Dear Julia and Poydras,

There is an intriguing abandoned commercial building on a small triangular block fronting on Westbank Expressway at Truxton Street in Gretna. The reason it caught my attention is that it has a complex angular roof that looks a bit like a piece of origami and extends from the main structure like wings. I have asked West Bank friends about it but nobody could tell me when and for whom it was built. I know that parts of it were, at some time, a sandwich shop and the Hour Glass Lounge. There is no address on the building. Do you know anything else about it? Joe Johnson (Jefferson, La.)

I suspect the building at 77 Westbank Expressway may have been built in the late 1960s for an obscure and short-lived seafood chain. In mid-June 1969, Fast Food Distributors, Inc. began running advertisements in New Orleans and Baton Rouge newspapers seeking people wishing to invest in Sea Host, a national fast food chain that was entering the Louisiana market. It appears Sea Host had a short-lived Gretna restaurant because, in February 1970, the company placed a want ad seeking counter help and a fry cook to work at 77 Westbank Expressway. By the early 1970s, Sea Host, which had retained athlete Jackie Robinson as a vice president, was bankrupt.

Dear Julia,

I have a question about a mural of Mardi Maskers that was high up on a wall above the soda fountain counter in the Canal St., corner N. Rampart St., Woolworth’s Bldg. (it is now gone and being replaced by a Hard Rock Hotel.) Do you know if it’s been preserved, and was it done by an individual artist, or was it the work of the WPA? It was there during the ‘40’s. We seem to lose so much of our childhood memories from haunts like this. Thanks. Mike Palisi, Jr. (Chalmette, La.)

News footage from the Civil Rights era clearly shows the dining area in that Woolworth’s, yet no mural is visible. Either the store had been remodeled by that time or you may have seen the mural elsewhere.  Are you sure you’re not recalling the Mardi Gras mural at the nearby Miller-Wohl store?  

In November 1940, Miller-Wohl, a New York-based upscale women’s apparel store, opened a new location at 939 Canal Street. Located in a building originally built as the Audubon Hotel, the fully-renovated store was a showplace of modern style, from its glass doors to its burl wood furnishings and marble staircase to the apparel it sold. Installed above and to the side of the store’s front entrance was a carnival-themed mural depicting revelers, a carnival float and maskers.

Hungarian artist Alexander Raymond Katz (1895-1974), whose first name, Sandor, was Anglicized as Alexander, came to the United States as a child. A prolific Chicago-trained artist, Katz worked in various media but became a muralist at Frank Lloyd Wright’s urging. Known for both religious and secular works produced for clients ranging from Chicago’s Loop Synagogue to Paramount Studios and the Chicago Civic Opera, Katz also created murals for the Chicago and New York World’s Fairs and  participated in depression era federal arts projects.  

The Audubon Building that formerly housed the Miller-Wohl store has survived and has been converted into the Saint hotel.  

Dear Julia,
When I was very small, my aunt would take me to Lakeside, where she would treat me to lunch and a banana split in the dime store. I don’t think it was a TG&Y but don’t remember the name of the long-gone store. Can you help? Christa Rose (Metairie, La.)

The department store was S. S. Kresge’s. In 1977, the name changed to K-Mart but a few old Kresge stores continued to operate under their original name until the last S. S. Kresge store closed in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1994.


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