Crescent City Memory--Part Four

The New Orleans Zephyrs and their revival of minor league baseball have caused something of a renewed interest in the history of the city's old team, the Pelicans. This 1940 letter reminds us, moreover, that the Crescent City also was host to a team from the Negro American Baseball Association back in the days before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and opened the big leagues to some of its greatest players. [City Archives. Mayor Robert S. Maestri Records ("N" miscellaneous)]
. . North-South All-Star Attraction . .

Pelican Stadium October 1, 1940
8:00 P. M.
Lower Grandstand 75 cents Upper Grandstand 55 cents Children 25 cents (Tax Included)


September 26, 1940

The Honorable Robert S. Maestri, Mayor
City of New Orleans

Dear Mayor Maestri: For the past few months by some unusual loyalty of local citizens we have managed to spend approximately $5000 (five thousand dollars) monthly in promoting the New Orleans Stars, member of the Negro American Baseball League. This team, finishing second in the pennant race, has brought tremendous publicity and credit to our city through its diamond feats and off-field conduct.

We climax our season here Tuesday night, October 1, at our Pelican Stadium home grounds, with the second annual North-South all-star game, an attraction which brings together the greatest players of the Negro National and American leagues. A similar East-West game, staged annually in Chicago, drew 42,000 fans to Comiskey Park in 1939 and on last August 18 in an all day rain the attendance reached 27,000.

Although we do not expect as large a crowd, we believe crowds of 20,000 and 30,000 can be annually attracted to Pelican Stadium, with proper civic support. You can imaging financial (extra) profits to local merchants if each fan spends only $5.

On Tuesday night, October 1, we are asking the City of New Orleans to cooperate and add color to the occasion by furnishing a patriotic fireworks tableau and decorate the Stadium with the National Colors. This is the first request we have made for support of our team from the city--a team which has done much for the good name of our fair city.

Appreciatively yours,
(signed) Allen Page
Allen Page



This old home was the residence of E. H. Park during the early part of this century. Located at 4557 North Peters Street, it was adjacent to the second Ursuline Convent (the tower rising above the tree tops belongs to one of the convent buildings). Both the residence and the convent were later demolished to allow for construction of the Industrial Canal, which opened to water-borne traffic in 1923. [Louisiana Postcard Collection: Residential Buildings] This 1898 graduation invitation (see detail, above) reminds us that Southern University began providing higher education to the African American community in New Orleans decades before moving to its present campus in Baton Rouge. The old Southern buildings on Magazine and Soniat Streets later housed Xavier University until that institution moved to Washington Avenue in 1932.. Xavier Prep now operates on the site, continuing the tradition of educational service to the black youth of the Crescent City. [Rare Vertical File: Invitations--Commencement]

City Attorney E. A. Sullivan's 1893 letter to the Mayor and City Council reminds us that the city's image was badly tarnished when an angry mob of "respected citizens" lynched a number of Italians who had been acquitted of charges that they had assassinated Police Chief David Hennessey. Some observers have even suggested that war between Italy and the United States over the issue was a real possibility as a result of the incident at the old Parish Prison. [City Archives. City Council Records]
Office of
The City Attorney
Rooms 21 and 22
City Hall,
New Orleans, La.

December 29, 1893

To the Mayor
and Members of the
City Council.


Your Honorable Body has submitted to me a resolution introduced by Mr. Clarke (by request) suggesting a compromise in the various suits now pending in the U.S. Circuit Court for damages resulting by the lynching of certain Italians, prisoners in the parish prison, by a mob on the 14th of March, 1891.

The grounds suggested for this compromise are:

  1. That the constant agitation of this deplorable matter is detrimental to the city's welfare.
  2. That some action should be taken to give assurance to the country at large that the city is composed of law-abiding citizens.
  3. That it would release the city from liability of a large sum for damages which would eventually have to be paid.
I might say at the outset that I am unalterably opposed at this time to anything that would suggest a compromise. Prior to bringing this suit, had the attorneys representing the plaintiffs made an offer to compromise so as to prevent the good name of this community from being brought in question, there might have been some room for compromise; but the suits having been brought, and if harm was to be done by them to the city's fair name by the suits, it has already been done. I do not know that there is any agitation now existing relative to these suits or that it is necessary to give assurance to the country that we are law-abiding citizens who discountenance and depracate [sic] lawlessness, for the reason that though we are bound to admit that this lynching took place, we will not for a moment admit that it is the people of New Orleans who did this lynching. They were citizens of New Orleans some of them, and though in certain cases the law makes a municipal corporation liable for damages done to property by mobs, I would not admit that the city of New Orleans is morally responsible for the acts of the parties committed on the 14th of March 1891.

From my knowledge of the cases pending, and from what I conceive to be the law, I do not think the city is liable and will not be called upon to pay these damages that the jury is now rendering in these suits, but should my interpretation on this point of law be erroneous, I then would say that if these judgements are maintained against the city, there is a course open to it by which it can protect itself from paying these amounts, and if it does pay them, to be reimbursed.

Another potent reason why these actions should not be compromised is that by so doing the city would be acknowledging itself guilty, would be acknowledging its liability, and would be acknowledging that it is responsible for the committal of deeds of individuals, and further, preclude itself for recourse against others.

