Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

Dear Julia,
I had the privilege of visiting Pontchartrain Beach several times with my family between 1964 and ’71 but never ate at the Bali Hai Restaurant there. Looking at the episode of “Lost New Orleans Restaurants” on WYES last week I learned more about the history of the restaurant but had a few questions about it.

A little history of me: I was a young boy back when Pontchartrain Beach was open. I came to the city from Cut Off, La., and had little clue about the type of restaurant it was. All I know is that my father, a World War II Navy veteran, had no interest in taking his family to that restaurant. Perhaps seeing the place brought back bad memories of the South Pacific where he encountered battles from the USS Maryland.

My questions for you are these: Was the restaurant accessible from outside the park or did you have to have admission to the park to get into the restaurant?

Wasn’t it an outdoor eatery, too? (It seems like I remember people eating outside under a grassy roof area.) It appeared too narrow to hold more than one table wide on the inside.

I surely regret not going into the restaurant and having the Tiki Hut experience, and more so I regret that Pontchartrain Beach is closed forever.

Victor A. Lefort
Cut Off

Victor, you have hit on a sore subject since Poydras once dated a macaw from Maui. He tried to impress her with his finesse for Polynesian food until the night he tipped over into one of those flaming volcano drinks. After that, he resolved not to date macaws again – unless they came from Louisiana – which partially explains why he never has girlfriends.

The Bali H’ai wasn’t the first restaurant at Pontchartrain Beach but it’s the best remembered. The restaurant was a separate attraction and was entered from outside the amusement park without paying an admission fee.

In April 1958, park director Barry Batt brought in massive amounts of bamboo poles to build the roof and walls of what was originally called the “Beachcomber,” a new tropical-themed restaurant to take the place of the Beach Terrace that had operated since the park’s early days. Joseph Lenz designed the new eatery under Barry Batt’s direction. Featuring Polynesian cocktails and Cantonese cuisine, the new place attracted plenty of attention from customers – as well as from attorneys for Don the Beachcomber, a popular West Coast restaurant with similar cuisine and South Seas decor. Consequently, When Pontchartrain Beach’s ’59 season began, the restaurant re-opened as the Bali H’ai.

Dear Julia and Poydras,
I have a demitasse cup and saucer with the following designs (all in the same color – reddish-brown – on a cream background): On one side of the cup, in a crest, “Lacy Iron Grill Work St. Peter and Royal Streets;” on the other side is a drawing of the balcony at the above address; the rest of the cup and saucer have similar smaller designs; in the middle of the saucer is a New Orleans city seal. The bottom of the saucer reads, “Scenes of old New Orleans made by Crown Ducal, England Expressly for Coleman E. Adler and Sons, Inc. Jewelers, New Orleans.”

I know that Adler’s still exists. What can you tell me about this?

Martha Lou Roberts

In the 1940s and ’50s, Adler’s sold at least two different series of New Orleans souvenir plates, both of which were made by Crown Ducal. In early ’41, Adler’s, a manufacturing jeweler located at 722 Canal St., was the exclusive source for a series of Vieux Carré souvenir plates depicting six different local scenes. The plates were available in three different color schemes and sold for $1 each. A second series was apparently produced because, in the early ’50s, Adler’s was advertising Crown Ducal souvenir plates depicting eight different scenes. The later series came in two color schemes: mulberry pink and blue. Individual plates sold for $1.50 each.

In 1980, Greater New Orleans Homestead opened its Uptown branch on Magazine at Octavia streets, and offered some early Adler’s Crown Ducal plates as customer premiums.

Anyone making a minimum deposit of $2,500 at the Magazine Street branch could get one plate – either burgundy or violet – depicting one of four different local scenes: Pirate’s Alley, Brulatour Courtyard, Madame John’s Legacy and Lacy Iron Grille Work.

