• Canal Street

    Canal Street is the main, central thoroughfare of New Orleans, the line of demarkation between the French and American sections. It is the most ancient landmark in the city, for it was the point marked out by Bienville as the extreme southern limits of the metropolis which he founded.

  • In old. times a deep "fosse" ran through the street, but when the town spread beyond the limits of the "Vieux Carre" this canal or ditch was filled up, and the "esplanade" or "neutral ground" along which so many car lines now center, was raised. The street bisects the city from, the river northwest to the New Basin Canal. It is 170 feet wide, and is beautifully paved with asphalt throughout, a great portion of its length.

    Canal Street is, indeed, one of the most characteristic streets in the world. It divides New Orleans into two separate and distinct phases of life, two epochs of history, two styles of architecture, two modes of thought and two distinct forms of civilization.

  • It is the principal business thoroughfare of the city for a distance of about twelve squares, and thence becomes one of the handsomest residence streets and a delightful drive for both sections.

    It is the common ground on which "Creoles" and "Americans" meet to shop, to promenade, to see the grand civic and carnival parades, and often as not, when questions affecting the vital interests of the community at large agitate the city, to gather "en masse" and express their opinions as citizens of one commonwealth.

    A majority of the fine retail stores are on the lower side of the street. This side is a favorite promenade, and, on a sunshiny day, is usually crowded with well-dressed people. In Carnival time the street is almost impassable.

    One cannot walk along Canal Street without being impressed with the peculiar cosmopolitan character of the New Orleans of to-day. It is a fascinating study with its thousands of faces, for even the faces of a great city, and the composite faces of its floating population grow familiar in time to the stranger who tarries awhile; the jostle of the people, the beautiful street manners of our public, the courtesy, the good humor especially in Carnival time, when the crush is so great, the brilliant dressing of the women, the everlasting blare of music, the constant processions and celebrations, the peddlers, the loafers, the vendors of roasted chestnuts and peanuts, the flower women, the pralinieres, the ginger-bread sellers, the wheezing hand-organs, all make up a scene to be nowhere found in this American Continent except in this delightful old French city.

    From Canal Street you become acquainted with the city; you learn the names of the old streets, the haunts of the earnest working folks who give life and strength to the town; you find out where the best "Macaroni Italienne" is made, where you can eat the finest "Creole court bouillon" or the best "omelette soufflé;" you learn the road to rose gardens and orange groves, and return to find yourself in the heart of an old town with a street more beautiful, more picturesque than any other of this American Union - a street whose great stores resemble the famous "Bon Marche" or "Louvre" of Paris, whose counters and shelves teem with the finest imported goods, laces and silks and Parisian novelties, directly imported, and which may be purchased cheaper here than in New York or any other Northern city.

    Such is our great boulevard. From "Liberty Place" to Baronne Street, the crowd is continuous, and the varied and cosmopolitan street life lends a charm that makes this street one of the most remarkable places in the Continent.

    The celebrated Levees, with their vast stores of cotton, sugar and other products, lie at the head of Canal Street, and there is the landing for the great coast steamboats laden with rice from the golden fields of Louisiana. Near this spot was situated in Spanish days St. Louis Fort, the guns of which commanded the approach to the river. All traces have long since disappeared.

    A bright bit of green grass in the small triangular square at the intersection of Canal, North Peters and Tchoupitoulas Streets, upon which rises a granite shaft, attracts attention. This is

