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How many of the older residents remember with pleasure the frequent visits to the French Market of their earlier days, and yet with a feeling akin to sadness. Then the Indians, with their baskets, and blow-guns, and sassafras, were a feature that gave an undeniable charm to the surroundings; but these have practically all disappeared, and the blow-gun of the youth of that time is a thing unknown to the child of to-day. Once now and then perhaps some representative of the race may put in an appearance, with a few sweet plantain leaves and a little filé, but the Indians of other days have gone, with none to take their place. The market is still there, but the life that made it what it was has become a thing of the past. A jaunt then in the old market place, with its neighboring stores all alive with trade, the banquettes filled with rabais dealers and squatting Indians, the accustomed cup of chocolate or coffee at the stand, was a delight; but now it savors more of duty, and as a duty with that much less of pleasure in it. Of course, one still occasionally makes the journey thither, but even the flowers in Jackson Square seem less redolent of perfume, and the old Cathedral to have become, in a way modernized, so alive is one to the little things that after all, make up life. .
The Boys' High School in earlier years was at the corner of Camp and Melpomene. Coliseum Place near by afforded a convenient and much used space for the fun of recess time, and many of the older men of to-day can doubtless recall their tricks and pranks at that time and place.
Camp street, a half-century or so ago, was used to a great extent for the offices of some of the large mercantile firms of that time. The handling of tobacco from Kentucky and Tennessee and other points was a lucrative and flourishing business then; and along Camp Street, say from Poydras down, could be found the counting rooms of these old-time representatives of a good part of the city's wealth. Were the old signboards suddenly replaced, the change would indeed be great, though the individual names in many instances would still be familiar ones. People then dined not at such fashionable hours as now, so that after the 3 o'clock meal these old merchants, during the warmer seasons of the year, might be seen in friendly chat seated in their doorways, or on the pavement near by, in the old-time roomy black painted armchairs so much a part of the office furniture of those days. Carondelet Street, however, soon became a rival of Camp, and a successful one, too, but it does not require a very aged man to remember the time when a cotton press yard occupied the square bounded by Baronne, Perdido and Union Streets. Baronne Street much later was fitted up with office buildings. Along this street were the old-time slave marts; but the march of improvement obliterated practically all of these buildings, while happily the huge well-painted signs on any that may be left have faded out, and there remains nothing in the surroundings to force unpleasant memories.
At the corner of Camp and Common, where is to-day the handsome hardware establishment of A. Baldwin & Co., Ltd., was in former times the City Hotel, with its big verandahs the width of the pavement, extending the entire front and side facing these two streets. Always well patronized, its popularity was wonderfully increased, more particularly among the residents of Texas and of the interior of Louisiana, through the kindness shown by proprietors to the returning Confederate soldiers at the close of the war.
Milneburg, now sadly deteriorated, offered in the earlier days attractions for the pent-up residents of the city's most crowded portions; and its fame at that time was carried to the four quarters of the world through the writings of at least one eminent visitor who had partaken of the hospitality of one or the other of its restaurants. Those were gala days in the life of that little settlement; and when thereto are added all the stir and bustle of the large traffic between that point and Mobile, as well as with the interlying coast resorts, one can readily picture a scene of activity and of social delights.
There was then no connecting line of railroad between New Orleans and Alabama's city, though the matter of building one had been strenuously urged even in that day, and would have been doubtless carried out but for the refusal of Mobile to grant the necessary entrance, for fear that that town might lose some of its importance and become but a way-station to the larger Crescent City. The old Creole, and Florida, and Oregon, and California were some of the low-pressure steamers that had a practical monopoly of the water trade, and the old-time habitues of the coast watering places could only reach their summer residences then by means of these boats. How crowded they were, particularly of a Saturday afternoon, when then, as now, the weekly outpouring of heads of families, or of those in quest of an overSunday outing took place. The trips had the disadvantage in time, as compared with rail travel now, but they had in a measure compensating pleasures in the delights of a not overlong waterride.
Naturally with the change at Milneburg came the resulting lack of activity at this end of the Pontchartrain Railroad, with its diminutive depot at the head of Elysian Fields Street. Indeed, with the rapid alterations that have come to the city, no portion seems to have changed more than, if as much, that known as the Second District. Here began the life of the city, and as a consequence here centered, for quite a while, all its vital powers. Many of the old-time merchants had here their residences, with their counting rooms on the ground floor, but these evidences of the grandeur of that time have slowly but effectually passed away, till now the big buildings give no sign of the purpose of their construction. The old St. Louis Hotel has passed away, while the Bank of Louisiana, the old Union Bank, and the original Citizens' Bank building on Toulouse Street are but memories. Jackson Square, with its venerable Cathedral and the Cabildo overlooking and flanked by the Pontalba buildings, was once the center of fashionable life.
