Julia Street

Greetings Julia and Poydras,
What happened to the tableau that portrayed General Andrew Jackson making arrangements for help from Pirate Jean Lafitte for the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812? When I visited New Orleans in June 1951, the tableau was presented in a small building next door to the Old Absinthe House – which was on Bourbon Street if memory serves me correctly. I thought it was very well staged and I learned some history from my curiosity about the characters. If it is now housed in a museum in the city, please inform us. Thank you for the entertaining and enlightening service you provide.
Beaulah R. Swindell
Natchez, Miss.

According to a story Hermann Deutsch related in Brennan’s New Orleans Cookbook, Brennan’s founder Owen Brennan had a knack for publicity. Around World War II, Brennan had become the proprietor of the Old Absinthe House at 240 Bourbon St. As such, he was aware of local lore, which claimed that Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson had met there to plan the Battle of New Orleans. Hoping to boost revenue, Brennan enhanced the Lafitte story with a few touches of his own. Inspired by a trip he and his wife made to St. Augustine, Fla., Brennan realized that pirates were a marketable commodity and could be good for business. Not only did Brennan introduce a tropical beverage known as Pirate’s Dream, he transformed the Absinthe House’s mezzanine into an informal museum and tourist attraction known as “The Secret Room.” Decorated with various artifacts Brennan had scrounged in local bookshops and antique stores, the eclectic display evoked a bygone era and sparked popular imagination. An undated vintage photograph shows a side entrance of the Old Absinthe House painted to advertise Patio Lafitte and the Secret Floor Cocktail Room. According to Deutsch, the room’s pirate tableau was comprised of mannequins Brennan had purchased from a clothing store and then dressed with costumes he had acquired from a Mardi Gras supplier. When the Brennans renovated the Old Absinthe House in 1959, the Lafitte tableau was dismantled and the individual figures were hung in corners of the renovated building. The Brennans’ era at the Old Absinthe House ended in 1964.

Dear Julia,
Where the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry now stands, there was, during the 1940s and ’50s, a large military housing complex. There was even a grocery store in the center of the complex. At the rear of the LSU area one of the original buildings still exists. I lived in that building as a child. My question to you is: What was the name of the place and how long did it exist? I have fond memories of living there and have asked my mother about the place but she cannot remember the name of the complex. It was close to City Park and we spent a lot of time there while my father was in Korea. One of my favorite times as a child was riding the streetcars in the city.
Dennis T. Rapp
Gretna

The place was known as the Bienville Homes Federal Housing Project and it was located in the area now bounded by Moss Street, Florida Avenue, Castine Street and Campus Road. Built as World War II-era military housing, the project had three sections, each of which consisted of apartments arranged around a U-shaped roadway named for a branch of the military. The sections surrounding Marine Parkway and Navy Parkway were demolished to make way for the dental school but some of the section surrounding what was once known as Army Parkway still stands at the rear of the dental school property, at the intersection of Florida Avenue and Castine Street.

Dear Julia,
My husband and I were both born in New Orleans but have lived in Germantown, Tenn., for the last 30 years. We do keep in touch with happenings in New Orleans via our subscription to New Orleans Magazine. I look forward to reading it every month and my favorite department is Julia Street. My question: Where does the name Prytania originate and who or what is Prytania Street named after?
Bunnie Illing Olivere
Germantown, Tenn.

Early plans for the part of town that is now the Lower Garden District called for a classical academy, a Prytaneum (a Greek public building), to be established in Faubourg de la Course. Intended to have been built in the area bounded by Prytania Street, Euterpe Street, St. Charles Avenue and Melpomene Street, the Prytaneum was never erected. Despite the fact that the school was never built, its name survives as the name of the street upon which the school was to have been located.

Dear Julia and Poydras,
My mother and her family moved to Metairie in the early 1930s. She told us about a streetcar that ran on Metairie Road all the way to Severn Avenue. Can you supply more information about that streetcar line?
Mille Klein
Breaux Bridge

You mother rode a streetcar that was popularly known as the Royal Blue Line because its cars’ destination signs were made of bright blue glass with white lettering. The Metairie Road streetcar was officially called the Shrewsbury Extension but it was actually an extension of the Napoleon Avenue route.
Established in 1903, the Napoleon Line was purchased from the Orleans-Kenner Electric Railway Company, a Jefferson Parish franchise in ’15. Between ’15 and ’34, the Royal Blue Line’s Shrewsbury Extension ran along the following route: Beginning at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street, cars ran up Napoleon Avenue to Broad Street. At Washington Avenue, the cars turned, continuing to South Carrollton Avenue and then along the New Basin Canal to Metairie Road. Once on Metairie Road, the streetcar turned at Carrollton Street and then at Narcisse Street before returning to Metairie Road, along which it continued until reaching Fagot Avenue. The streetcar turned again at Labarre Drive before returning once again to Metairie Road. Following a final turn at Cypress Street, the streetcar ended its run at Shrewsbury Road. In ’37, the Napoleon Line’s route was shortened, ending at the intersection of Washington and Carrollton avenues. Three years later, it was again shortened, this time to a route that ended at Washington Avenue and Broad Street. In ’53, bus service superceded the Napoleon Avenue streetcar line. 

Dear Ms. Julia,
About 25 or 30 years ago, the Illinois Central Railroad ran a hotshot train daily from New Orleans to Chicago. This run was known as The Panama Limited. What did Panama have to do with New Orleans and Chicago?
Frank Sehrt
Metairie

Around 1910, as the Panama Canal neared completion, New Orleans was touted as a major trade gateway to Central and South America in general and to Panama in particular. The Illinois Central train’s name was a nod to the hope that the opening of the Panama Canal would open to New Orleans a new era of trade and economic prosperity.

Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch for two!
Here’s a chance to eat, drink, be merry, 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 a New Orleans landmark, THE COURT OF TWO SISTERS in the Vieux Carré. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, La. 70005 or email to: errol@neworleansmagazine.com. This month’s winners are: Beaulah R. Swindell, Natchez, Miss., and Frank Sehrt, Metairie.

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