A Depression Era Guide To New Orleans

Mississippi River: Downtown Riverfront Tour
The following street-cars roughly parallel the tour route: Desire car from
Canal and Bourbon Sts. to Desire St.; St. Claude car from Canal and N. Ram
part Sts. to the American Sugar Refinery.

The second part of the river-front tour begins with the Bienmlle
Street Wharf just below the viaduct leading to the Canal Street Ferry.
Remodeled in 1931, it is used exclusively by the Morgan Line for both
freight and passenger traffic and is always a busy place, as it is the
connecting link between the eastern and western divisions of the Southern
Pacific Railway System. Charles Morgan, for whom the line is named,
was a prominent steamship and railroad promotor of the last century.
Beginning his activities in the 1830*5, he organized, in 1877, the Morgan s
Louisiana and Texas Railroad on the bankrupt remains of the old
Opelousas Railroad.

Before 1906, when the steel shed wharves began to replace the old open
ones, this section of the levee was known as the sugar landing. The tall
derelict of a building, without roof, floor, or window panes, just across
the railroad tracks is all that remains of the first American Sugar Refining
plant. The levee behind the wharf was covered with sugar sheds, and
the neighborhood teemed with life. Here steamers may often be seen
taking on passengers for a trip to New York, always a favorite sea
voyage with Orleanians. Some of the old employees tell about the
Louisiana, a former Morgan Line boat, which has lain since 1905 at
the bottom of the river just beyond the wharf. On account of improper
loading, the boat broke her moorings at the wharf and turned over in
the river. No lives were lost. Attempts were made to raise the ship,
the mast of which still protruded from the water, but after lifting her
almost to the surface the hoisting apparatus broke, and the boat, sliding
toward the deep channel, completely disappeared from view. The river
bottom at this point recedes rapidly, attaining a depth of well over 100
feet a short distance from shore.

An interesting difference in the handling of freight is to be noted in
connection with the Morgan Line steamers. Elsewhere along the docks
one sees freight being handled by derricks which lower the hoisting ap
paratus through hatches on the ship s deck, but the Morgan Line freight
ers have no hatches on deck; everything is handled through cargo doors
in the side of the hull. The floor of the Bienville St. Wharf is cut with
slanting ramps leading to the water s edge so that freight can be handled
in this manner.

Jackson Square can be seen through the open doorways of the
Toulouse Street Wharf. This is one of the few city squares in the United
States where the architectural design is harmonious throughout.
Here was the first ship landing and the front door of old New Orleans.
All travelers coming to the city by river enjoyed this same view until it
became obstructed by freight sheds and wharves. The sheds, which stood
between the docks and the square, were razed recently, restoring the old
view from the docks.

The Dumaine Street Wharf in front of the French Market occupies
the site of the old Picayune Tier of the last century, where all the luggers
docked. It was one of the most interesting sights of the old town a
gathering place for Greek, Italian, French, Negro, and Indian traders who
brought their wares from the bayous and lakes of the lower Louisiana
coast. While the huge square sails of their luggers flapped idly in the
breeze these picturesque merchants would either be busily engaged in
unloading and selling their oranges, oysters, fish, vegetables, etc., or
cooking their meals over peculiar little charcoal stoves.

The French Market is still there, but the foodstuffs arrive by truck
now. Part of the old market buildings, destroyed in the storm of 1915,
have been replaced, and the entire market has been remodeled by the
W.P.A. (See French Quarter Tour.)

The line of docks is again broken at the foot of Esplanade Ave. to
provide landings for the Third District Ferry and the freight boats of the
Southern Pacific Railroad Co. This was the first of the river railroad
ferries and was established by Morgan about 1878. At first mules were
used in place of locomotives to pull the cars on and off the ferry. Pas
sengers crossed on the passenger ferry to Algiers, where the railroad train
began its western journey.

The square fronting the river between Elysian Fields and Marigny
St., occupied for years by the old Claiborne Power House, was originally
the site of the famous Marigny Mansion, which stood at that point for
almost a century. From the pillared galleries the city could be seen on
the right; across the river lay the King s Plantation afterwards
Algiers; and far down on the right stretched the endless Marigny acres.
Philip and Bernard de Marigny lived like kings, entertaining Louis
Philippe, among other celebrities. Imitating his Yankee contemporaries,
Bernard de Marigny converted his plantation into a city suburb. All of
that part of the city from Elysian Fields Ave. to the Industrial Canal is
built on his plantation.