In very much earlier days the barracks of the troops, under both French and Spanish regime, were located, facing the river, between Barracks and Ursuline Streets. In a lecture delivered some little while back before this Society, evidence was adduced, establishing beyond question that the opinion was correct, which located in these grounds the execution of the order of Don Alexandro O'Reilley, which condemned to death by shooting Lafreniere, Noyan, Caresse, Marquis and Milhet. What garlands of romance one could weave from the life of those earlier times, but this paper is but a rambling sketch of the changes that have come but of late years, and there is enough in that to interest and to wonder at.
On Canal Street, near Claiborne, on the upper side, was the residence of old Dr. Warren Stone, alongside of which, at the corner, stood the private hospital which he erected and to which he gave so much of his time and care. About opposite, on the lower side of Canal, was a large cotton press yard; this, too, has passed, but only so recently that one may be pardoned in thinking one can still hear the echoes of the mighty steam power used in the compressing of the bales.
Fashion, after all, governs in streets and localities, as it does in women's attire, though the changes are much slower and more lasting. Without mention of the lower districts, where, by the way, are some beautiful buildings with more or less historical associations, the trend is all up town. Not so very long since Julia Street row, extending from Camp to St. Charles, was peopled by aristocratic families; likewise the buildings on Carondelet, between Lafayette and Girod, while all the neighboring thoroughfares were eagerly sought for residence sites. In the little cottage still standing on the river side of Camp Street, above Julia, was the then well-patronized Macauley School for young ladies, where many of the older society women of the present were instructed in their girlhood days.
As the city expanded, Annunciation to Prytania inclusive, extending up in varying degrees to about Louisiana Avenue, became a favorite locality; some of these streets have lost the popularity of those days, but the commodious dwellings still standing all attest how much of the city's life was centered there. First one and then another, lost its hold upon public favor, and now upper St. Charles marks the line about which fashion gathers.
For a long while Canal Street remained neglected, and only of recent years has that portion from about Claiborne out been built up. In the days of the old Metairie race course, now the Metaire Cemetery, Common Street afforded the means of communication, and during the time given up to such sport, it was lined with carriages and buggies, all speeding thither that their occupants might witness the contests, than which no greater have ever been held in this country. Nor was Common Street deserted by travel at other times, for the shell road, which still exists along the New Basin, was the favorite drive of those days. West End was not then what it is now, but it had its public resorts that are pleasant memories to many of our people. The New Basin road was the great speedway, and “2:40 on the shell road” was the one expression of all the youngsters of the day for rapid motion. Then the ownership of a horse, or the means necessary to hire one, was a prerequisite to reaching this part of Lake Pontchartrain; but during the Federal occupation of the city a railway
was constructed on the lower side of the Basin by the military, which road, with the continued improvements of later days, now affords a much sought-for outing for the masses.
There is much more than could be told, but what has been given shows the wonderful changes which have taken place.
There is a charm in the touch of old age that even the freshness of youth cannot outrival; there is a charm in old association that recalls the glories of the past; there is a charm in listening to the whisperings of years gone by-may the future bring to New Orleans no changes that will make it less the City Beautiful!
MINUTES OF MARCH 19. The regular monthly meeting of the Louisiana Historical Society took place on Wednesday evening the 28th, at the Cabildo. All the officers were present, and there was a full attendance of members and friends.
The minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved.
S. Locke Breaux, 1907 Prytania Street.
Gustave Pitot, New Orleans. Mr. Hart presented two very interesting and unique documents to the Society; the commission to the postmastership of Campti, Parish of Natchitoches, issued in 1845 to Jacob A. Wolfson by the United States, and the commission to the same officer by the Confederate States Government, in 1862. Mr. Hart was thanked by the Society. He then read an extract from an old paper dated 8th of January, 1855, giving in honor of the day, a spirited account of the always interesting Battle of New Orleans.
The paper of the evening was contributed by Miss Grace King on the “Notes Bibliographiques de Boismare, Published in Paris in 1855,” a rare and most interesting manuscript