Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

A MONTHLY PURSUIT OF ANSWERS TO ETERNAL QUESTIONS

Dear Julia and Poydras,
I have grown weary of looking at this old photo, right,  for 30-plus years and still not being able to identify the inscription on the hat nor the type of uniform. The lettering is a bit of a blur.  I am curious if you’ve run into any other gentlemen with similar garb? This photo was given to me by my great-aunt (a New Orleans resident) many years ago but without identification. Thank you for your effort, and I hope your eyesight is better than mine!

Jeffrey Murray
Chicago


I am not sure the problem is with your eyesight or mine. The image has faded over the years, and fine detail has been lost. I tried adjusting the image you sent me but all efforts to clarify the wording on the man’s cap proved futile.

The image was shot by James H. Scoggins, a photographer who settled in New Orleans in the early 1850s. Even though the reverse of your picture is damaged, I was able to read enough of the label to confirm that it matches those Scoggins was using in the early 1870s, after he had moved his studio from Magazine Street to Poydras Street.

Because of the labeling, the man’s facial grooming and the style of photograph, my best guess is that the picture probably dates from about 1873-’74.

Without a clearer look at the man’s hat, it’s difficult to speculate about his profession. I don’t wish to sound disrespectful, but his clothing is a little shabbier and more homespun than I’d expect from a uniform, but he had money to have his picture taken. During Reconstruction, thousands of local men joined local militia groups, so it’s certainly possible that your mystery man may have been a militiaman, many of whom wore similar caps.

Since your mystery man used a Poydras Street artisan instead of one of the many photographers located on Canal Street, I strongly suspect he lived or worked somewhere near Poydras Street. If you continue the quest for your mystery man, I think you should look for a Reconstruction-era relative living in the 3rd Ward.

Despite widely believed misinformation equating it with “gangsta” culture and the Calliope Housing Development, which was actually located in the 2nd Ward, the 3rd Ward extends only from Julia Street to Canal Street and encompasses much of the Central Business District and Mid-City. The 2nd Ward extends from Julia Street to Felicity Street. Ward boundaries were set by law and have not changed since they were established in the mid-1800s.

Hi Julia and Poydras,
When I was a teenager back in the 1940s, before I joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, I went to S. H. Peters high school. There was a Peters canteen on South Jefferson Davis Parkway and Tulane Avenue, where they had dances and refreshments. There was also a Warren Easton canteen on North Rampart Street about two blocks off Canal Street. When I talk about them no one seems to remember. Am I right or am I daydreaming?

Al Rohli
Kenner


You are absolutely right. During and after World War II, “teen canteens” sprung up in an effort to combat juvenile delinquency. In late April 1944, radio station WSMB ran as part of its “Here’s to Youth” series a radio drama about problems that led Ft. Wayne Indiana to establish a “teen canteen.” One month later, the S. J. Peters Key Club Teen Canteen, the first New Orleans “teen canteen,” was dedicated at 700 South Jefferson Davis Parkway, at the corner of Tulane Avenue in Mid-City.

Open until 8 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends, the canteen featured a jukebox and a large dance floor. Other amenities included an assortment of parlor games, table tennis facilities and a soft drink bar surrounded by tables. The Kiwanis Club sponsored the canteen. The City of New Orleans provided the facility rent-free.

One of the S. J. Peters students most closely associated with the S. J. Peters Key Club Teen Canteen was one of its founders, Bobby Yrle of 3007 Banks St. In addition to helping kick off the local teen canteen, Yrle was a frequent contributor to The Times-Picayune’s “Letter Club” column. When Stanley Foster, founder of the Britain America Friendship Circle for Boys and Girls, saw one of Yrle’s columns and contacted the youth, Yrle mentioned the Friendship Circle in one of his “Letter Club” columns. Response was enthusiastic, with scores of Times-Picayune readers seeking information about how to meet Northern Irish penpals.

The original teen canteen, part of Mid-City’s nearly forgotten wartime history, was demolished years ago. Nearby, an obelisk topped by an carved eternal flame still recounts the names of dozens of Mid-City’s native sons – the neighborhood youth who marched off to war, never to return alive to their homes and families.

Dear Julia,
The Times-Picayune has an Edgar Poe award named for a former Washington correspondent to the newspaper. Did the famous author actually work for our newspaper? If so, when did he work for them?

Matt Ryan
New Orleans


In 1989, The Times-Picayune and Newshouse Newspapers established the Edgar A. Poe Award for journalistic excellence. Named in honor of the Picayune’s longtime Washington correspondent, who died in 1998 at the age of 92, the award is presented at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner.

I have seen no evidence to indicate that horror writer Edgar Allan Poe ever lived in New Orleans or was employed by a New Orleans newspaper. On the other hand, it was with The Times-Picayune that political journalist Edgar Allen Poe spent the bulk of a distinguished 70-year writing career.

Journalist Poe knew of no direct kinship to the 19th-century author. In his 1989 obituary, an unnamed colleague recounted an amusing story of mistaken identity. The journalist Poe had paid a quick visit a friend who was recovering from brain surgery. As the journalist left the hospital room, the surgeon stopped by to check on his patient and asked the man to identify his last visitor. “Edgar Allen Poe,” the patient promptly answered. Shocked at the reply, the doctor feared the surgery had failed.

Dear Julia,
New Orleans is so wonderfully diverse. Every community contains a little pocket of fascinating history. Would you please tell me the story behind the Doullut Steamboat Pilot House? It sits like a peacock in a hen house in a quiet neighborhood on the levee.

Thanks for your help (and yours, too, Poydras).

Lynnda Ell
New Orleans


The house on Egania Street is the older of a pair of “Steamboat Houses” built by and for the Doullut family. The unique residence, built in 1905-’06, has a nautical feel that would have been very familiar to the Doulluts. Both Milton P. Doullut and his wife Mary were licensed river pilots whose son, Paul, followed in their footsteps.

Steamboat details dominate the Milton P. Doullut home. The upper story, which replicates a steamboat pilot house, was originally to serve as Milton Doullut’s bedroom, but the well-ventilated room with its 360-degree view proved too cool for comfort. Cypress balls, strung in a double garland, highlight the second level porches. Interspersed with full-length windows are stained glass portholes and, instead of brick chimneys, the house has metal smokestacks which flank the pilothouse level. Practical as well as pretty, the home also features an easily cleaned glazed brick basement level – very handy in the event of flooding – and molded metal walls which a 1906 newspaper profile indicates were painted “sea green” and intended to prevent dampness.

A few years ago, the Milton P. Doullut home was featured in episode No. 2723 of the long-running PBS series “This Old House.” Owner Don Gagnon, himself a Doullut descendant and river pilot, led host Kevin O’Connor through the unique residence in the Holy Cross neighborhood.

Dear Julia,
What hotel contains the Carousel Bar? What are the hours for the bar, and do they have any special events?

Tambry Tomaro
Grand Prairie, Texas


The Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., is home to the Carousel Lounge and may be contacted at 523-3341. The hotel’s website, which contains information about current promotions, may be found at hotelmonteleone.com.

The Carousel Lounge first opened for business in early September 1949. Newspaper coverage of the opening described the room as being decorated with wooden horses and artwork recalling carousels, sideshows and street fairs. The room’s centerpiece, said to be the first of its kind, was a slowly-rotating bar that took exactly 15 minutes to make a single revolution. While coverage of the lounge’s opening day boasted “The lighting, painting and other decorations are strictly 1949,” the place has been renovated and updated since it first opened more than 60 years ago. The Carousel Lounge remains a popular, distinctive and occasionally disorienting local New Orleans watering hole.
 

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