I’ve been driving past my pre-Katrina grocery, Canal Blvd. Supermarket, lamenting its absence for the past few months and observing its gutting. I noticed after the façade was stripped of its outer veneer, that earlier incarnations of the building were revealed. “Azalea” and “Tony’s Cafe” are painted over the same space with “dining room” and “dancing” painted over the same space to the left. “Lakeview Post Office” is painted on the right side of the building.
Do you know anything about these establishments? It’s just down the street from where Lenfant’s once stood. Was this a hot strip of clubs at one time?
I was unable to find anything about the Azalea but I have good reason to believe it was a short-lived restaurant that most likely operated some time between 1948 and ‘51. I had better luck dating the other signs on the building.
Although I would not say that early Canal Boulevard was a place where there were a large number of nightclubs, it did have a fair number of bars and a few restaurants, including the A&G Sandwich Stand.
Originally located at both 5205 and 5236 Canal Blvd., Lenfant’s was probably the best known of the boulevard’s eateries; by 1947, the old Lenfant’s Rosedale Inn at 5205 Canal Boulevard had moved out and was replaced by the Star Bright Inn.
The former grocery building that now sits at 5331 Canal Blvd., originally had two municipal addresses, 5319 and 5331, and was most likely built between 1929 and ‘34. A 1929 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the site as an undeveloped lot.
According to city directories, by about 1934, Savlatore Ciolono had opened the Step Inn Bar at 5329 Canal Boulevard. By 1937, the Step Inn Bar was sharing the building with Baker’s Hardware and Paint Store. The hardware store did not last very long and by about 1941, had been replaced by the Consumers Food Store and Gilbert Lasalle’s meat market. The bar and the grocery remained neighbors until late 1945 or early ‘46, when Tony’s Café moved into both sides of the building. Incorporated on November 20, 1945, Tony’s Café appears in the ‘47 city directory. Located at 5329 Canal Blvd., it was run by Anthony J. Gambino, John Johnson and Mrs. Michelina Rose. Tony’s appears to have remained in business at least until 1948, since it appears in the 1’49 city directory.
From the early 1950s until the early ‘60s, the U.S. Postal Service had opened its Lakeview Station at 5329 Canal Blvd., while the Canal Blvd. Supermarket operated next door at 5331. Around 1964, the post office moved out and the grocery expanded into the other section of the building.
Growing up in New Orleans, I attended Sam Barthe School, which for a number of years, was located at the old McFadden mansion in City Park. The school moved to new quarters when I was in 6th grade (around 1959), but I still remember the beautiful architecture and grounds. Can you tell me about the history of the mansion and its relationship to City Park?
William Harding McFadden did not build his house in City Park. Instead, the park expanded around property that McFadden owned. In 1909, Fred Bertrand had built a five-bedroom frame home on the site McFadden would buy in 1919. In 1920, McFadden rebuilt the Bertrand home into a seven-bedroom, 11-bath mansion that included a ballroom, trophy room, drawing rooms and a marble-lined indoor swimming pool. The lavishness extended outdoors as well, with elaborate gardens.
McFadden is said to have had a good relationship with the Park Board, eventually becoming an honorary member of that body. He paid for some park improvements, including a stone bridge, in the immediate vicinity of his home. However, despite generally cordial relations, McFadden could be a demanding neighbor. Once, when the park sought to replace a popular statue (“The Unfortunate Boot”) that was broken, McFadden objected because he and his wife had an identical statue in their garden.
According to the book Historic City Park New Orleans, McFadden’s gardens were actually located on park property. The park and McFadden eventually reached a compromise when the park granted McFadden a 99-year lease on the land in exchange for four other plots of land. Still, McFadden was not totally happy. As the park grew around him, he was bothered by the lack of privacy and, in 1943, sold to City Park the mansion, along with four acres of land, three other houses and a greenhouse for $40,000.
For the next six years, the McFadden Home was leased to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Louisiana Southern Forest Experiment Station. Then, in 1949, Sam Barthe took the house over and turned it into a school. Stressing athletics and self-reliance, the school educated boys in grades one through six. Barthe also conduced a co-educational day camp during the summers. Sam Barthe gave up his lease in 1959. It would be a year before the Christian Brothers would step up to the plate and return the home to school use, this time as Christian Brothers Academy – an institution which continues to serve slightly older boys, in grades five through seven. The Park Board was greatly relieved to have the Christian Brothers as their lessees. In the year the McFadden home had been vacant, it had been vandalized and a number of uses had been proposed, including a mayoral residence, a hospital, a convalescent home and even a chicken farm.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
I am confused about the places St. Dominic had Mass. I am a former resident of Lakeview and, in fact went to St. Dominic School from 1938-’43, when my brother was born. I attended St. Dominic at that time on Harrison in the 200 block. The church had the school on top. This is the only place I remember the Masses being held until they moved across the boulevard to the present building. Can you clear this up for me?
Helen Conkerton Quigley
Mount Juliet, TN
No problem, Mrs. Quigley. I believe I can straighten the puzzle out for you.
In response to a question in the June issue, I listed all the places where Mass is known to have been celebrated within the present boundaries of St. Dominic’s Parish from the time it was a mission until the construction of the present church. Not all the places mentioned were locations where the entire congregation would have worshiped. Some, such as the military hospitals, would have been served by the parish priests as a convenience to people who would otherwise be unable to attend Mass.
Around the time you were attending St. Dominic’s School, you probably noticed that many homes were being built in your neighborhood and many new families were moving to Lakeview.
This influx of new families, many of whom were Roman Catholic, was a bit much for St. Dominic’s small church to handle. The church at 224 Harrison Ave. was overcrowded, but eager to welcome and serve its new parishioners. So, having first obtained permission from the Archbishop, the parish held additional Sunday Masses in the nearby Lakeview Theatre from March 1942 until December ‘44, when a larger church building was completed.
According to a notice printed in a 1944 parish history, the Lakeview Theatre had been a most gracious and generous neighbor. Not only did the Robert E. Smith family allow the congregation to use their theatre free of charge, they also paid to heat and cool the theatre during church services.
My first airplane flight landed at New Orleans International Airport. Since then I have flown in and out of the airport several times. As morbid as it seems, I have always wondered about the Pan Am crash in 1982. Did it occur where the Esplanade Mall is now located? I believe the mall was built in the mid-1980s. The location is almost in the flight path.
I enjoy your magazine immensely. Keep up the good work and continue to champion the revival of your wonderful city.
Groundbreaking for the Esplanade Mall took place in August 1983. As you so astutely observed however, the mall’s location at 1401 West Esplanade Ave., just past Williams Boulevard, is slightly off the flight path of the ill-fated passenger jet. Pan Am Flight 759 crashed because of the wind shear it encountered shortly after takeoff on July 9th, 1982. The plane initially hit at Fairway Drive and 17th Street, but tumbled and tore its way through five residential blocks of the Roosevelt subdivision before stopping near Taylor and 17th streets. The death toll was 154, of which 145 were on the plane and 9 were on the ground.
As the façade at 5329 and 5331 Canal Blvd. is stripped away, its history is revealed.