Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot
A MONTHLY PURSUIT OF ANSWERS TO ETERNAL QUESTIONS
Victor Valentinien’s Grocery operated for more than 60 years at 601 Chartres St.
RICHARD KOCH PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY THE HISTORIC NEW ORLEANS COLLECTION
I would like to know more about Victor’s Café (now closed) in the French Quarter. When I read its name in an article stating that Tennessee Williams hung out there, it struck a wonderful chord in my brain – but I can’t remember why. I guess I have fewer chords now! Can you help me pull up the details of that memory? Did Victor’s exist in the 1960s or ’70s?
In 1896, Victor Valentinien purchased the property at 601 Chartres St., and opened a grocery at that corner location. The French-born Valentinien died in 1905 but the business remained in his family for more than 60 years, operating as a grocery, restaurant and bar. By 1968, the short-lived Café Banquette had replaced Victor’s at the location. It is now the site of the Chartres House Café,
Whatever happened to the Fleur de Lis ham that we used to be able to get in New Orleans some 40 years ago or more? We always got the ham at Schwegmann’s Grocery Store. It was an unusual size for a ham – oblong instead of being round. We remember it as being delicious.
Hope you can tell me what happened to it or where I can get it again. I hope Poydras can help me with this one.
Fleur de Lis ham can be savored only in your memory. It was a product of the Dubuque Packing Company of Dubuque, Iowa. In 1982, the company sold its plant and trademark to FDL Foods. The plant later changed hands two more times, selling first to Farmland Food and then to Smithfield Foods. The former Dubuque Packing Company plant was demolished in 2006. According to the U.S. Patent Office, the Dubuque Packing Company first used its fleur-de-lis design in 1963, trademarking it in September ’67 (I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not but that month was also when the newly formed New Orleans Saints – wearing a fleur-de-lis on their helmet – began playing.). FDL Foods is last listed owner of this still-active trademark.
As a child in the late 1960s, I remember a large industrial looking building on City Park Avenue next to Delgado. It was abandoned and was in very bad shape. By the size of it and its proximity to the railroad tracks, it seemed like something substantial was produced there. It has long since been demolished. Would you happen to know anything about this abandoned industrial site?
It probably wouldn’t be anybody’s first guess, but the landlocked factory at 521 City Park Ave. made boats. In 1940, Andrew J. Higgins was attempting to interest the British in buying his landing craft. Higgins’ existing factory was unable to keep up with commercial and military demand so Higgins acquired the old Albert Weiblen Marble Works on City Park Avenue and converted the facility into a boat manufacturing factory. Both PT boats and LCVPs (landing craft transporting both vehicles and personnel) were built at the City Park Avenue facility where they could be easily transferred to railroad cars.
In late September 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally inspected the City Park Avenue plant. Andrew Higgins and his sons met the presidential party at a nearby railroad platform, where a three-car motorcade was assembled. As the cars drove through the doors of the massive plant, the president was seated in the front of Higgins’ convertible automobile. In this manner, the paraplegic commander in chief toured the plant without revealing to onlookers the lower body paralysis that resulted from an attack of polio.
After the war, Andrew Higgins’ brother Frank P. Higgins and nephews Ed and Jack founded Higgins Marine Sales Corporation and moved into part of the old City Park plant. Sharing the City Park facility was Higgins Industries’ appliance division.
Dear Ms. Street,
During the summer when I was a little girl, back in the early 1950s, on Sundays my family would picnic at what we called “Over the Rhine.” It was at the end of Marconi Boulevard – right before Bayou St. John went into Lake Pontchartrain on the right going toward the lake. After our picnic, we would walk down almost under the overpass over Lake Shore Drive and swim. It was always great fun.
Where did the name “Over the Rhine” come from?
Thanks; love your Julia Street column,
“Over the Rhine” referred to an open-air part of Spanish Fort as well as to a specific popular restaurant which operated at the resort. Founded in the early 1880s, Over the Rhine was founded by Otto Touche, a native of Breslau, Germany, a city now known as Wroclaw, Poland. The restaurant specialized in German and French fare and was a popular destination for New Orleans’ sizeable German population. Adjacent grounds, also called “Over the Rhine,” were a popular picnic destination for German-Americans living in New Orleans prior to World War I.
By the 1880s, when Otto Touche was establishing Over the Rhine at Spanish Fort, another place called Over the Rhine, a predominantly-German section of Cincinnati, Ohio, was already in existence. I wasn’t able to determine whether the local Over the Rhine took its name from the Cincinnati neighborhood but it seems likely that both chose their names to reflect their German identity by calling to mind Germany’s mighty Rhine River.
Many years ago, Louisiana Power and Light used to put out a recipe booklet; my mother had one that she gave to me. It had all sorts of New Orleans Creole recipes that were excellent. I lost my copy during Hurricane Katrina.
One of the recipes was for the best remoulade sauce I have ever tasted, and foolishly I didn’t write it down anywhere else. Do you have any idea about where one might find a copy of the recipe – or even better, a copy of the recipe booklet?
At first, I thought you were referring to the spiral-bound From Woodstoves to Microwaves: Cooking With Entergy, which Entergy gave away about 10 years ago, but I believe I’m mistaken. I think you mean Creole Cuisine, which Entergy’s predecessor, New Orleans Public Service, produced in 1952.
Before you search high and low for the original 58-year-old recipe book, I think I should tell you that it would probably be far easier for a bookseller to find you a second-hand copy of From Woodstoves to Microwaves. The 200-page spiral-bound cookbook contains the remoulade recipe and hundreds of others from Creole Cuisine and other local utility company publications. Considering how many New Orleans families lost their own family recipes and cookbooks in the post-Katrina flooding, it’s a shame that Entergy is no longer offering From Woodstoves to Microwaves as a free company promotion or as download from its corporate website.