  • Liberty Place,

    which has been aptly called the "Bunker Hill of New Orleans," for it was here that, on September 14, 1874, a battle was fought between the armed citizens of this glorious commonwealth and the Metropolitan Police, under command of the Radical Government, which eventually led to the downfall of "carpetbagism" and "scalawagism" in Louisiana, and the freedom of the State from their corrupt administration. The causes which led up to the battle are traced to the hordes of penniless adventurers who swooped down upon Louisiana like flocks of hungry wolves immediately after the close of the Civil War. They were called "carpet-baggers," and the term "scalawag" was applied to those of the native population who went over to them. These two disreputable elements were perpetuated in office by a "Returning Board," which scrutinized the election returns and threw out sufficient votes to accomplish their nefarious purpose. In 1873 the State elections actually resulted in the election of John McEnery, but the Returning Board secured the inauguration of W. P. Kellogg, a representative carpet-bagger. McEnery went to Washington to appeal to Congress to recognize his rights and the Government de jure was represented in New Orleans by Lieutenant Governor D. B. Penn, lately deceased. Matters remained in this state till August 31, when the registration began for the Presidential election of the following November. Every impediment was thrown in the way of the white voters to deter them from taking advantage of their privileges. Appeal was made to Governor Kellogg for equal share in the election supervision and a curt refusal followed. It was clear that the citizens would have little or no voice in the election. In addition to these grievances, the conduct of the Metropolitan Police, numbering 800 men, and the uniformed and well-armed colored militia numbering 3,000, had become unbearable. The Metropolitans were armed with modern rifles and supplied with artillery. They were under command of General Badger, and the military under command of the Ex-Confederate General James Longstreet. The conduct of the police in making unwarranted arrests, heaping abuse upon reputable citizens and breaking into houses and searching for arms, was resented by the citizens, who organized under the name of the "White League" for the protection of life and property and the reorganization of the State Government. The gallant General Fred N. Ogden was at the head of the White League.

  • The League had decided upon no definite plan of resistance, when the issue was precipitated by an act of outrageous tyranny on the part of the Kellogg Government. As a result, on September 14, the citizens determined to make a brave stroke for the assertion of their constitutional rights. Governor Penn issued a proclamation declaring the existence of the McEnery Government, and appointing General Ogden to the command of the troops. A deputation was sent to Kellogg at the State House (now the Hotel Royal) demanding his immediate abdication. The committee was met by a member of the staff, who informed it that no communication whatsoever would be received from the citizens. It had become known that a cargo of arms consigned to private parties in New Orleans would arrive on the morning of the 14th of September; Kellogg sent a detachment of Metropolitans, who forbade the removal of the cargo. That morning the Picayune published an address to the citizens, signed by leading men, calling upon friends of Louisiana and of good, pure government to meet at Clay Statue (then in Canal Street) at 11 o'clock. The result of this meeting was the sending of the Committee to Kellogg to demand his abdication. On its return the meeting dissolved like magic, and in a few minutes a large organised force, the "White League," assembled, and, throwing up barricades in Poydras Street, the line of men formed extending from the river to Carondelet Street. Meanwhile the enemy was not idle. General Badger had formed a force of 200 Metropolitan Police on the north side of the Customhouse with one piece of artillery. On the south side was General Badger himself, the left wing of the forces, and four cannon. Badger opened fire on the citizen forces, the Metropolitans marched out to the Levee and confronted the citizens, and were immediately charged by the White League. General Badger fell severely wounded, and Longstreet vainly endeavored to rally the retreating Metropolitans. But they fled in disorder, taking refuge in the Customhouse and the Supreme Court. The League remained in position till the next day and then marched and took possession of the State House in Royal Street, whence Kellogg had fled, taking refuge in the Customhouse, with his negro troops during the night. On the morning of the 15th an immense concourse of citizens met Governor McEnery, who had opportunely returned, and marching from Lee Place to the State House, the rightful administration was inaugurated. A week later Governor McEnery was compelled to yield to the Federal forces, which had hastened to New Orleans in response to the telegram of Kellogg asking for troops. He was re-established in power at the point of the bayonet, but the Republican power in the State was permanently broken. At the following election Governor F. T. Nicholls was chosen Governor of Louisiana and the Democrats for the first time since the war obtained a majority in the Lower House of Congress. The Returning Board was abolished and Louisiana was again free. The monument at the foot of Canal Street was erected in 1891, and the spot called Liberty Place. The names of the citizen heroes who fell are inscribed on the monument. Each anniversary the place is decorated with flowers by a grateful people. The Fruit Exchange is at the corner of Canal and Tchoupitoulas Streets. The long, low building just beyond the square is the passenger station of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

  • Customhouse

    The huge granite building which fronts on Canal Street and occupies a whole square between North Peters and Decatur Streets, is the Customhouse.