Dear Julia,
 My graduate studies led to a particular interest in the 19th-century Rev. Benjamin M. Palmer of First Presbyterian Church on Lafayette Square, and in 19th-century New Orleans history in general. In January 1857, Rev. Palmer took an overnight trip on the steamer Princess from New Orleans to Natchez for an annual Synod meeting. I understand that the Princess was a first-class steamer, and although Palmer returned home safely, a boiler explosion in February of 1859 later destroyed the steamer, tragically killing around 70 passengers. Could you describe what 19th century first-class steamboat travel would have been like on the Mississippi? Do you have any details about the history or tragic fate of the Princess?

Chris Duncan
Opelika, AL

P.S. My wife and I are planning our 13th wedding anniversary trip to New Orleans this December! We honeymooned there in December 1998.

The short-lived and ill-fated Princess had been in service just four years when her boilers exploded below Baton Rouge, killing 70 people. Built at Cincinnati in 1855, the Princess was a side-wheel packet boat, which ran between New Orleans and Vicksburg, Miss. Weighing 715 tons she measured 270 feet long by 34 feet wide by 8 feet in depth. Her two engines got their power from six boilers, each of which was 9 feet long and had an inside diameter of 35 inches.

Delivering mail three times a week between Vicksburg, Miss., and New Orleans, the Princess was bound for New Orleans when her boilers exploded and she burned to the waterline below Baton Rouge on the night of Feb. 26, 1859. The famed steamboat Natchez as well as the R. W. McRae, Peerless, Tigress and the Sunny South all hurried to the aid of the stricken vessel, helping to recover the dead and injured. The official death toll from the Princess disaster was 70, but there were also numerous non-fatal injuries.

Dear Julia,
I was recently sent a gift subscription to New Orleans Magazine and enjoy reading it cover-to-cover. I was born in New Orleans and lived in the Bywater on Independence Street. My dad built our home and one of my fondest memories was Parker’s grocery a few doors down. The store was in an old two-story building with a beautiful courtyard where an ancestor of Poydras lived and announced when a customer came into the store. This was in the early 1950s. The building is now a Historic Landmark and I understand it was, in its day, an overseer’s cottage as part of a plantation.

I had always heard that our property (which was sold in 1957) was built on the grounds of the plantation main house. This is in the 600 block of Independence Street. I would love to know more of the history of that building and of the neighborhood grocery where I spent so much time “running to the store” for my Mom and getting penny candy while I was there as a treat.

Karen Lawing
Granada Hills, CA

In March 1904, Joseph H. Parker (d. 1956) wed Mary Antoinette Preto (d. 1961) and moved into the Independence Street home that his bride’s grandfather, Spanish shoemaker John Preto, had purchased in the 1870s. One of the oldest surviving buildings in Bywater, the building at 631 Independence St., stands on land that was once part of the McCarty Plantation. Named for the current and former owners who built, renovated and restored it, the structure is known as the Blanque-Paturzo-Sessums House and has been a local historic landmark since 1989. Fire insurance maps confirm that, by 1896, the building was in its present form – the original two-story masonry building with a two-story frame addition at the rear.

It is believed the structure was built as a dependency, between 1825 and 1828, when Delphine McCarty Blanc owned the property. The widow Blanque married Louis Nicholas Lalaurie in 1828 and sold the building and other property soon thereafter before relocating to a residence at the corner of Royal and Hospital (now Gov. Nicholls). She and her spouse later fled the city because of public outrage surrounding allegations that she tortured and otherwise abused her household slaves.

Following Madame Lalaurie’s departure, the Independence Street property changed hands multiple times until grocer Joseph Paturzo (c.1788-1870) purchased it in the 1850s. Under Paturzo’s ownership, the property was significantly modified and a kitchen building, stable and two cisterns were built.

Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch or Lunch at the Rib Room
Here is a chance 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 a lunch for two at the Rib Room at the Omni Royal Orleans. 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: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Chris Duncan, Opelika, Ala.; Victor A. Lefort, Cut Off; and Martha Lou Roberts, DeRidder.

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