Dear Julia Street,
Recently I read a novel that was based in New Orleans in the early 1900s. I have two questions concerning locations at that time.
The first is a reference to “the old basin canal.” It inferred that it ran from the French Quarter to the Bayou St. John. What was the exact route and when was it filled in?
The second concerns the Grunewald Hotel, that I know later became the Roosevelt. A reference was made about a room called “The Cave,” that offered meals and dancing and apparently was quite popular. When was The Cave last used as such?
Charles E. Griffin
The Old Basin Canal’s turning basin was located on Basin Street between St. Louis and St. Peter streets, just past the outer edge of the French Quarter. It turned just past Toulouse Street, extending at an angle along what is now Lafitte Street until it met Bayou St. John near Hagan Avenue. It was filled in the late 1930s.
Whether you remember it as the Fairmont or the Roosevelt, the hotel that will soon be the Roosevelt–A Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, traces its history back to the Hotel Grunewald. Built in 1893 and expanded in 1907, when an annex was built facing what is now University Place, the Grunewald was successful and had a wide reputation for fine dining and entertainment. The Cave, located under the hotel, offered dining, music and dancing in a fantasy setting dominated by realistic artificial stalagmites, stalactites and waterfalls. Positioned throughout the location were figures of naturally clad nymphs. Judging by hand-colored postcards that depicted The Cave in its heyday, the overall impression must have been that of a slightly debauched subterranean pleasure lair; it is said that more that 350 tons of cement were used to create the illusion.
In 1923, the original Grunewald was torn down and its annex was renovated. Renamed in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, the new hotel officially opened on Oct. 1, ’25. One of the Roosevelt’s most famous attractions, the Blue Room, was located above the site of The Cave.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
As a New Orleans native and resident, I grew up eating and loving cane syrup. Of course in the days of my youth, there were several brands sold in local stores, including today’s surviving Steen’s brand in the yellow label. However, there’s one brand that our family liked best. The brand name was Golden Gate and it was much lighter in color and flavor than the others. I would even say that its light flavor made it comparable to pure maple syrup, which I have come to love. If I’m not mistaken, the label was imprinted with a reference to the “open kettle process,” and was light blue in color with an image of the Golden Gate Bridge on it. I can’t say when I stopped seeing it in stores, but to give you a benchmark I would have been eating Golden Gate syrup in the 1940s. Can you find out who made it and what happened to this really outstanding cane syrup?
Mason J. Seals,
The Golden Gate Planting and Manufacturing Company Inc., of Union, La., produced the Golden Gate brand cane syrup you recall from your youth. According to records kept by the Louisiana Secretary of State, this homegrown company was incorporated in 1934 but appears to have gone out of business during World War II. The brand name Golden Gate was a registered trademark of the Golden Gate Planting and Manufacturing Company Inc. When the original trademark expired in ’65, William C. Hayward Jr., of Labadieville, applied to use the brand name for a canning business that produced cane syrup, figs, blackberries and various other products. The Golden Gate trademark was not renewed when it expired in 2005, so it appears likely that Hayward’s venture has also ceased operation.
I was born and raised in Uptown New Orleans in the 1950s and ’60s. My family has a deep and long history in the city. My 90 plus-year-old aunt still lives on Louisiana Avenue, in the camelback the family bought in the 1890s. My memories are full and wonderful – one particular memory is, of course, about food!
It took me a while in my youth to appreciate Creole cream cheese. I now get some at Dorignac’s every time I’m back in New Orleans. I also loved Creole cream cheese ice cream. It was wonderfully sweet and tart at the same time.
I think Katz & Besthoff used to carry the ice cream and I remember a store near the Industrial Canal had it in later years. Since I live in Washington D.C. my time in New Orleans is limited to search out vendors, do you know if there are any purveyors of this wonderful concoction?
In addition to Dorignac’s, several artisan dairies produce Creole cream cheese. One of the most widely available is Chef John Folse’s Bittersweet Plantation brand version of the traditional South Louisiana product, which can be purchased online or through both regional and national retailers. To locate a source near you, just call Folse’s toll-free sales and information line at (800) 256-2433 or visit the official Bittersweet Plantation Web site at jfolse.com/bittersweet_dairy.
I read with interest the letter from William “Billy” W. Rhymes describing his early days at Kruttschnitt Grade School and his participation in the all-city elementary band.
I, too, attended Kruttschnitt from kindergarten through the seventh grade and was in the same class as Billy. The first thing a kid had to learn was how to spell Kruttschnitt. Kruttschnitt closed at the end of the 1947-’48 school year and was reopened the following year as Cohen High School. There were only 117 children attending when it closed. I finished grade school at Allen (with a slight detour to Holy Name of Jesus) [then to] McMain, Fortier and LSUNO.
In spite of what Billy recalls, I too played in the all-city elementary band. We practiced at Colton Elementary School and did in fact play a concert at Municipal Auditorium. I don’t have the date but it would have been either 1945 or ’46. I have a picture from The Times Picayune of the band taken during its performance. The caption under the picture says: “Performance of the 300-piece all-city elementary school band, directed by Miss Eva Tisdale, was a feature of the public school music festival last night at the Municipal Auditorium. The observance of National Music Week lasted more than three hours.”
My recollection is that we only played one night. I am in the picture, playing clarinet but unfortunately the saxophone section where Billy would have been wasn’t shown.
The Kruttschnitt Elementary Band also played on WSMB the year after Billy left and what an awesome sound it was. Members of the band that I recall are my sister, Emily, on the trumpet and me on the clarinet. I don’t recall the name of the music teacher (she came once a week to teach band).
I believe Sam Barthe’s school at that time was in a house on Napoleon Avenue in the 2100 block facing the “square.”
The War Services Music committee of the National Federation of Music Clubs of America sponsored National Music Week, which, in 1945 and ’46, was held in the first week of May. I believe you and William Rhymes performed in ’46, because newspaper accounts from that year indicate the 150-piece all-city elementary band was to make its first appearance at that year’s festival. Your band’s debut was remarkably successful, with the band rating “excellent.” Several other schools earned the same “excellent” rating but top scores went to elementary school bands from A.D. Crossman and Hahnville, both of which earned “Superior” ratings.
Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch or a night at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel
Here’s a chance to stay at an elegant local hotel, or 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 or an overnight stay for two at the elegant Omni Royal Orleans Hotel. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. This month’s winners are Doug O’Bannon, St. Francisville; Charles E. Griffin, Metairie; and Mason H. Seals, New Orleans.