The large brick building at the foot of Esplanade Ave. is at present
the Federal Jail, but from 1838 until about 1900 it was used as a mint.

Several large buildings, of which the Alden Hosiery Mills and two in
dustrial alcohol distilleries are the most important, stand out across the
railroad tracks as one passes on through the wharves at this point.

The Desire and Piety Street Wharves are used chiefly by the Standard
Fruit and Steamship Company, and one may see large quantities of coffee
and bananas unloaded two or three times a week. The Central American
passenger boats of this line also land here.

Cross railroad tracks and continue on Chartres Street, first street running
parallel to the river.

At 3933 Chartres St., corner of Bartholomew St., is an Old Cottage,
supposed to have belonged to the Macarty family. An incongruous later
addition to this plaster-covered brick structure is the colored glass
lattice-work framing four pillars on the front of the house.

The Olivier Plantation Home (formerly St. Mary s Orphan Asylum},
4111 Chartres St., once the palatial dwelling of David Olivier, was built
about two hundred years ago. Its plantation life ended with the Civil
War, at which time the occupant, Albert Piernas, was forced to sell.
It was purchased by the Sisters of the Order of the Holy Cross to be
used as a boys orphan asylum.

The building, which is now occupied by an old lady and two children
who migrated to the refuge from Pointe Coupee, is surrounded by new
but deserted brick buildings, and can hardly be seen from the street.
A wide gallery circles the house giving access to each room. The large
rooms with old-fashioned fireplaces and very wide floor boards have
beautiful fan-shaped transoms. On windows and doors can still be seen
the motto, Silence is Golden, testifying to the sisters occupancy. The
cisterns of the former plantation are interesting relics.

The U.S. Army Supply Base, just off Poland St. behind the Poland
St. Wharf, dominates the surrounding neighborhood. These three large
concrete buildings were constructed in 1918-19 at a cost of $15,000,000,
and were intended to serve as a warehouse for Army supplies. The ware
houses, identical in design, are each 600 feet long, 140 feet wide, and six
stories high, with a floor area of over 500,000 square feet and a combined
storage space of thirty-six acres. The first three floors of each unit are
connected by ramps with the Poland St. Wharf, which stands directly
behind on the river-front. At present only Unit 3 is used by the Gov
ernment, partly as a warehouse for army supplies and partly for the
offices of the W.P.A. The remaining storage space of the three units is
under lease by the Dock Board. Unit i is occupied by the binder twine
mill and bag factory of the International Harvester Company, and
Unit 2 has been subleased as a commodity warehouse for shipside storage.
The International Trade Exposition, backed by New Orleans manufac
turers, was housed in Unit 2 from 1925 to 1929.

L. on Poland St. to St. Claude Ave.; R.from Poland St. on St. Claude Ave.

From the St. Claude Ave. Bridge an excellent view of the Inner
Harbor Navigation Canal may be had. The locks to the left of the bridge
were completed in 1921, and the canal was finally opened for general use
in 1923. It is 5 miles long, with an average depth of 30 feet, has n
miles of frontage, and an average width of 300 feet. The great entrance
locks are built of reinforced concrete, and are 640 feet long and 75 feet
wide, with a water depth of 31.5 feet. The Dock Board has constructed
a public concrete wharf at Galvez St., 2400 feet long and 265 feet wide,
with a steel transit shed 2000 feet long and 200 feet wide.
This inner harbor canal has fulfilled an ambitious scheme a waterway
connection between the river and the lake advocated from the time
Carondelet built his canal to Bayou St. John in the last decade of the
18th century. The canal as originally planned was to have been much
smaller, but it was wisely decided to make it large enough to meet all
requirements. It was hoped that private interests would build factories
and wharf facilities along its banks, but as this idea failed to take root,
the Dock Board constructed the Galvez St. public wharf and released
the canal frontage for public service in the same manner and under the
same terms as the other parts of the harbor are used. Shippers com
plained because of its distance from the heart of the city, but as soon as
the freedom from traffic congestion which the location afforded was
realized it gradually became one of the busiest sections of the port of
New Orleans.

R.from St. Claude Ave. on Reynes St. to the levee.

The grounds and buildings of Holy Cross College, a
boys preparatory school; Charbonnet Wharf, the last of the public docks;
the low buildings of the New Orleans Compress Company, a cotton ware
house behind the wharf; and the Todd Dry Dock Company are to be seen
along the river in that order.

