JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPH
When I was little, my grandmother and I would often go to City Park to feed the ducks and ride the pedal boats behind the casino. Around the place where we’d rent the boats, there was a little roped-off bridge that led to an island containing a little red brick structure. My grandmother told me it looked like a dovecote, but I never saw doves in the park. Do you happen to know anything about this intriguing little building? I have wondered about it for years and I’m hoping you may be able to tell be something about its purpose and history.
Things have changed a bit since your childhood. The boat rental dock has changed location and the bridge leading to the island behind the casino is no longer closed to pedestrians.
Felix J. Dreyfous, then vice president of City Park’s board of commissioners, donated the structure in 1928. His son, architect F. Julius Dreyfous, designed the building. Officially known as The Columbier de Carol, it honors Dreyfous’ first granddaughter, Carol Vera Dreyfous, who was said to have been quite fond of pigeons.
The Columbier de Carol resembles a plantation dovecote and was built to house homing pigeons; it replaced an earlier pigeonniere. According to New Orleans States’ coverage of Dreyfous’ donation, the residents were to be “Belgian and high-class pigeons,” but less upscale birds appear to have taken their place. During a recent trip to see the Columbier de Carol, I saw no such “high-class” birds in residence – just a few common pigeons and a big mama goose who had built a nest on the floor.
In 2005, members of the Dreyfous family made possible the restoration of The Columbier de Carol.
Shortly after graduation from L. E. Rabouin Jr. & Sr. Vocational High School in 1958, I commenced active duty in the Navy.
I believe it was in the previous year that I attended a party at the residence of Virginia Richmond on Richmond Place.
Virginia appeared somewhere in the debutante scene (1956-’57) and was a very sweet gal.
Now, my memory gets rather fuzzy but I believe that her family owned the Richmond Drug Store, which I believe no longer exists.
Are you able to provide any clarifications on the relationship of the Richmond Drug Store, Virginia Richmond and Richmond Place?
After these many years – over half a century – I’m unable to separate what may be factual and what may be merely coincidental.
Anything you can provide would be very helpful and very much appreciated.
I enjoy your columns, and from all appearances it seems that a good many readers also enjoy them.
William C. Bradshaw
Apple Valley, CA
Your memory is better than you claim. You have the basic facts straight.
Virginia Richmond lived at No. 3 Richmond Place and was a debutante in the 1960-’61 season. Her parents were John Randolph Richmond Sr., who died when Virginia was very young, and Thelma Warrene Walsdorf.
Her late father was the pharmacist who ran the Richmond Drug Store at 5944 Freret St. He was also involved in real estate and was connected to the Richmond Building at State and Freret streets.
The family’s residence on a street which bears their surname appears to have been coincidental. The residential park that extends from Loyola Street to Freret Street was named for Marie Richmond Favrot, a native of Savannah, Georgia and the wife of attorney Henri Louis Favrot.
In 1911, Architect Robert Spencer Soule built for Martin H. Manion No. 3 Richmond Place, the house that would later become Virginia Richmond’s childhood home. Walter S. Stern later acquired the property, living there for about 30 years before the Richmonds moved there in the 1940s.
Many years ago, when I was a student at St. Dominic’s Catholic School, I would walk home down Harrison Avenue toward Canal Boulevard. Just past the school was a strip of businesses, one of which was a tiny space called Drago’s (pronounced Drai-goes) Bar and Grill. I remember it vividly because one of my friends would stick her head in occasionally to tell her dad hello – but that’s another story! It wasn’t much more than a small bar and two or three tables.
I moved away, and years later I began hearing about this fabulous new restaurant called Drago’s (pronounced Drah-goes). Are these two businesses one and the same? And why might the pronunciation have changed? I’d like to think that they’re related, and that Drago’s is just one more example of the American Dream coming true.
Yes, the restaurants have a family connection.
The first Drago’s, located at 789 Harrison Ave., was operated by Drago Batinich and his wife Gloria Cvitanovich. The original location opened in mid-1952 at 837 Harrison Ave., which had been Benny’s Restaurant. By ’61, Drago’s relocated just up the street at 789 Harrison Ave., where it remained about 10 years. For a while, Gloria’s brother, Drago Cvitanovich was employed in his brother-in-law’s Harrison Avenue restaurant there before striking out, in ’69, to establish his own place at 3232 N. Arnoult St., in Metairie.
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: William C. Bradshaw, Apple Valley, CA; and Jan Gardner, Slidell.