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
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
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."