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Julia Street

Hi Julia,
New Orleans canals have been in the news lately. I know about the Orleans Avenue Canal, the London Avenue Canal and the infamous 17th Street Canal. But what about the Carondelet Canal? How did this figure in New Orleans history and what became of it?
Walt Brannon
Picayune, Miss.

Dug during the administration of Spanish Colonial Governor Carondelet, the canal was intended to be a boon to local commerce, connecting Lake Pontchartrain to the city by way of Bayou St. John. The large square turning basin was located in Treme, between Toulouse Street and Carondelet Walk (now Lafitte Avenue). From there, the canal continued along the present-day Lafitte Corridor until meeting Bayou St. John at Hagan Avenue. Charcoal schooners and oyster luggers were frequent sights along the Old Basin Canal until it was filled in during the 1930s.

Dear Julia,
When you’re on the Crescent City Connection headed from east to west, glance to the right (really fast in today’s traffic). You will notice two large steel smokestacks attached to a very old brick building. What was this business? How old is the building? I remember those stacks from my childhood and I’m now past 60.
Thanks and give Poydras a cold Regal,
Dennis T. Rapp

Dennis, Poydras has been on the wagon lately so I am afraid any beer, especially one that has been in a bottle for over 40 years since the brewery closed, might make him even more wobbly. Rising above Market Street, the stacks are attached to an old electric power plant that has been closed since 1984. Built around 1900, the facility belonged to the New Orleans Railway and Light Company, a corporate successor to the New Orleans Gas Light Company. In later years, New Orleans Railway and Light became New Orleans Public Service, Inc., before becoming part of Entergy Louisiana.

Dear Julia,
My great-great-grandfather was Christophe Colomb who came to New Orleans in the late 18th century. He fancied himself somewhat of an artist and was commissioned by the Théâtre d’Orléans to produce eight sets of decorations for $6,000 in 1814. Could you please provide some history on the Théâtre d’Orléans?
Charlotte Colomb Hall
Mobile, Ala.

Located on Orleans Avenue, between Bourbon and Royal streets, the Théâtre d’Orléans opened in 1815 but burned soon thereafter. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1819 under the leadership of impresario John Davis.
Each season, Davis would bring in Europeans to perform at his theater in the cooler months. Because of heat and the threat of disease, both of which kept patrons away, it wasn’t practical or profitable to remain open through the sweltering New Orleans summers. After the close of the 1826-’27 season, Davis devised a solution that would allow him to keep the troupes intact through the lean months. He took the performers on a northern tour, visiting cities including Philadelphia and New York. Boieldieu’s La Dame Blanche and Gasparo Spontini’s La Vestale are only two of many works whose American premiers are credited as having occurred during Davis’ northern tours but which had played New Orleans first. During the four decades of its existence, Théâtre d’Orléans saw the U.S. debuts of works by composers, including Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti.
By the late 1850s, the Théâtre d’Orléans was looking a bit worn. In 1859, following a disagreement about rental terms for the following season, its stockholders decided to build a new theater. Architect James Gallier Jr. signed the building contract in April, construction began in June and, on Dec. 1, 1859, the French Opera House opened with a performance of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell.

Dear Julia,
I was raised in New Orleans, where I remember (slightly) the Elmwood Plantation on River Road. It was a restaurant when I was young, but I believe it burned down. Please give me info on the history of this beautiful place. Was it really owned by the Mafia?
Melissa Barrett
Louisville, Ky.

The plantation home’s last owners included Joseph Marcello, Jr., nephew  of reputed Mafia figure Carlos Marcello. While this is an interesting genealogical tidbit, a shared surname does not prove or imply anything else. I don’t believe in perpetuating rumors.
While parts of the old Elmwood Plantation dated back to the Colonial era, the main residence in which the popular restaurant was located had been extensively modified during a 1930s renovation and again in the aftermath of a major fire that struck in February ’40. In December ’78, fire struck and destroyed Elmwood Plantation; when it was over, only a few columns and pieces of wall were left.
Subsequent investigation concluded a defective water heater had caused the blaze. In the civil lawsuit, which followed the investigation, the court ruled in favor of the home’s owners, Joseph Marcello Jr. and others.

Dear Julia Street,
Recently, the Krewe of Boo paraded on Halloween. There was so much hoopla about this being the first Halloween parade in the city of New Orleans. However, some years ago I attended a Halloween parade at Orleans and Carrollton avenues. The parade followed the traditional Endymion route. The problem is, no one remembers this parade. Please help me. Incidentally, Halloween is my birthday and I made a special effort to attend the parade in question but I don’t remember if it was actually on Halloween night.
Rose Berzat
New Orleans

New Orleans most certainly has had non-seasonal and non-Mardi Gras parades. While I do not recall and can find no reference to the Halloween parade you remember attending, I’m inclined to believe it occurred. Perhaps it was a one-time spectacle that never caught on. The problem with anyone who makes the mistake of dealing in absolute superlatives such as “the first” or “the most memorable” is that, unless they have at their disposal complete facts about absolutely everything relating to their topic, it’s always possible an obscure or forgotten achievement may escape notice.

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