I would respectfully submit that the resolution be rejected by your Honorable Body.

(signed) E. A. O'Sullivan
City Attorney.

Spanish Fort, on the shore of Bayou St. John at Lake Pontchartrain, was a popular resort for New Orleanians during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This post card uses a 1912 photograph to advertise some of the delights that awaited anyone who rode the streetcar out to the end of the bayou. All that remains of the resort are the ruins of the colonial fortification that gave its name to the area. The amusement park moved to the end of Elysian Fields Avenue in the 1930s; we remember it well as Pontchartrain Beach. [Louisiana Postcard Collection: Bayou St. John] An unidentified residential street, showing streetcar tracks under construction, 1895, reminding us of the complex web of tracks that once weaved its way through the city. In 1880, there were 141 miles of street railway tracks in New Orleans; in 1890, there were 177.2 miles. Today, only the St. Charles Avenue and Riverfront lines remain, but progress is being made toward returning the cars to Canal Street. Perhaps the old saying, "What goes around comes around" is not such a cliche after all. (Note also the old street light, upper left). [Louisiana Photograph Collection. Civil District Court Collection: evidence filed in Civil District Court # 47295, E. St. Amant vs. New Orleans Railroad Co.]

13,385 of the city's 168,675 residents in 1860 were enslaved persons. This 1903 petition to the mayor and City Council identifies four former slaves who still lived in the city forty years after the Emancipation Proclamation. [City Archives. City Council Records]
Mayor's Office
APR 22 1903

To the:-
Honorable Paul Capdeville [sic],
Mayor of the City of New Orleans,
and to the Council of the City of New Orleans, La.


We the old exslaves of the State of Louisiana, do hereby make known our wishes & request through your honorable body the sympathy together with the Congressmen of Louisiana to make known our plea to the President of & Congress of these United States for assistance for the exslaves to which to subsist in their old age as we need it badly. Hoping that our urgent request will meet your most honored approval.

We are Sir your most obedient servants

Dictator K. A. Hamilton

(signed) Junius Bowen No. 2505 Orleans St.
Mike Bond No. 40 Lopez St.
XAntony Miller No. 2032 Orleans St.
XThomas Randal No. 2032 Orleans St.

The old man who has handed me this paper, is blind, and so far as he is concerned individually, I believe that he is deserving and worthy of support.

(signed) [illegible]

On reverse:

April 28

Petition from Ex-Slaves in re: Securing assistance in their old age, etc.,

Com. No. 1

Received and filed with the Clerk of Council
May 5th, 1903

Recd. & filed
May 1st, 1903
P.O. No. 624

A capacity crowd in the old Tulane Stadium to see the Sugar Bowl, thirty-fifth anniversary of the Classic, January 1, 1969. The final Sugar Bowl was played in the old stadium on January 1, 1974; the next year the Sugar Bowl (and Tulane and New Orleans Saints football games) moved to the Superdome, where the Sugar Bowl continues to draw capacity crowds and to pump millions into the New Orleans economy. Looking back at this photograph now, we have to wonder, "Where did all those people park?" [Louisiana Photograph Collection. General Interest Collection] Barthelemy Lafon's 1804 plan shows the location of the barracks (casernes) that gave their name to the Rue de la Quartier (Barracks Street). The military vacated the casernes in 1834, when present-day Jackson Barracks opened. The owners of the property demolished the buildings shortly afterwards. [City Archives. Letters, petitions and decrees of the Conseil de Ville]

In this letter, James Freret, a prominent local architect, describes the North Rampart Street home of the Union Francaise, one of several French societies active in the city long after New Orleans had become American. The French Union Hall is now gone, its place taken by the Landmark Hotel following its destruction by fire. The Louisiana Division houses the manuscript records of the Union Francaise. [City Archives. City Engineer's Office Records]
No. 28 Union St. New Orleans

June 10/92

L. W. Brown, Esq.
City Surveyor

Dr Sir,

Yours of [blank] to [blank] in reference to the French Union Hall, No. Rampart St. between Dumaine and St. Philip has been referred to me. I think it indicates a misapprehension of the true construction of the building as modified by me in 1872.

The dotted lines in sketch indicate the walls & ceiling joists removed in the modifications, after insertion of the horizontal truss T between the collar braces & the ridge. This truss resting on the front wall of Hall & on an independent post at the other end carries three fourths or more of the roof over the hall. A close examination yesterday found it in perfect condition, except that the middle portion 22'9" long between the ends of the struts has sagged with time, forcing out the side walls approximately in that length. Nor have I been able to find the slightest indication of decay or weakness in any part except in the ground floor. The eaves gutters are 15 inches or more from the walls, with no possibility of wetting or damaging the upper plate. The cracks in front wall of Hall are at the junction C of the brick & stud portions, & are the natural consequence of shrinkage & swelling of the woodwork.

I found the side walls pushed out 3 in. on South side & somewhat less on North side, corresponding with the above indicated sag of the middle portion of the truss.

I suggest that to bring everything back to its place it will suffice to raise the truss, to wedge & tighten it, & introduce a new set of struts to support the long middle stretch.

Yours Respectfully,
(signed) Jas. Freret

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