WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT A MONTHLY PURSUIT OF ANSWERS TO ETERNAL QUESTIONS
There are a few antebellum era homes on Moss Street along Bayou St. John that have historical markers on them. A particular building looks as old as the other marked buildings, but has no such marker. It is located at the corner of Moss Street and St. Ann Street. Can you tell me when it was built and the history of its occupants?
It looks like it’s been there for centuries, but the house located at 800 Moss St. is absolutely modern.
It was built in the late 1930s for Nina Pollatsek, who had asked her nephew to duplicate for her a nearby nuns’ residence to serve as an appropriate home in which to display her impressive collection of inherited antiques and keepsakes. Pollatsek, along with her sister Sydonia, were the first residents of this new “old” home. During the 1950s, the residence was featured on Spring Fiesta home tours.
The Pollatsek sisters were the daughters of Hungarian-born musician and music critic Adolph Pollatsek . The girls’ childhood was spent in the family home at 1907 Canal St., in what is now known as Lower Mid-City. The Pollatseks were only one of many families that had settled in an area that, in the 1870s and 1880s, was home to numerous German and East European families, such as the Wehrmanns.
Poydras may know something about this: All throughout Gentilly and various other parts of the city are small green parrots. They are really noisy, but I love listening to them and seeing them in my trees. I have always wondered where they came from. I heard they were illegal cargo set free at the airport when the importers were about to get caught with them. Do you know if this is true? Any information would be appreciated.
Noisy but cute, your neighbors are commonly known as monk parakeets while their scientific name is Myiopsitta monachus. In the last several decades, colonies have become established throughout the city.
Between 1969 and ’72, more than 60,000 of the birds were imported for the U.S. pet trade. Some escaped from broken shipping crates at a New York airport but, throughout the country, pet birds escaped, survived and established breeding colonies. For that reason, there was no single point of origin for the introduction of this non-native species.
In New Orleans, the little parrots, like post-Hurricane Katrina urban planners, have been found to be exceptionally fond of palm trees. Although the birds are cute and fun to watch, factors such as our mild climate, the lack of predators to keep the booming population in check and extensive planting of non-native trees that the parrots seem to prefer as nesting sites could spell trouble. For now, the birds are quite content to kick back in New Orleans and party in the palm trees, but it remains to be seen if they will eventually expand their range into rural farmlands where they have the potential of being as agriculturally damaging as they are in their native South America.
I often drive by the General Laundry Building located at 2512 St. Peter St. and, naturally, find the Art Deco architecture stunning. I have found information about the building’s placement on the National Historic Register in the 1970s but nothing about the building’s history or plans for restoration. (Currently there are Katrina-killed refrigerators piled two stories high on one side.)
What can you and Poydras tell me about this dying gem?
This distinctive structure is the work of Jones, Roessle, Olschner and Wiener – the same architectural firm that designed the city of Shreveport’s municipal incinerator, itself a world-renowned example of WPA architecture and modern design. One of only a few surviving examples of Aztec-inspired Art Deco, the General Laundry Building is exceptional, not only for its style but also for its vivid colors that haven’t faded with the passage of time. Although I was unable to determine an exact date of construction for this structure, the company for which it was built, General Laundry Cleaners & Dyers, Inc., was incorporated in January 1929.
I’ve heard rumors that there was a 19th century baseball park on Canal Street. Do you have any idea what it was called, where it was located and when it was in operation?
The New Orleans Base Ball Park operated for only a decade, from about 1885 to 1895. It was located in Mid-City, on the north side of the 4100 block of Canal Street, between Murat and Olympia streets, and was constructed in conjunction with the 1884 World’s Cotton Centennial and Cotton Exposition. During the Cotton Exposition, it was at the New Orleans Base Ball Park that major league teams from around the country played their matches.
Older relatives used to speak of the old Soulé College and often mentioned a motto the students were expected to remember. Now nobody can recall the exact wording, but it said something to do with education and character. Do you happen to know it?
The inscription reads “From Education as the Leading Cause, the Public Character, Its Color Draws.” It is a quotation from Tirociniun, or, A Review of Schools by 18th century English poet William Cowper (1731-1800). The motto can still be read in the mosaic tiles that embellish the sidewalk in front of the commercial college’s last location, at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Coliseum Street.