Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot
There is an endangered and bedraggled building that recently caught my eye on St. Bernard Avenue near Rocheblave. It has a vaguely Chinese look but its original lines are obscured by later additions, graffiti and the wire fencing that now enclose it.
Do you know anything about this most unusual structure? Was it originally a Chinese laundry?
Patrick Jones (New Orleans)
The building is located at 2311 St. Bernard Avenue and sits in the middle of a triangular block bounded by Republic and Rocheblave streets. Although it’s somewhat hard to see in in its present state, the main and presumably original building’s roofline and rafter tails have a decidedly Oriental appearance.
In early 1927 developer Max Buchwald purchased from Lawrence Morris the triangular block bounded by St. Bernard Avenue, Republic and Rocheblave streets. According to the Times-Picayune of March 26, 1927, it was Buchwald’s intent to erect a store and a service station. It is unclear whether those plans came to fruition but some early gasoline stations sported pagoda-style roofs.
In mid-November 1933, restaurateur Peter Tardo opened at 2311 St. Bernard Avenue a short-lived restaurant known as Ming Toy Gardens. Despite its Chinese-inspired architecture and name, Ming Toy Gardens was an American-style barbecue restaurant, which lasted only a short time before the Blue Swan Food Emporium opened at that location. For decades in more recent memory, the building housed multiple businesses, which sold and repaired bicycles and lawnmowers.
Although I am reasonably sure the older building section with the pagoda roofline was erected around 1930, I found nothing which might have connected it with the local Chinese community. Instead, it seems more likely the style reflected a Western fascination with Oriental exotica that was prevalent in the 1920s and 30s. Only two years before Ming Toy Gardens opened, the motion picture “East is West” played in local theaters and starred actress Lupe Velez as protagonist Ming Toy. There was also a Ming Toy college sorority and the Ming Toy Shoppe, a ladies’ dress shop on Dante Street.
Greetings Julia and Poydras,
My family and I recently had an opportunity to visit the Louisiana State Museum at the Presbytère, and enjoyed very much the permanent Carnival exhibit. We especially enjoyed the costume and jewelry designs. We were told many of the crown jewels were created in Paris prior to World War I by Robert D’Adrien.
A Google search, and our Carnival “reference” books written by Schindler, Hardy and Laborde, turned up nothing about this Parisian artist. Could you please shed some light on this particular designer?
Yours truly, Lisa Krupa (New Orleans, LA)
Lisa, since you addressed the question to Poydras too I asked him if he could help with the answer. Unfortunately, to him, jewelry is just those beads that hang from parade route trees,
Using the resources available to me, I was able to find only occasional cursory mentions of D’Adrien, longtime jeweler to the Mystic Krewe of Comus.
In the Times-Picayune’s February 16, 1947 issue, columnist Maude O’Bryan Ronstrom wrote of old line krewes’ crown jewels, and stated that jewels only for the Rex and Comus courts were “...made in Paris each year by a firm of worldwide renown.” According to Ronstrom, import duties for the court jewels were waived because they were created for public balls and parades.
An article appearing in the Dixie Roto newspaper supplement on February 12, 1956 and honoring the Carnival organization’s centennial year identified the D’Adrien family as the longtime jewelers to the Comus court. At that time the article appeared, Robert Renouard D’Adrien was in charge of his family’s jewelry business.
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