Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS

Built in 1924 as the steam packet Cincinatti, the vessel was rebuilt in the early 1930s, and rechristened the President.

Dear Julia,
Recently I read an article about riverboats. It brought to mind the steamboat the President that my high school took us on in the 1960s. I voyaged down the Mississippi River. There were students from other states also on board with us. We got to meet them, and some of us became pen pals. In ’73, my first high school class reunion was held on the President. If I remember correctly, my brother-in-law’s prom was also celebrated on the President. Years later I attended a Johnny Rivers concert on the President. We all had a great time. The memories of my visits on the President are wonderful, and I’m sure many New Orleanians also have great memories. I would like to know when the President ceased operations. Is it still in existence and it is making voyages on the Mississippi River?

Karen Boudreaux
Marrero


Built in 1924 as the steam packet Cincinnati, the vessel was rebuilt in the early ’30s, when it re-entered the river trade as an excursion boat for Streckfus Steamers. Rechristened the President, the double side-wheeler spent much of the year upriver but spent winters in New Orleans where, for many years, the vessel’s bandstand featured top musical acts. Sadly, this chapter in New Orleans’ musical and maritime past has been irretrievably lost.

In 1978, diesel engines took the place of the President’s steam-driven sidewheels, making the massive boat safer and more maneuverable. After moving to St. Louis, where it served as a local cruise boat, the President was, until its ’99 retirement, a floating casino at Davenport, Iowa. For the next decade, the President was moored at various locations until ending up in Alton, Ill.

In 2009, the S.S. President was chopped up and sent to St. Elmo, Ill., where there were plans to re-assemble her and turn her into a floating hotel. Despite fanfare and a reality television show praising and documenting the technically difficult move, the story doesn’t have a happy ending. When the press and the cameras were gone, posterity was left with a rusting collection of metal that had once been a historically significant riverboat which, since 1989, had been recognized as a national historic landmark. On July 13, 2011, having noted the President was “scattered over acres in three separate locations around St. Elmo,” the National Register of Historic Places removed the President from its rolls and stripped the boat of the National Historic Landmark designation it had held since 1989.

Dear Julia,
I would like to know where Margaret’s Steam and Mechanical Bakery was located. It is listed in an article in The Times-Picayune as Nos. 74-76-78 New Levee Street in New Orleans. Where would that address be today?

Joyce M. Guillet
Marrero

 
You will never find it if you’re looking for New Levee Street, which has changed names twice since your city directory was published. New Levee Street was first re-named N. Peters Street before it adopted its current name, Convention Center Boulevard.

Margaret’s Steam & Mechanical Bakery was located near what is now the Convention Center Boulevard entrance to Harrah’s parking lot, a modern building that had been constructed for the casino. The original bakery, long associated with Irish philanthropist Margaret Haughery, has been gone for more than a century, having burned to the ground in a spectacular fire on the evening of April 23,1892. At the time, Margaret’s former head baker, Bernard Klotz, was operating a candy and vermicelli company at that location.

Greetings, Julia, from the Land of Enchantment!

While growing up in New Orleans, one of my favorite places to spend time in the French Quarter was the Olive Tree Bookstore. It was located on Royal Street. I have attempted to research it on the Internet, but there is no information.

 It was a quaint place with all sorts of old books, record albums and film posters.

 I would appreciate your help in finding out what happened!

Michael P. Kleiman
New Mexico


Around 1972, Robert Olivier opened the Olive Tree. Located at 910 Royal St., the bookstore and record shop had a loyal following throughout the ’70s but closed about ’81. I don’t recall the exact reason why it went out of business but it was quite a place in its heyday. Whether patrons wanted to scrounge for old books or to buy, sell, trade or rent albums, the Olive Tree was a popular literary and musical destination.

A cluttered maze of a place, the Olive Tree seemed to be bursting at the seams with books and records of all sorts. If you dug in the stacks long enough, you might discover a volume you’d never find. Even if you didn’t find it, there was a chance the owner may recall having a copy safely tucked away in his off-site collections. A 1979 newspaper profile claimed the Olive Tree had 15,000 albums on-site and another 100,000 in storage.
 
Dear Julia and Poydras,
I remember going to Luigi’s after football games in my senior year of high school (1979-’80). The pizza there was awesome. Luigi’s also came up in conversation between my sister and I while talking about her 37th wedding anniversary. She and her husband were going to dinner and trying to find a place they went to while dating. I think I remember the closing of the restaurant. What happened? Did the owners relocate or open a different restaurant?

Dena Marinello
Lumberton, MS

 
A favorite University of New Orleans student hangout, famous for student discounts and cheap beer, Luigi’s was a pizza joint first located at 6319 Elysian Fields Ave., that later expanded and moved to 6325 Elysian Fields Ave. Although the Radiators often played there and the pizza was decent, I think you’d have to agree it was more of a student dive than a music club or fine Italian restaurant.

My recollection is that Luigi’s closed quite suddenly. It was still open for business in Dec. 1985, but the following month Luigi’s was one of a group of properties that members of the Paternostro family sold to Paternostoro Bros. Partnership, perhaps as part of an estate settlement. In ’86, Luigi’s quickly disappeared from the streetscape and Bud’s Broiler took its place at 6325 Elysian Fields Ave.

Dear Julia,
I was attending the New Orleans Jazz Fest and noticed a number of headstones of famous horses. How many Thoroughbreds are buried on the infields at the Fair Grounds? What are the names and how are they chosen to be buried there?

Shannon Battle
Metairie


The horses whose graves you saw were Pan Zaretta and Black Gold. More than distinguished racehorses, both were celebrities whose fame extended beyond the track. The fast lady and the underdog son of an outlaw mother ­– is it any wonder New Orleans fell in love with them and insisted they be memorialized at the Fair Grounds?

In 1915, the Texas-bred filly Pan Zareta set a 5-furlong world record at Juarez, Mexico. Known as the “Queen of the Turf,” Pan Zareta made her Fair Grounds debut in January of 1916. Over the course of her career, she won 76 races before succumbing to pneumonia at New Orleans on Jan, 19, ’16. One of the Thoroughbreds she had beaten was Useeit who, when racing in Mexico, was slapped with a lifetime racing ban when her owner refused to honor the terms of a claiming race. A family pet of an American Indian family, Useeit returned to Oklahoma and never raced again. Years later, Black Gold, son of the infamous claimer Useeit and the Kentucky-bred stallion Black Toney, would train in New Orleans and become a darling of the racing world but his owner, R. M. Hoots, died before the colt achieved his greatest successes.

Black Gold was a successful 2-year-old, but it was in 1924, as a 3-year-old, that the Louisiana-based colt took the racing world by storm, winning the Kentucky Derby. His career at stud didn’t go well and Black Gold’s financially strapped owners returned him to the track. On Jan. 18, 1928, The Times-Picayune’s racing column noted the lineup for the day’s Salome Purse, commenting “Black Gold has worked well but his bad leg makes it look hopeless for him.” During that race, Black Gold broke a leg and was euthanized by lethal injection immediately afterwards.

Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch or Lunch at the Rib Room
Here is a chance to eat, drink and listen to music, 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 one of two Jazz Brunch gift certificates for two at The Court of Two Sisters in the Vieux Carré. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or e-mail: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Joyce Guillet, Marrero; Dena Marinello, Lumberton, MS.

Julia on TV
Look for the Julia Street question on “Steppin’ Out,” every Friday at 6:30 p.m. on WYES/Channel 12. The show features reviews, news and features about the New Orleans entertainment scene. Viewers who can answer Julia’s weekly question can call in for prizes. Tell ’em you read about the show in New Orleans Magazine.

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