« ПретходнаНастави »
those days, and the occasions of their out-turn drew admiring throngs of both sexes.
On this square, near where the McDonogh bust now stands, was sunk an artesian well; but the flow was not what had been anticipated, and the original purpose of it was necessarily abandoned. But for quite a while it was allowed to remain open, its slowly flowing waters gradually becoming considered by the populace as possessing some great medicinal power. The result was that many gathered there at all hours to drink, or bringing the necessary utensils, from glass pitcher to any old empty can, would carry off a supply of water to their homes. The craze lasted for quite a while and then quietly died out.
Canal Street, as may be readily inferred from its name, was the location of an open drain along the neutral ground. This was gradually filled up, but for a long while from Claiborne back the unsightly canal was covered by planks, and this protection afforded the roadbed for the car tracks. The neighborhood along this portion remained but sparsely settled until of recent years, and where now are many handsome residences, was at that period very little better than a quagmire. The original intention, or perhaps hope would be the better word, of our then city fathers, was to have statues at various intersections of Canal Street, and the former location of Clay Statue at Royal Street, since removed to Lafayette Square, shows the preparation for such a scheme. What a beautiful thoroughfare would have been the result, unequaled perhaps anywhere in the Union; but misfortunes overtook the city, as they did the individual resident, as a result of the great Civil War, and such schemes of beautification proved only idle dreams. Later on the practical age developed, and in lieu of ornamentation we have to-day the centralization of a grand street car system that excites the wonder of the stranger with us.
Christ Church, now one of the beauty spots of the upper district, stood formerly at the corner of Canal and Dauphine, where the Maison Blanche is now located. Men and women of to-day were there baptized, confirmed and married; and yet there are doubtless many who know it only as a dry goods mart. About 1840 Christ Church was at the corner of Canal and Bourbon, and next thereto was the residence of Judah Touro, while other homes were strung along the block. The workshops of Nicholas Sinnott, the first builder of note in New Orleans, were in earlier years at the Fellman corner, the present building on which was originally erected for the Pickwick Club.
Where stand now the Tulane and Crescent Theatres, with the stores in front, were formerly the buildings of the old University of Louisiana, three in number, the academic, at the corner of Baronne, the Law School at Dryades, later called University Place, and the Medical School in the center; but with the founding of Tulane University these in time disappeared. On the rear side of the theatres, facing University Place, formerly stood Tulane Hall, known originally as the Mechanics and Agricultural Fair Association building. Its name signifies the purpose of the organization. Converted just after the war into a State House, it was the scene of one of the bloodiest riots that ever burst forth in this city. Later on it was the arsenal of the Louisiana Field Artillery, but has now disappeared in the erection of the Grunewald Hotel annex.
Our magnificent postoffice indicates the growth of the city, for just below where the Sazerac saloon now stands, running through from Royal to Exchange Alley, was at one time the location of the postoffice, with the United States Court on the floor abore, later to be moved into capacious quarters in the Custom House, and then for want of room, transferred to its own grand building fronting Lafayette Square.
The steamboat trade, such as one knew a generation or more ago, has passed out of view; and while our wharves now are lined with many steamships, the older ones of us must miss the vast number of sailing vessels, from brigatines to full-rigged ships, that formerly discharged and took on cargo at the riverside three, four and five abreast. They were there from the lower limits to the upper, except at that portion always reserved for the immense river traffic proper; and they gave an appearance, if indeed it was not an actual reality, of vast trade. Vor must one overlook the great flatboat business, which was a feature in itself. Quantities of produce from the great upper States were thus floated down stream, the owners disposing of their boats here, which were broken up and the timber used in various ways. Some of the best constructed frame buildings of the city owe their origin to this custom, and their excellent state of preservation attests the wisdom of the period.
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