Portrait of Mama Brocato and two sons at Brocato’s Ice Cream and Confectionary Parlor, 617 Ursulines Ave., French Quarter, New Orleans. Printed in 1984 from a ca. 1960 negative.
Photo by Abbye A. Gorin Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection Gift of Dr. Abbye A. Gorin
Love New Orleans Magazine. We come to New Orleans every couple of weeks for purchases for our restaurant, Geno’s, also because we love the city. We always go to Brocato’s. When I was a little girl my parents would take us to Brocato’s on Ursuline. Was this their original store from the beginning? If not, what street was the original one on?
Such great memories there!
Phyllis Jean Bruscato (Monroe, LA)
Thank you for your kind words. There were other Brocato family members in the local ice cream and confectionery trade, but Angelo Brocato Sr. is the one whose business has endured to the present day. The current Brocato’s at 214 N. Carrollton Avenue opened in the late 1970s and is an offshoot of Angelo Brocato Sr.’s confectionery and ice cream parlor which operated at 615-617 Ursulines Avenue for more than half a century until shutting its doors in February 1981.
Around 1905, the elder Angelo Brocato, who died in 1946, operated a small store at 511 Ursulines. He would soon move up the street to 623 Ursulines, where he stayed until about 1916. City directories show he then moved back down the street to 518 Ursulines before moving, setting up shop at 615-617 Ursulines. That is the address you visited as a child; the location now houses Croissant D’Or.
I moved here from Louisville, Kentucky and am very much into genealogy. About half of my ancestors landed in New Orleans between 1845 and 1855. I was wondering where they landed. I am thinking that it could be anywhere along the New Orleans waterfront, but can you narrow that down. What was the extent of the water front back then? Where were immigrants processed? How would they have gotten to Louisville? Walked the Natchez Trace? Steamboat? What can you tell me about the immigrant experience in New Orleans? I am sure that there are many New Orleanians both native and transplants who had immigrants landing here who would also find this interesting. Thank you.
T. Diemer (Kenner, LA)
The mid-19th century immigration experience varied widely according to the health and socioeconomic condition of the passengers and the scruples of those responsible for shipboard conditions. Those who survived passage faced variable employment and living conditions in an age when nativist politics were popular.
Unlike New York, 19th century New Orleans did not have an immigrant processing center like Castle Garden or Ellis Island. Although ships’ masters were required to submit quarterly passenger lists to the Collector of Customs, those lists were usually cursory, often only providing a name, age and country of origin. Passengers could have been deposited pretty much anywhere there was a dock at which a vessel had landing privileges. Because taxes were higher in the city proper, ships frequently discharged their passengers at Algiers Point or at suburban docks stretching from present-day Lower Garden District to Arabi.
Travel upriver could have been by steamboat, rail or walking. One’s mode of transportation was entirely dependent on one’s ability to pay. Period newspapers are a good source for information about the travel options that may have been available to your immigrant ancestors.
My brother and I attended Henry W. Allen School in the 40’s. Everyone in the school learned a song written by my grandfather, Henri Wehrmann. It was called New Orleans and went “New Orleans, New Orleans you’re such a great old town. We’re proud to say it now, we’d say it anyhow.” We cannot remember the rest. At that time, everyone in the New Orleans public schools learned that song. Could you please help us with the rest of the lyrics?
Thank you, Wendy Wehrmann Taliaferro (Lookout Mountain, GA)
Henri Wehrmann (1870-1956) was born into a well-known family of composers and engravers and was a prolific composer and performer. A violinist and organist for the French Opera House, Wehrmann also taught music and later headed Tulane University’s glee club.
During the 1931 Mardi Gras season, the New Orleans Association of Commerce, to promote local tourism to a national audience, published and distributed sheet music for Wehrmann’s New Orleans. The work was marketed as a companion piece to the composer’s popular “My Louisiana,” in print since 1912.
Your grandfather composed the music for New Orleans but it was Russell McGuire who penned the lyrics. The words you recall are part of the chorus. Copies of the published sheet music may be found among the holdings of Tulane University and the Historic New Orleans Collection. The complete lyrics are below as reported in the New Orleans States, January 18, 1931.
Down in Louisiana, where the bayous flow,
There’s a grand old city all the world should know;
‘Mid the bales of cotton and the sugar cane,
Where the mocking birds sing praises to her name.
(chorus): New Orleans, New Orleans, you’re such a great old town!
We’re proud to say it now – we’d say it anyhow.
New Orleans, New Orleans, we’ll spread your name around —
We’ll tell the world, with flags unfurled,
We’re all for you!
Gateway of the Valley! Pride of Dixieland!
Where the Creole beauties smile on every hand;
Land of love and dreaming, ‘neath the tropic sky,
Turn your face right there and then you’ll hear them cry:
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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 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 Phyllis Bruscato, Monroe, LA and T. Diemer, Kenner, LA.