Dear Julia,
I have two questions concerning the New Orleans area and the state of Louisiana. Recently, I was passing the new Huey P. Long Bridge and thought about a train crossing it. Before the bridge was built, how exactly did the trains get across the Mississippi? I assume barges and tugs were used.
My second question also concerns rail-river crossings. How many rail-bridge connections are in Louisiana and what are their locations?
Mike Staiano

Sorry Mike, two questions cost extra. Your bill is in the mail.
Before the Huey P. Long Bridge was built, trains were ferried across the river on transfer vessels. Among the best known of these were the Mastodon, the Mammoth and the Gouldsboro.

The Mastodon, a barge built in 1909 at the New York Ship Building Corporation of Camden, New Jersey, was a 368-foot long, 50-foot wide behemoth which, propelled by tugboats, carried Southern Pacific trains between the foot of Elysian Fields Avenue and a landing at Elmira Street in Algiers Point. The Mastodon’s little sister, the 308-foot Mammoth, was built in ’17 by the American Bridge Company of Ambridge, Pennsylvania and also worked for Southern Pacific.

Unlike the Mastodon or the Mammoth, the Texas-Pacific transfer vessel Gouldsboro operated under her own power, moving trains between the rail yard at McDonoghville and a landing near Terpsichore Street in Uptown New Orleans. Prior to her civilian service, the Gouldsboro had a distinguished military career as the ironclad monitor U.S.S. Chickasaw.

There are two rail-bridge crossings over the Mississippi River in Louisiana: the Huey P. Long bridges at New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Dear Julia,
Mom (Elaine O’Connor) and Dad met while working at Ancona’s Bakery, which was located in the Irish Channel. According to family lore, the bakery did the baking for the Army during World War II out at Camp Plauche.
My dad, Ignatius Tusa, whose mother was an Ancona, said the bakery was owned by his mom’s brothers, Ignatius and Dominick Ancona. Is there any record of this bakery in the Irish Channel and did they bake for the Army? According to my parents, they employed many people.
My dad left the bakery to go to work for Higgins during the war but resumed his baking career after the war at the Cloverleaf bakery, also in the Irish Channel.
Can you verify any of this lore to be factual? Mom and Dad have both passed away, leaving three children, 12 grandchildren and 21 great-grandkids. I would like to have the factual information to tell them about this part of their grandparents’ lives.
Thank you for your help.
Cynthia Tusa

Around 1910, your great-uncle Ignatius Ancona and his family opened a bakery at 1010 St. Mary St. Famous for its Panella bread and an assortment of home-style baked goods, the Ancona Baking Company thrived not only from walk-in business, but also by selling its products through local grocery stores. Business was so good that, in 1934, the company opened a new state-of-the-art fully automated bakery at that location.

While it’s certainly plausible that the military may have been among the Ancona Baking Company’s wartime clients, it wasn’t possible for me to prove that bit of family lore. I am however, inclined to believe it because your late parents were directly involved in the family business and were adults during the war years, so they probably had first-hand knowledge of the bakery’s commercial contracts.

Your family’s bakery appears to have hit hard times after the war. In 1948, the Ancona Baking company and its bakery were liquidated due to bankruptcy.
 Around 1949, the Ancona brothers regrouped, taking over Ernest Judice’s former Broadmoor Bakery at 3920 Washington Ave. The family ran the Broadmoor Bakery until it was liquidated in a September ’65 bankruptcy auction.

Dear Julia,
A colleague recently told me with great conviction that Charity Hospital was built by Jean Lafitte, the pirate! While I enjoyed the romantic nature of that idea (That swashbuckler wins the Battle of New Orleans, then starts a hospital and a blacksmith shop!), I know that the first Charity Hospital was established with a bequest from a sailor named Jean Louis. But who was Jean Louis? Was he just an ordinary seaman? Why did he want to build a hospital?
 Lista Hank
 New Orleans

The person who gave the original bequest for the establishment of a local hospital for the poor was a seafaring man, but he rode the waves nearly a century before Jean Lafitte was a household name. Jean Louis was a sailor and boat builder who had come to Louisiana as an employee of the Company of the Indies.

Although New Orleans did have a Royal Hospital in Jean Louis’ day, that facility tended only to the military and others in the King’s service, not the general public or the impoverished. Those who were not permitted to use the military hospital could obtain some medical care from the local Capuchin priests, but the good fathers were hardly in a position to shoulder the burden of providing medical care to all who needed it.

Jean Louis understood there were community needs that public officials had not addressed. He wrote his will in the hope that his money could establish a public hospital to serve those unmet needs. His will, document 5498 of the Records of the French Superior Council, was filed Nov. 16, 1735. A translation can be found in Appendix A of John Salvaggio’s 1992 book New Orleans’ Charity Hospital: A Story of Physicians, Politics and Poverty.

When Jean Louis died in 1736, his executor quickly carried out the boat builder’s wishes, purchasing the Kolly house at Chartres and Bienville streets and adapting it for use as a hospital, which was first known as the Hospital of St. John. Only three months later, it proved necessary to expand the facility.