Streetcar: Where Morgus Lived

Streetcar
Illustration by Arthur Nead

Save this column, it could be a collectors’ item. These words will attempt something seldom seen in journalism, and that is to identify the exact location of a place that did not exist. That, in itself, made the evidence more difficult to collect. Nevertheless, the pursuit continued:

In August, the town criers announced woefully that Dr. Momus Alex Morgus had gone on to meet his maker. Those who remember the ghoulish looking scientist from his TV days, where he performed usually failed experiments between breaks of Saturday night horror movies, know that Morgus was not easily made. He was part genius and part mad man; part comedian and part crazed scientist. He was the sort of guy who would have an overgrown hooded executioner (Chopsley) and a talking skeleton head (Eric) as buddies.

Morgus left behind many secrets including the French Quarter location of the “old city icehouse” on top of which, he told us, was his domicile.

His exit from the stage touched off nostalgia about his existence. Finding the old city icehouse has heretofore been a futile cause, however a local researcher has perused public records and may have found the answer. The man admits that his research is pretty “cursory,” but added that he will stand behind it anyway. Nevertheless, he prefers not to be identified by his real name but as “Deep Freeze.”

As Morgus might have said, “pay attention Friends of Science.”

Deep Freeze concludes that the icehouse, if it existed, was located at 535 Chartres Street, which does exist. The building is now owned by the Historic New Orleans Collection (What could be more historic than having been the site of Morgus’ home?) It was once occupied by WDSU TV and is now the location of a parking lot. Public records show ample evidence of there having been ice houses at that location going back to 1905 when it was the site of the Cosmopolitan Icehouse. Through the years there would be several changes and complex transactions, including in 1913 when the site became the Panama Ice Company

By 1928, the city of New Orleans had taken over the property and sold it to the LaSalle Realty Company. Deep Freeze noted that this might have been the big bang moment when the property began being referred to as “The City’s Icehouse.” By 1940 the property was again in the hands of the Panama Icehouse, however, it went back to the city in a tax sale.

From there, the site has had many uses, though it would be reasonable to think that by tradition the building, regardless of use, may have been referred to as the” Icehouse” long after that use was discontinued. (Morgus might have lived in a roof top condo.) Deep Freeze, who knows his was around the block, points out that a neighboring building at 601 Charters is often referred to informally, if not officially, as the “Icehouse.” This is getting scary.

Of his research, Deep Freeze concludes, “I make no pronouncements but only offer possibilities.”

Unless we can get Chopsley to confirm the evidence, possibilities will be all that we have.