    It occupies a portion of the site of Bienville's "country house." In old Creole-days a small wooden customhouse occupied the corner toward the Levee. It then stood on the river bank just inside of the country road. Constant additions to the soil have extended the batture and pushed the mighty stream further to the southeast. After the great fire of 1788 a larger building was erected by Governor Miro, which covered a great portion of the present site. This ancient "Aduana," as the Spanish called it, did duty for many, many years, till the growing needs of New Orleans demanded a new one. The present building was begun in 1848. The material is granite and the architecture is modified Egyptian. Over $4,000,000 have been expended on it, and it is not yet entirely completed. In 1874 it was the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, who were here besieged by the citizen "White League." The magnificent entrance staircase of white marble is an imitation of that of the famous Castle of Kenilworth. On the second floor is the "Marble Hall," each of the fourteen marble Corinthian pillars of which cost $23,000. It is said to be the finest business hall in the world. The United States courtrooms are on the second floor. Those of the United States District Court were used during the Civil War as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers. The visitor should not fail to see the memorial to Bienville over one of the entrances to the "Marble Hall." This is the only memorial in the United States to the founder of New Orleans. The cornerstone of the Customhouse was laid in 1847 by Henry Clay. In erecting the building great difficulty was experienced in making the foundations secure. They were made of layers of cypress timber and concrete.


Exchange Alley, full of queer, old-fashioned houses, is in this section of Canal Street, just between Royal and Chartres on the north side. It extends from Canal Street back to St. Louis, where it terminates immediately in front of the now disused main entrance to the Hotel Royal. At the corner of Exchange Alley and Customhouse Street is an ancient mansion with a belvidere of wrought iron on the roof. It is often called

The Napoleon House,

and is so designated, because it was erected by Mr. Nicholas Girod, as a residence for the Emperor Napoleon. Mr. Girod was the Mayor of New Orleans in 1814. He was an ardent admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte, and engaged in a plot with a number of enthusiastic Frenchmen to liberate the Emperor from his confinement in St. Helena.

The conspirators built a wonderfully fast clipper yacht, and called it the "Seraphine." Their plan was to bring the yacht near the island some dark night and spirit the Emperor aboard. They were going to surprise the garrison, overpower it, and letting the emperor down by means of a chair into the yacht, sail away and bring the hero of Austerlitz to New Orleans. They depended upon the marvelous sailing qualities of the little ship to enable them to distance all pursuit. There is every reason to believe that their plan was directed and approved by the captive of Longwood, and might have succeeded had not the Emperor's death prevented its consummation. Mr. Girod intended to present this house to the Emperor on his arrival in New Orleans. He subsequently occupied it himself. The Napoleon House was recently sold, and it is probable that before the close of 1904, the historic edifice will be demolished to make way for a modern office building.

All along Canal Street in this business section are a number of handsome buildings, the majority being great dry goods emporiums, where the most beautiful effects are offered for sale, rivalling Paris and London, as far as native hand-work is concerned. The show windows are unfailingly attractive. Lady visitors will find every article that they may need in these stores, from a package of hairpins, needle and thread, to the most beautiful silk lace and millinery importations.

Clay Statue, which was for so many years a landmark to visitors, stood at the intersection of Canal, St. Charles and Royal Streets. It was removed to the center of Lafayette Square in Camp Street, owing to the necessity that arose for protecting life by a better arrangement of the network of railway tracks that traverse Canal Street.

The Morris Building, at the corner of Camp and Canal, was one of the first of the modern office buildings to be erected in New Orleans. It contains the offices of the New Orleans Clearing House.

The handsome new building corner of Canal and Chartres street is knows as the "Godchaux Building." Between Royal and Bourbon, on the downtown side of the street, are the Touro Buildings. They were built in the second quarter of the last century and formed part of the estate of the celebrated philanthropist, Judah P. Touro.

