I live on Bayou St. John. When I drive to work every day, I am puzzled by the fact that all of the old homes along Moss Street between Esplanade and Orleans avenues are on the downtown side of the bayou. Is there some reason why the original French settlers built their residences on one side of the bayou and not the other?
Charles E. McHale Jr.
We all love the beautiful drive along the bayou, on both sides of Moss Street. But none of the houses we admire were built by the original French settlers. In fact, there are only two houses left that were definitely built before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803: the Old Spanish Custom House at 1300 Moss St., built in 1784, and the Pitot House built in 1799, first at 1370 Moss and then moved to 1440 Moss. A third house at 924 Moss may have been constructed in 1798, but even the experts can't agree.
Ten years before the founding of New Orleans, the first plantations were established on Bayou St. John when eight colonists were persuaded to come from Mobile to grow wheat as a principal crop. Titles to land in the area can be traced back to concessions granted in late 1708. These early grants were narrow bits of waterfront property -- about 2 to 3 arpents by 40 arpents -- on the east bank (downtown side) of the bayou. On today's map, their concessions were approximately between Grand Route St. John to a point just beyond Esplanade Avenue. As any real-estate agent will tell you, the most important factor is location, and the land here was rich and relatively high. But more important, this side of the bayou was closer to the portage path (Bayou Road) and the Mississippi River.
One of the earliest concessions went to Antoine Rivard de LaVigne who, by 1721, owned all the others plus the ancient Acolapissa Village on the west bank of the bayou across from his plantation. Bienville gave him another three arpents, and LaVigne became the earliest large-property owner on Bayou St. John. Think what it would be worth today!
Work on the city of New Orleans began in 1718, and the next year saw the beginning of the village of Bayou St. John -- three houses and a warehouse -- between Esplanade and Dumaine on both sides of the bayou on today's Moss Street.
When colonists came in response to the propaganda of the Company of the West, there were many more land grants in the 18th century along the entire length of the bayou -- on both sides. Property changed hands many times, and in 1804 and 1805, Daniel Clark bought out many of the plantation owners in the bayou area and laid out Faubourg St. John.
It would have taken a brave man to explore Bayouk Choupic as it was called by the Indians in 1699; it's lucky for us that Bienville was just that man.
I remember the Mr. Bingle jingle started as "Jingle, jangle, jingle," and so on, where the middle "jingle" was "jangle." Am I mistaken or did I just hear or learn another version?
You are right. There were many people who sang the opening line with a "jangle" instead of a "jingle." Mr. Bingle's theme song, like the snowman himself, changed with time. When he was created by Emile Alline Sr. in 1947, the little guy looked a little different. Think about how different Mickey Mouse looked in the early days. First of all, the original Mr. Bingle didn't even have a name. His creator simply called him "the snow doll." "Snow Doll" was much pudgier, fluffier and cuddlier. He sported the candy-cane hat, holly wings and ribbon bow tie, but his eyes and nose were tiny Christmas ornaments and he had no mouth and barely any legs at all.
Mr. Bingle quickly grew to 50 feet tall and began to make his annual appearance over the entrance to Maison Blanche on Canal Street. But when Christmas comes now, the Mr. Bingle you see on Dillard's at Lakeside is a papier-mache likeness created by Blaine Kern the float builder.