Near Orange Street are two tall structures that I have called the Orange Street Silos. I have been curious of their history for years. Please tell me about them.
Bianca A. Fuentes
Those aren’t silos, they’re smoke stacks and, although they are near Orange Street, they actually soar above Market Street. The facility to which they are attached was once a major power plant.
Dating from around 1900, the Market Street power plant is shown as belonging, in 1909, to the New Orleans Railway and Light Company. A successor of the New Orleans Gas Light Company, the New Orleans Railway and Light Company would later become New Orleans Public Service Incorporated, part of the company we now know as Entergy Louisiana.
Closed since 1984, the Market Street power plant is nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Entergy has been considering multiple offers to purchase and redevelop the property.
In the early 1960s we, as neighborhood kids, played in a huge old house about to be demolished.
It would have been located somewhere around Camp and Delachaise Streets. I remember it being three stories high with a cupola. Do you know the history of this old home?
Nicholas J. Compagno Jr.
Yes, I do. It was the Keller House, located at 3453 Magazine St., on the lake side, between Aline and Delachaise streets. Once a convent for the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic, the distinctive mansion was demolished in 1967. Malta Park Assisted Living Residence now stands on the site.
The immense home, with its distinctive cupola and mansard roof, exhibited elements of various architectural styles. It was most likely built in the late 1870s for William Brainerd Spencer, then an associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. It’s a good thing Spencer had such a big house because he certainly had a large family. In 1880, the Spencer household consisted of Spencer, his wife, six daughters ranging in age from three to 21, a 12-year-old son, a cousin and two servants. Suffering from ill health, Spencer went to Mexico, where he died in 1882. His family remained in the Magazine Street residence for nearly a decade following his death.
Spencer’s elaborate multi-story mansion is most commonly associated with its next owner, John H. Keller, who acquired the mansion in the early 1890s. A native of Zurich, Switzerland, Keller made a considerable fortune as the proprietor of the soap factory that bore his name. He built the Keller School at Jackson and Freret Streets, served on the board of the Fink Orphan Asylum and contributed generously to the Y.M.C.A.
I noticed at the corner of Toledano Street and St. Charles Avenue, there is a sundial located on a bell-shaped concrete base. The inscription reads “Zacharie 1909.”
I would appreciate any information you may have. If not, maybe Poydras could fly around that area and do a little snooping.
Kathleen, Poydras does not fly during the summer. He says the weather is either too hot or too wet. His preferred method of transportation is to take a taxi, but you would have to pay his fare.
The City Council, in June 1903, officially designated the Toledano/Pleasant Street neutral ground, between St. Charles and Dryades, as Zacharie Park. In 1916, another city council, realizing that the park impeded traffic flow, passed an ordinance calling for the name change from Zachary Park to Zachary Place and permitting side streets to be paved and to bisect the park
The new name is probably a bit more suitable than the old one, since the park is now so fragmented. The segment bearing the sundial is so tiny, it can serve neither as a play spot nor as an urban green space.
Had you looked at the sundial, you would have seen it is inscribed to the memory of James S. Zacharie. Even though his “park” is now a “place,” Mr. Zacharie was, during his lifetime, a tireless advocate for the development and enjoyment of public parks and parkways.
At the time of his death in 1906, James S. Zacharie was a City Councilman at large from the Fourth District. A New Orleans native, Zacharie attended the Mount Pleasant Military Academy before continuing his education abroad in France and Spain. When the Civil War broke out, Zacharie was overseas but expressed to his parents a desire to return and enter the Confederate military service in which his brothers were already engaged. His parents refused his request, insisting he remain in Europe until after the war.
Upon returning to the city, Zacharie was appointed to the Board of Aldermen, the first of many public positions he would hold during his long and successful career. A champion for prison reform, education and numerous other civic causes, Zacharie eagerly promoted the development of parks and parkways. Joining him in this effort was his nephew, City Engineer W. J. Hardee.
While working to improve the city for future generations, James S. Zacharie also strove to understand and preserve its history. Said to have been especially knowledgeable about Louisiana’s colonial past, the multi-lingual Zacharie was a charter member of the Louisiana Historical Society. His frequent trips abroad enabled him to study first-hand some of the many colonial-era documents housed in French and Spanish archives.
Firstly, I look forward to reading your magazine each month. I read it cover to cover. It brings back many memories from years gone by. As a child in the late 1940s and early 50s, I used to visit an aunt and uncle who lived in the Little Farms area of Jefferson Parish. I think the area is now known as River Ridge. They used to take me to a cafeteria located, I think, on Jefferson Highway. The establishment had various gambling items embroidered into the carpet. I think it was previously a gambling house. Do you know what this place was called and its history?
I checked city directories from that time period but found no cafeterias on Jefferson Highway near Little Farms. Perhaps it was on a different street. There were many motels and even more bars on Jefferson Highway in the late 1940s and early ‘50s but the only business along that thoroughfare to describe itself as a cafeteria in those days was Harold’s. It was located relatively far away from the Little Farms neighborhood, at 225 Jefferson Highway, by the railroad tracks at the Jefferson/Orleans parish line.
Prior to 1938, New Orleans city directories were arranged by name only and did not contain sections arranged by street address, so I was unable to check what businesses at that location may have pre-dated Harold’s. Quite a number of gambling houses existed in parts of Jefferson Parish in your parents’ day, but it was generally in the best interest of such enterprises to keep a low profile, so it can be difficult to positively identify places where gaming may have taken place.
I know that Poydras is a very strong bird, probably comparable to the largest helicopters. As such, he could probably have moved the green Perly Thomas streetcars to the Canal Street line with ease, but knowing his work ethic, I am sure it was done in a different manner. Since the tracks and power between the Willow Street barn and Canal Street are not useable, how were the streetcars taken to the Canal and River lines? Since the Canal Street barn was heavily damaged, where do the cars now used on those lines now stable?
Barrie, Poydras is so lazy he wouldn’t lift a helium balloon. Whenever he would ride the red streetcar he would walk with a limp just so he could use the wheelchair elevator and not have to climb the steps.
The streetcars now in use were towed by truck from the Willow Street barn to Canal Street. Because they cannot now return to a barn, they are stabled at the Esplanade Avenue stop on the Riverfront line.
At the time the post-Katrina flood waters hit, 24 Canal streetcars and six of the seven Riverfront streetcars were in the Randolph barn in Mid-City. One Riverfront car, #461, was being repaired at the Willow Street barn, so it escaped flood damage.
The streetcars may be having problems getting around but, thanks to #461 having escaped flooding, the currently operating RTA fleet has among its ranks an ADA-accessible streetcar. Now painted a bright blue, the former Lady in Red is in service along the Canal-Riverfront line.