The Boston Club,

the oldest institution of its kind in New Orleans, occupies the building at No. 424 Canal, formerly owned by Dr. W. Newton Mercer. The club was organized in 1834 and named in honor of an old-fashioned game of cards erstwhile very popular among the solid business men of the community. During the Civil War some of the members incurred the animosity of General B. F. Butler, and his provost marshal seized its quarters and disbanded the organization. It was reorganized in 1867. It has entertained many distinguished guests, among them General Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, and among its presidents was General Dick Taylor, a distinguished Confederate general and son of President Zachary Taylor.

The Chess, Checkers and Whist Club occupies a handsome four-story building at the corner of Canal and Baronne Streets. The entrance is on Baronne Street. It was organized in 1880, and among the celebrities who have played the king of games within its hospitable walls may be mentioned Captain Mackenzie, Steinitz, Zukertort, Lasker and Pillsbury.

Between Dauphine and Burgundy streets is the Grand Opera House, formerly known as the Varieties Theatre. It was opened about 1871 by the late Lawrence Barrett. Barrett remained in charge of the theatre for a number of years, appearing for the first time in that classical repertoire which he afterward made famous. It is a famous old playhouse, and many a name immortal in dramatic literature has appeared on the bill boards in front of it. The staircase, which occupies a space of about 100 feet, is one of the most beautiful in any American theatre. The house belongs to La Variete Association. It is now a popular-priced theatre. The Pickwick Club is located in a handsome three-storied structure of light-colored brick and stone on the upper side of Canal Street, between Dryades and Rampart. To this home the club removed in 1896. This club dates from 1857. Its first president was General A. H. Gladden, of South Carolina, a veteran of the Mexican War, who fell at Shiloh while in command of the First Confederate Regulars. At Basin and Canal Streets is the Spanish Fort Railroad Depot.

The New Orleans branch of the famous organization known throughout the United States as "The Elks" has its "home" at 121 South Basin Street, within sight of Canal Street, and the Square in front has been called "Elks Place," in honor of the order.

On Canal, between Villere and Robertson, stands the

Richardson Memorial

Medical School, built in 1894, and presented to the Tulane University by Mn. Ida Slocomb Richardson, widow of the late Dr. Tobias G. Richardson. It is a handsome building of white stone, equipped with every modern appliance for the prosecution of medical investigation. It cost upwards of $100,000. A bronze tablet bearing a profile of Dr. Richardson ornaments the wall of the entrance hall. The museum is remarkably rich in medical curiosities. The Medical School is famous throughout the Union. It constitutes a part of the Tulane University. It was organized in 1834. The students have access to the Charity Hospital. On the corner of Robertson, diagonally opposite the Richardson Memorial, is the colored medical school conducted under the auspices of the New Orleans University, colored. The Phyllis Wheatley Training School for Colored Nurses is located in this building.

After crossing Claiborne Avenue, Canal Street thence on to the Cemeteries Is lined with beautiful residences, many of them embowered among trees and vines. At No. 2036 Canal is the residence of Mr. John T. Gibbons, brother of the great American Cardinal.

The Canal Street Presbyterian Church is at the corner of Canal and Derbigny Street. Straight University (colored) occupies a whole square on Canal Street, between Tonti and Rocheblave. It is fully equipped for the higher education of its matriculants.

The beautiful Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus stands at the corner of South Lopez and Canal Streets. It was erected entirely at the expense of one of New Orleans' philanthropic citizens, the late Colonel P. A. O'Brien. The cost was $50,000. Mr. O'Brien, at his death, left a handsome sum for the erection of the School of the Sacred Heart, which adjoins the Church. Just back of these edifices, is the Frank T. Howard School No. 1, erected at a cost of over $40,000 by the public-spirited citizen whose name it bears. As the car nears the corner of Broad and Canal an imposing and beautiful edifice known as the House of

The Good Shepherd

rises in view. It stands at the corner of Bienville and Broad Streets, just two squares from Canal, and is one of the noblest and most interesting of the many charitable and religious institutions for which the old city is famous.

