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Julia Street With Poydras The Parrot
The Pursuit to Answer Eternal Questions
Dear Julia and Poydras,
First, let me say how much I really enjoy reading your column and
how much I’ve actually learned about our city.
Having said that, I have a question and I feel if anyone could answer it, the two of you could. I occasionally travel down Esplanade Avenue toward City Park. A few years back, I noticed a small park that makes a triangle between Grand Route St. John, Mystery Street and Esplanade Avenue. What caught my eye was
a sign that said “Fortier Park,”
since my last name is Fortier. There were trees, a few benches and a very small walking path. My daughters say that in the past few years, they have even seen a “Fortier Fest” advertised on Esplanade.
A few weeks back I passed the park and noticed that nothing had changed but the sign that now says “Mystery Park.” I need to know if either one of you could find out the history behind this small park and why the name has been changed. Any information would be appreciated.
Despite the sign your daughter reported seeing and the fact that some sources, including this publication, have sometimes referred to the pocket park at the intersection of Esplanade Avenue, Grand Route St. John and Mystery Street as “Mystery Park,” its official name appears to remain Alcée Fortier Park. Not only have I found no ordinance or article to indicate otherwise, but the city’s own official map of New Orleans parks and green spaces clearly labels the site as Alcée Fortier Park. When I recently visited the park, I found no sign reading “Mystery Park,” though in the neighborhood it’s still referred to by that name.
On Oct. 26, 1926, the City of New Orleans honored Alcée Fortier’s memory, passing ordinance No. 9,356 Commission Council Series designating the small block bounded by Esplanade Avenue, Grand Route St. John and Mystery Street in the late scholar-historian’s honor. A native of St. James Parish, Alcée Fortier (1856-1914) was fluent in 11 modern and classical languages and was one of the city’s foremost scholars of his day. He was laid to rest in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 – a short walk from Alcée Fortier Park.
The park’s current look dates to 1999, when it was re-landscaped and decorated through a partnership of the City of New Orleans, the Faubourg St. John Association and others. Students in the Arts Council of New Orleans Urban Arts Training Program created its tile signs and decorative tile stepping-stones. Unfortunately time and funding haven’t been kind to the little park, which, when I recently visited it, was weedy and worn. After only 17 years, its distinctive screened folk-art tiles are fading and largely hidden under mud, weeds and leaf litter. A tile crediting by name each of the young artists is now scarcely legible.
There is a first for everything, and this is my first time writing you.
It is very true Bacchus was first introducing the “super krewe” to Mardi Gras. But consider another short-lived krewe that had, I think, the first double-decker floats. It was Cynthius on Feb. 11, 1947. The krewe only lasted a few years.
I was a Maid in the first court and the theme was “The Emerald City of Oz.” I have The Times-Picayune clipping. I remember well the lack of checking the trees for the height of the floats. The parade was held up and it seemed we waited forever at Gallier Hall. I believe the Mendelsons were the originators of the krewe.
M. K. Neville
Thank you for your delightful letter. Your memory and your penmanship are both excellent – far better than my own!
The short-lived Cynthius, which only paraded four times, was named for the Greek god of music and song. It debuted in 1947 when, on the Tuesday before Mardi Gras, it became the first of 12 parades to roll that Carnival season. Organizer Harry Mendelson’s Thius Club sponsored Cynthius, which took its name from Apollo’s birthplace, the island of Cynthus. While the King’s identity remained secret, Ruth Mary Gaudet reigned as Queen Cynthius 1947.
Cynthius 1947 was big, bold and elaborate – the Endymion of its day. It also had an unusually eventful debut. As the parade was lining up, two horses got spooked and ran off with the Captain’s carriage; the carriage was soon retrieved and the horses replaced with mules. The excitement continued when, shortly after leaving the krewe’s Uptown den, Float No. 17, “Glinda’s Magic Book of Oz,” caught fire, allegedly the result of a flambeau accident; nobody was injured but the float burned to the ground. It is sometimes said that bad things happen in threes. Cynthius ’47’s third incident occurred when Float No. 3, “The Wishing Horse of Oz” – a large animated float – hit a traffic signal at the intersection of St. Charles and Washington avenues.
Despite its mishap-filled debut, Cynthius paraded several more times, but its bad luck continued. A flu outbreak and bad weather caused the krewe to cancel its 1951 parade; it didn’t roll the following year.
I noticed in your Sept. 2015 online edition, in the Julia section, that my great-grandfather’s bakery, Judice’s Bakery, was mentioned. I would love it if Julia could provide me with any information about the bakery. I was told they made the best French bread in the city and that their millionaire pie was to die for. I have searched for info for years without any success. I also know he was one of the founders of the Camellia Society on the Northshore.
Yes, your great-grandfather was a famous horticulturist and baker. In other words, he was noted for his work with both flowers and flours.
In the 1940s, Ernest Judice operated the Broadmoor Bakery on Washington Avenue, later moving to 2113 S. Claiborne Ave., where it remained until the late ’60s, when Warren Gambino purchased it and changed its name to Gambino’s. Judice’s Bakery was in its heyday in the ’50s and ’60s and was famous for its unusual cakes. Among its signature creations were its Sweet Potato Cake, “One Meal” Cake and the Peppermint Twist Cake – a four-layer cake with peppermint filling and a butter cream-and-peppermint candy icing.
Win a restaurant gift certificate
Here is a chance to eat, drink 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 a tour and Creole breakfast for two at Degas House or a Jazz Brunch for two at The Court of Two Sisters. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: M. K. Neville, Metairie; and Nikki Camhout, New Orleans.