What is the history of the markers in the 800 block of Canal Street?_lowres


Hey Blake,

I noticed an interesting marker (pictured) on Canal Street. Do you know the history of it?

William Bishop

Dear William,

  Your question reminds me that in this city you'll find history not only by looking up or around you or even in a book, but also literally by looking down at the street. If you walk the Uptown side of the 800 block of Canal Street, which houses the historic Boston Club and some retail stores, you'll see three historic markers placed in concrete about 2 feet off the ground.

  They were dedicated in 1978 by the Core Area Development District, which voters authorized in 1972 and taxed downtown property owners to finance improvements to the area. In 1978, it became the Downtown Development District. If you look at the Canal Street markers, you'll see some familiar names among the CADD board of commissioners at the time, including developer Joseph Canizaro, Liberty Bank President Alden McDonald, insurance executives Leon Irwin III and Laurance Eustis Jr., and preservationist Margaret Lauer. The markers, part of what was developed as a "Show-Me Block" with street improvements and landscaping, were funded partly by a federal grant from the Economic Development Administration.

  One of the markers details 22 notable New Orleans and Canal Street milestones, including construction of the D.H. Holmes and Maison Blanche department stores and beautification projects such as one spearheaded by Judah Touro in the 1850s. It also mentions that in 1861, tracks for "horsecars" were laid in the Canal Street neutral ground (electric streetcars came online in the 1880s), then buses in 1964. Streetcars returned to Canal Street in 2004.

  Another marker highlights some of the history of the street under French and Spanish rule (1718-1803), and a third, the one you mention, includes a history of Canal Street under the Americans after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. It explains differences between the American and French sectors of the city in the 1800s, which were divided by Canal Street: "On one side of this line, the French and Spanish architecture dominates the Vieux Carre, while on the other side, the American section developed with its more modern buildings denoting later periods of growth." (View markers with text at www.bestofneworleans.com.)