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JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT

THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS

photograph courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Julia and Poydras,
Recently I found a photo of streetcars on Canal Street. I am not sure which direction they’re traveling, but it seems the picture was taken from the river end of the line.

The reason I’m asking for your help is that there’s a large statue that looks like it could be from the Civil War. I am wondering who it is and what happened to it.

If it helps, it seems to be the late 1800s or early 1900s. Also on one of the streetcars I was able to make out St. Peter.

Since Poydras and his pals like to hang out on statues, maybe he could help.

Thanks to you both.

Lynn Becerra
Melbourne, FL

Lynn, Poydras doesn’t have any pals, not since the day he invited a group to a spot to watch a Carnival parade, and it turned out to be a power line. (No birds were hurt in the telling of this story, though their pride was wounded.)

The statue in question depicts Whig statesman Henry Clay (1777-1852). Kentucky sculptor Joel Tanner Hart (1810-1877) designed the memorial, which was unveiled April 12, 1860 at the intersection of Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue almost exactly one year before the Civil War began. In 1864, during his tenure as military Acting Mayor of New Orleans, Stephen Hoyt ordered the following inscription to be added to the Clay statue’s pedestal. It read:

“If I could be instrumental in eradicating this deepest stain, slavery, from the character of our country, I would not exchange the proud satisfaction which I should enjoy for the honor of all the triumphs ever decreed to the most successful conqueror.”

The inscription was misquoted from Clay’s Jan. 1827 speech to the American Colonization Society. The original, which doesn’t include the word “slavery,” reads:

“… If I could be instrumental in eradicating this deepest stain upon the character of our country, and removing all cause of reproach on account of it, by foreign nations – if I could only be instrumental in ridding of this foul blot that revered State that gave me birth, or that not less beloved State which kindly adopted me as her son, I would not exchange the proud satisfaction which I should enjoy for the honour of all the triumphs ever decreed to the most successful conqueror.”

The memorial’s location created a traffic hazard and, for decades, the city contemplated its removal. By 1900, as electric streetcars rounded the monument on tracks built for their narrower animal-powered predecessors, there was little space for pedestrians to safely stand. Numerous accidents ensued and, in ’01, the city finally acted to mitigate the traffic hazard by moving the Clay Statue to Lafayette Square, where it still stands. The inscribed panel bearing the anti-slavery quote was not replaced or installed on the pedestal the statue has occupied since ’01.


Dear Julia and Poydras,
I am from birth a citizen of New Orleans, seeking information about a group of seamstresses who produced costumes for various Mardi Gras groups. The group’s name was Stouse.

This had to be sometime before the 1950s. How long before, I don’t know. My mother continued on her own for several decades making costumes, sometimes mantels and usually fittings for the next ball.

For many years she did Osiris, and other times Alhambra and Babylon. I would appreciate any leads as to who they were, the extent, length of time of their business and where they operated.

Larry Blanchard
New Orleans

The seamstresses with whom your mother worked were unmarried siblings who collectively called themselves the Misses Stouse. Children of Fredrick Christian Stouse and Rita Forstall, Yvonne (1892-1970), Evelyn (1893-1983), Edith (1895-1868) and Claire Stouse (1900-’92), the Misses Stouse were nieces of renowned Carnival costume designer Ann Forstall.

As is the case with others employed by Carnival organizations, costume designers and seamstresses typically operate outside the public eye and are bound to secrecy about their projects. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that publicly available information about the full extent of the Misses Stouse’s professional portfolio is scant. Over the years, the Stouse siblings worked as seamstresses and costume designers for numerous Mari Gras krewes, especially Rex, for which sisters Claire and Edith are known to have worked from the early 1920s until around ’51.

Throughout the 1940s, the Misses Stouse ran a sewing business from their shared Uptown residence, but city directories identified only Yvonne as a Carnival costumer. Interestingly, Yvonne had herself once reigned as Carnival royalty. In ’11, the eldest of the Misses Stouse ruled as queen of the Elves of Oberon.


Dear Julia,
I first came to New Orleans on April 4, 1968, as a high school junior. I wanted to attend Sophie Newcomb and my dad brought me along on a business trip so I could interview and check it out in person.

That first day he left me on my own to have lunch downtown while he went to his business meeting. I remember walking down Canal Street and finding a fabulous restaurant with a spiral staircase. I had my very first shrimp remoulade, the most delicious thing I’d ever put in my mouth. (Now my “death row last meal” should it ever come to that.) I believe it’s the place now doing business as the Palace Café (one of my favorites). Could you tell me what it was then?

Thank you,
Laura Miller
New Orleans

It would have been quite impossible, in 1968-’69, for you to have had a memorable seafood lunch in the building which now houses the Palace Café. At the time, 605 Canal St. was still home to Werlein’s music store.

Perhaps my own memory is a little foggy, but I don’t recall any Canal Street restaurant that was active in the late 1960s and featured a spiral staircase. Even though nearby department stores D. H. Holmes and Maison Blanche boasted popular lunch spots, neither restaurant had an upper level. I will keep looking, and if any readers have any recollections please let me know. Since Poydras is often too lazy to go to the post office to pick up the mail, its best e-mail me c/o of my manservant: errol@myneworleans.com.

 

Win a restaurant gift certificate
Here is a chance to eat, drink and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for a tour and Creole breakfast for two at Degas House or a Jazz Brunch for two at The Court of Two Sisters. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are Larry Blanchard, New Orleans; and Laura Miller, New Orleans.

 

 

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