JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
The old Newton Street Viaduct, ca. 1950.
photo courtesy of louisiana division/city archives, new orleans public library
Yours is usually the first part of New Orleans Magazine that I read. I especially enjoyed your answer to Mike Staiano’s query in the September issue, asking how the trains got across the river before the Huey P. Long bridge. You told him about the railroad ferries.
When I first came to New Orleans in August 1956, fresh out of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, I went to work as an engineer on the ships of the Delta Line (Mississippi Shipping Company). I would often see that we were working cargo with a T. Smith and Sons derrick barge on the ship’s offshore side working to barges. One of the derrick barges, a very large one, had two huge steam cranes on it that ran on rails on the barge. The name on the barge was Mammoth. I was told that it had once been a railroad barge/ferry. That piqued my interest. I had assumed they operated out of the huge Southern Pacific yard in Algiers, now all gone, as is Delta Line, which ceased operation in ’83 – when I left Delta as Superintendent Engineer.
I would appreciate having more information about those ferry operations. When did the Southern Pacific shops in Algiers shut down?
New Orleans (Algiers)
Southern Pacific rail ferries once shuttled both passenger and freight trains between the foot of Esplanade Avenue and Southern Pacific (SP) railroad yard at Algiers. Two blocks wide, the SP yard extended between Atlantic and Thayer streets and ran from the riverfront to the Orleans Parish line. The facility shut down and moved to Avondale in the 1950s.
Consequently, the Newton Street viaduct, which had been constructed in ’07 so vehicular traffic could travel unimpeded over the railroad tracks, was no longer needed. It was demolished in June ’60 and replaced with a four-lane surface street.
The abandoned parlor car intrigues me, but I have been unable to determine its story or why it has been allowed to quietly rust away. Perhaps one of our readers may know.
My curiosity was aroused while reading a feature about new restaurants in the September issue of New Orleans Magazine. Mention was made of several eateries on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.
I don’t live in New Orleans but frequently visit and dine out there. I may wish to add one or more of these restaurants to my next visit to the city. The article didn’t provide a map or sketch for specific guidance to the location. Since my rather dated street map of New Orleans doesn’t list that boulevard, I was curious about several things: First, who was Oretha Castle Haley, and why was she worthy of a street name change; second, what former street was changed to Haley Boulevard; and third, are there other Central City Streets whose names have been recently changed?
Since you may not have been to the area in question, maybe Poydras could do a “fly over” and report back whatever he can about the topography in question.
Born in Oakland, Tennessee and raised in New Orleans, Oretha Castle Haley (1939-’87) became involved in the civil rights movement while at student at Southern University New Orleans. She would go on to lead the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and wed fellow CORE member Richard Haley. A leader in healthcare, Mrs. Haley later worked as Deputy Administrator at Charity Hospital and helped organize the New Orleans Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. Also politically active, in ’72 Haley directed Dorothy Mae Taylor’s political campaign. Following her death, part of Dryades Street was renamed her honor.
Earlier this year, the New Orleans City Council renamed portions of a pair of Central City streets in honor of two local religious leaders, both of whom died in 2013: Robert C. Blakes, Sr. of New Home Ministries and John Raphael Jr. of New Hope Baptist Church. Carondelet Street from Felicity Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard (formerly Melpomene Street) became Robert C. Blakes Sr. Drive while LaSalle Street between Earhart Boulevard and Simon Bolivar Avenue was renamed Rev. John Raphael Jr. Way.
For more than 20 years I travelled Carrollton Avenue to my office, often seeing Poydras’ friends flying in and out of the palms – beautiful green parrots. It was a grand way to start and finish a day.
Since Katrina and our returns to New Orleans, I no longer see them. Could it be they were blown away, perhaps to Texas? Hoping you or Poydras will inform me.
Thanks for your help.
Greg, Poydras doesn’t have any friends ever since he got involved in that Ponzi scheme. He avoided prison only because of an obscure law, one that traces back to the days of pirates, that parrots aren’t allowed in prison.
The parrots you saw on your daily commute were monk parakeets, the scientific name of which is Myiopsitta monachus. In the 1960s, many were imported for the pet trade. Some escaped from captivity and established colonies throughout the country. Major colonies now exist from the Deep South to New England, with the heaviest concentrations found in Florida, Texas and New York.
Since Katrina, I’ve seen flocks in City Park and elsewhere throughout metro area and can vouch for their continued presence in the city, so I don’t believe your non-migratory parrots moved to Texas. Had they done so, they would have had a great deal of company since Texas already has substantial monk parakeet populations of its own.
Although the parrots are quite cute, encouraging a non-native species to make itself at home in a new habitat can have unfortunate consequences. In their native South America, the birds are significant agricultural pests. Throughout their introduced range in the United States, monk parakeets seem to prefer urban life to crop raiding, but their fondness for nesting in electrical infrastructure is a problem. Utility companies in Florida, Texas and elsewhere have had to deal with equipment damage, electrical fires and power outages involving monk parakeet nests, which can be huge communal structures weighing up to half a ton.
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: Greg & Barbara Tschida, Poplarville, MS; and Robert Tuley, Hattiesburg, MS.