Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

Dear Julia,
Growing up, my mother used to talk about my great-great-great grandfather, Evariste Blanc, who owned the Blanc Brick Company. I have tracked the company to the 1842 City Directory, which shows the Blanc brickyard at the corner of Julia and St. John streets, which was by the turning of the New Basin Canal. Also, in 1855, my great-great-great grandmother, Fannie Labatut Blanc, now a widow, offered land and 300,000 bricks for the construction of a church on Esplanade Avenue near Bayou St. John. This offer would later become the founding of Holy Rosary Church. I cannot find out when the company began or ended, or why it went out of business. Can you help?

Also, my cousin, Martha Martin Ourso, managed to find a brick with the Blanc named stamped on it. It is the central stone in her family room fireplace. My husband and I have turned over many bricks in salvage yards, old homes, junkyards and piles of debris looking for a Blanc brick. Do you know where I might locate one?

Please tell Poydras I appreciate any help he might give you in answering my queries,
Ninette Alsop Edminston
New Orleans

Ninette, unless you want to know something about bootleg rum, don’t count on Poydras’ help with getting your questions answered.

As early as 1823, city directories list Evariste Blanc as a hardware merchant and ship chandler. By 1830, Blanc is described as a lime merchant, not referring to the citrus fruit but the substance used to make mortar and plaster. The city directory of 1834 notes Blanc’s lime business but also mentions that Blanc sold bricks. Following Evariste Blanc’s death, it appears that Jules A. Blanc continued the family brick business, which remained in operation until at least 1861 but is not listed in post-war directories. Although I cannot provide you with an exact date when the brick company ceased operation, it appears it may have been one of many business ventures that didn’t survive the Civil War.

As far as finding an Evariste Blanc brick you can call your own, you’ll have to continue checking your usual sources. Posterity and the historic record would, however, appreciate it if you acquire only an orphaned brick and not one that’s still part of an historic building or sidewalk. Dismantling your cousin’s fireplace and liberating the Blanc brick from its place of honor is also strongly discouraged insofar as it could lead to unpleasant legal action and family discord.

Dear Julia,
Before a stroke or something like one on Oct. 23, 2006, I was heavy into genealogy. I did research on many things.

My mother was born on Julia Street, either 610 or 612. Her father, a New Orleans fireman, was having a home built in Lakeview, on what is now known as Gen. Haig Street. Because he was, I’m told, a fire chief, he was required to have a phone installed at 6655 Gen. Haig St., (address known now by me). He, I’m told, was a fire chief on Magazine Street.

They moved to Lakeview very shortly after my mom, Catherine Quaid, was born on Dec. 1, 1914. Her father was Michael Emmet Quaid, (1885-1932). My mom’s mom was Julia Henrietta Brechtel, daughter of the late Fredrick Brechtel, (1864-1930) and Julia Henrietta White (1868-1937). 

 My question is two-fold. Who was the owner of either 610 or 612 Julia St., Julia Row now, back when my mom was born in 1914? Also, was my grandfather really a fire chief and required to have the first phone in Lakeview?

 I had previously gone to the Fireman History location on Royal Street but was unable to verify. I didn’t check Bell South about the phone, however, the person who told me about it showed me the listing in an old R.L. Polk directory from his collection.

My mom’s mom was supposed to have run a boarding house either 610 or 612 Julia St.
An answer either way would be appreciated. I am just starting to re-learn how to use the computer and of course don’t know how to begin this stuff.

Frank E. Fouchi

Michael Emmett Quaid (1885-1932) appears to have gotten a bit of a posthumous promotion.

Although he spent his adult life as a member of the New Orleans Fire Department, he was never its chief. When he died in 1932, Quaid, who had been a fireman for about 20 years, was a Captain stationed at Engine No. 6, which was located at Magazine and Poeyfarre streets. Perhaps some of the later confusion about Quaid’s rank was because his sister Catherine was married to R. E. Lee, who was the NOFD’s Assistant Fire Chief.

When your mother was born, her parents were living at 610 Julia St. At the time, her father, Michael, was a lieutenant with fire company Engine No. 6. The family lived at 610 Julia St., until at least 1916. While it’s possible that your mother’s family could have had a connection to that address, neither the 1910 federal census nor city directories for the World War I era show any connection between the Brechtel family and 610 Julia St.

While it would’ve been a good idea for a fireman to own a home telephone, I cannot confirm whether or not Michael Quaid had the first telephone in Lakeview. Homes were being built in Lakeview as early as 1908, so although Quaid would have been an early resident, he wasn’t among the very first neighborhood pioneers.

Dear Julia,
I’m curious as to what happened to “Belle Helene” in Belle Chasse. I believe Vina Delmar’s book Beloved mentions this. She also wrote The Big Family about the Slidell family. I would love to know what happened to the plantation.

Ruth Grimes
New Orleans

Vina Delmar’s book, Beloved, is a fictional account of the life of Judah P. Benjamin, whose plantation home, Belle Chasse, was located on the west bank of Plaquemines Parish. The plantation was demolished nearly 50 years ago but its bell and a commemorative marker can be found in front of the Belle Chasse branch of the Plaquemines Parish Public Library.

Ashland-Belle Helene is an entirely different plantation home, located in a different parish. Built for Duncan Farrar Kenner, Ashland-Belle Helene dates from the early 1840s and is located on state Highway 75, just south of Geismar, in Ascension Parish. It can be viewed only from the roadway and isn’t open for tours.

Dear Julia and Poydras,
I have been a subscriber to New Orleans Magazine since living in the city in the 1970s, and particularly enjoy your column.

One of my favorite memories of New Orleans is the sign and sound of the Roman Candy Man and his well-trained horse – or was it a mule? – who visited our Uptown neighborhood regularly, selling chocolate, vanilla and strawberry candy, made in his candy-striped wagon and carrying on the tradition begun by his grandfather. My question is: Is the family tradition still being continued?

Francene Barber
Irvington, VA

Ronald G. Kottenmann can still be seen on the streets of New Orleans, selling taffy from the same mule-drawn wagon his grandfather, Sam Cortese, had built in 1915. All three flavors – chocolate, vanilla and strawberry – of the original Roman Chewing Candy may also be ordered online at www.romancandy.gourmetfoodmall.com.

Dear Julia,
When I was a child, we used to watch the Grela parade from our front porch on Lafayette Street in Gretna. I have a vague memory of men with wild hair, dressed in white tatters (somewhat like mummies) and brandishing spears, who used to accompany the parade, sometimes chasing children onto the sidewalks. Is this a false memory, or were those ‘wild men’ real?

Mieke Zseleczky
Portland, Ore.

Grela (an acronym for Gretna, La.) first paraded in 1948 on the Saturday before Mardi Gras. Judge Leycester Trauth and Katherine Spahr reigned as the krewe’s first monarchs, riding at the head of the nine-float flower-themed parade that followed a rambling route through old Gretna before finally disbanding at Monroe and Columbus streets.

Unfortunately, while the parade’s route was described in detail, neither the floats nor onlookers’ costumes were described in the morning paper. I also tried asking some of my Westbank friends if they had similar recollection of crowds watching early Grela parades but nobody remembered the “wild men” on Lafayette Street. I do believe your memory is probably correct, but Mardi Gras on the Westbank isn’t as well documented as the celebration on the other side of the river.

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