As the Americans arrived in New Orleans in the 1800s and moved “Uptown,” the wide thoroughfare that was to become a canal, but never did, was a neutral meeting place and a natural magnet for merchants who wanted to appeal to those on both sides of the street.
Shops sprung up within years. In 1849 Daniel Henry Holmes opened a dry goods store in the 700 block of Canal; on the uptown side of the block, Abraham Swartz also opened a store; Godchaux’s operated originally in the 600 block of the street. Isidore Newman opened up the Maison Blanche in 1897 at the corner of Canal and Dauphine streets. Fires and expansion resulted in some of the stores moving up and down the street, but more people and businesses kept coming to Canal. Local stores including Krauss, Weirlein’s, Adler’s, Rubenstein were on the street, joined by national chains like Woolworth’s and Kress.
The street was a center of social life for New Orleans, and residents often would meet under the clock at D.H. Holmes.
The street began to suffer in the 1960s as suburban strip malls started attracting shoppers. Canal Street managed to maintain a mix of shops into the 1980s, and was boosted in 1983 by the addition of Canal Place. But the continual mergers and acquisitions of the department stores eventually led to all but two — Adler’s and Rubenstein’s — closing. The last of the major stores, Maison Blanche, closed in 1997, and was converted into a Ritz Carlton.