The House of the Good Shepherd is a reformatory institution for the reclaiming of fallen women. The extensive buildings were erected from the fortune of a philanthropic New Orleans lady, who nearly forty years ago determined to devote her pure life to the calling of a Sister of the Good Shepherd. But long before that time the Sisters of the Good Shepherd were in New Orleans devoting themselves to their God-given mission of bringing back to the path of Virtue those of their sex who had fallen away. In this reformatory the girls are trained to habits of industry and order and assist in their self-maintenance by performing various household duties. They also sew for private individuals and stores. The sisters also conduct a large laundry, in which washing is done for public institutions, hotels, private homes, etc. Visitors are admitted on application to the Superioress or to the janitress at the Bienville Street entrance. Attached to the institution is a home for the "Order of Magdalens" or fallen women who desire to enter the religious life. After a period of probation, if they show themselves properly disposed and qualified, they receive the brown habit of the order, in distinction from the spotless white-robed women "Sisters of the Good Shepherd" who have entered the order to devote themselves to the reformation of the outcast. In the "work room" where the "probationists" sit doing that beautiful hand embroidery which is the wonder of the artist, is a handsome altar of the Blessed Virgin, to which a most pathetic story is attached. Over thirty years ago, during a terrible snow storm, that surprised New Orleans, the convent bell rang after midnight and a magnificently dressed and jewel-decked woman alighted from a carriage, and entering threw herself at the feet of the Superioress and asked to be admitted. The next day she donned the humble garb of the "penitents." For nine years she labored faithfully and one spring day asked to be received among the Magdalens. She wished to remain in that sweet haven forever and help to bring other sinners like herself to God. Two years later, on the morning that she received the veil, she came to the Superioress with all the jewels that she had worn that night when she came in tears and sorrow so many years before, and laying them at her feet, she begged that they might be sold and with the proceeds an altar be erected to the Blessed Mother of God in the room where the "penitents" sit daily at work. "For," said she, "it was the picture of that sweet face of pure womanhood looking down upon me daily from that humble altar that so touched my heart with the divinity and priceless truth of the heritage that I had lost, and I wish that out of my sins and tears a more beautiful altar may arise to the Mother of Him who did not disdain the Magdalen, but said to her, 'Go, and sin no more.' " And so this beautiful shrine was erected, and from its shadow hundreds of girls who have entered the reformatory since then, have passed from the humble workroom where industry is the watchword, to the eternally safe harbor of the "Magdalen's Home," or back into the world to lead others to the practice of the God-like purity that they have here learned to love and reverence. In the rear portion of the grounds is a fine two-story brick building, erected some years ago at a cost of $30,000 through the philanthropy of Mr. Thomy Lafon, for the reclaiming of colored girls. It is also under the charge of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. As the car nears its terminus it passes Beauregard Public School, which was once a fine old Southern mansion.

Canal Street terminates at the

Half-way House,

on the New Basin Canal. Half-Way House is so called because it is very nearly half-way between the river and the Lake. This is Metairie Ridge, one of the highest parts of the city. Just around from the turn along the Bayou St. John was the ancient "Terre des Lecpreux," or Leper Land of early Creole days". The Hospital of St. Lazarre stood here. It was erected in the early French domination, but all traces of it have long since disappeared.

The terminus of Canal Street marks also the cities of the dead. All around the visitor will notice beautiful and picturesque surroundings. The handsome cemeteries of the American section are in the vicinity of the Canal Street terminus, and while exploring this neighborhood the visitor will do well to visit them. The Sportsman's Park, where baseball games take place in summer time and football in winter, adjoins the Firemen's Cemetery.

The scene on the Bayou here is very picturesque. The New Canal was constructed to facilitate the commerce of the city through more direct communication with Lake Pontchartrain, and is navigable for schooners, launches and other small craft. The celebrated Simon Cameron, later United States Senator for Pennsylvania and a member of Lincoln's Cabinet, was the first contractor for the digging of the canal. The old Oakland Driving Park is on the shell road adjoining the Metairie Cemetery. The shell road is a toll road, and leads to West End.

Athletic Park is located on Tulane Avenue, between South Carrollton Avenue and Pierce Street. It has recently become a very popular resort. It is handsomely laid out, and during the summer months music and other forms of entertainment make the spot one of continual delight. The tourist may return to the business section of Canal Street by the same route, the "Canal Belt" or "Esplanade Belt."

The Picayune's Guide to New Orleans, 1904
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