche building.

Related reading: 

Maison Blanche Department Stores

Edward J. Branley


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