Jackson Barracks, facing Delery St. and the river and extending to
the St. Bernard Parish line, were constructed during the administration
of Andrew Jackson to be used as a garrisoned military post for the defense
of New Orleans and as a depot for interchanging troops garrisoning the
river forts during the months when yellow fever was prevalent. The
construction of the post was unique, since it was designed much in the
manner of an Indian fort, with a high surrounding wall and four towers
provided with rifle slots and embrasures for small cannon. Large cisterns
at each building supplied ample drinking water. It is said that Jackson,
remembering his unpleasant relations with the Creoles in 1814-15, ad
vised the War Department to construct the barracks not only for the
defense of New Orleans but as a self-sustaining fort capable of resisting
an attack by the townspeople.

Federal troops were quartered at the barracks until about 1920, at which
time the place was abandoned by the War Department as a garrisoned
post and leased to the State of Louisiana for the housing of National
Guard units. Troops have embarked from the Barracks to participate
in every major conflict engaged in by the United States. When Louisiana
seceded in 1861 the post was taken over by the Confederate authorities
but was later captured and garrisoned by Federal troops. Today Jackson
Barracks maintains 14 units of National Guardsmen (about 700 men),

Provides warehouses for Federal and State property, and houses about
)rty families of Guardsmen.

The reservation consists of approximately 84 acres, extending from the
river to St. Claude Ave. Eighty buildings, ranging from large, brick
structures with 18- and 22-inch walls a century old, to small, temporary,
sheet-iron buildings, are capable of garrisoning about 1500 soldiers.
Temporary barracks and canvas shelter could accommodate from 2000
to 3000 additional troops. The buildings have been remodeled and
cleaned up under a Works Progress Administration project at the present
time (1937), and several new buildings constructed.

Adjoining Jackson Barracks, just across the St.
Bernard Parish line, is one of the old plantation buildings of Spanish
times, originally the Home of the de Lesseps. Dr. L. A. Mereaux, sheriff of
St. Bernard Parish, is the present owner and occupant. Several blocks
more bring one to the Stock Yards and Abattoir. On Friscoville Ave.
stands the former Jai Alai Building, painted in dabs of color and now
used as a gambling house. The large assembly plant of the Ford Motor
Company follows, and adjoining it is the immense refinery building of the
American Sugar Refining Company with wharves and conveyors along the
levee and over the road. Visitors are admitted to the plant at 10 A.M.
daily, except on Saturdays and Sundays; there is no charge for admission.

Just beyond the refinery buildings another fine old plantation home
is to be seen with its pillared galleries and fine old oak trees. Known as
Three Oaks Plantation and the former home of the Cenas family, it is now
the property of the American Sugar Refining Company. During the
bombardment of the Chalmette Batteries in April, 1862, by Admiral
Farragut and his fleet the right end column was demolished and has since
been replaced. Similar plantation homes, within spacious grounds, lined
both sides of the river below New Orleans in ante-bellum days.

About a quarter of a mile farther on one comes to the Chalmette Slip,
the property of the Southern Railway Co. Started about 1907 but not
completed until 1915, it is the only slip of its kind on the Mississippi.
With a length of 1800 feet, a width of 300 feet, and a depth of 30 feet, the
slip has two concrete docks, one on each side. Dock i is a single-story
structure 1300 feet long and 120 feet wide, with a floor area of 156,000
square feet. Dock 2 is two stories in height, 1780 feet long, and 130 feet
wide, with a floor area of 418,000 square feet. Six vessels can be accom
modated at one time. A specially constructed double-unit conveyor,
electrically driven, is used for unloading copra from shiphold to freight
car. The Macarty home, used by Jackson as his headquarters during the
Battle of New Orleans, was razed in the construction of the slip.

Below the slip, Chalmette Monument and the National Cemetery
occupy the old battlefield where Jackson and his gallant crew repulsed
the British invasion of 1814-15, and where feeble batteries attempted to
stop Farragut in 1862.

Return to American Sugar Refinery to obtain street-car.

The Mississippi River
 Uptown l Downtown l Port of New Orleans

A Depression Era Guide To New Orleans
Chronology l Mississippi River l French Quarter l Music l Restaurants l Gumbo
Jambalaya l Red Beans & Rice l Hotels l Garden District l Cemeteries l Home


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