At the intersection of Camp and Prytania there is a statue of a woman. I guess her name is Margaret since that's what's on the base. Who was she?
This statue of Margaret Gaffney Haughery is the first statue of a woman erected in the United States. But Margaret wasn't born in New Orleans. She came to America in 1813 at age 5, the daughter of an Irish tenant farmer, but was orphaned when her parents died in a yellow fever epidemic.
At age 22, Margaret and her husband came to New Orleans. Soon afterward, both Charles and their baby daughter died, and Margaret was left alone and penniless. But Margaret was resourceful and found work as a laundress and a helper in the Poydras Orphan Asylum. It was here she began her life of devotion to the poor and unfortunate.
Although illiterate, Margaret had great business sense and was able, over time, to develop a thriving dairy and bakery and used the profits to build and support most of the orphanages in the city. She was particularly helpful to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
During the Civil War, Margaret became a heroine when she defied Union Gen. Benjamin Butler by crossing Federal picket lines to deliver bread to hungry children.
When she died in 1882, she left an estate of more than $30,000, all to charity. The mayor of New Orleans led the funeral procession and two Louisiana governors were pallbearers. In 1884, the marble statue by Alexander Doyle was erected by the city in her honor.
'Tis the season, so a seasonal question. Do you remember Christmas on Canal Street in the '50s?
Would that be the 1750s, 1850s, or 1950s? Old Blake goes way back, but not that far back!
Canal Street in the 1950s -- whether during the Christmas season or not -- was much different than it is today. You don't have to be all that old to remember Christmas shopping in department stores such as Maison Blanche, D. H. Holmes, Krauss, and Godchaux's.
Of course, Canal Street was the place to "shop 'til you drop," and yes, Virginia, these stores really did exist. Daniel Henry Holmes, a farm boy from Ohio, started his store in 1842; Leon Godchaux, a French immigrant, established his first store in 1840 and moved to 828 Canal Street in 1926; Maison Blanche was founded in 1897 by Isadore Newman, once a penniless immigrant from Germany; and Krauss Co. was founded in 1903.
There are still many of us who long for the days when Santa would make an appearance on the balcony over Holmes' store entrance, right over the clock. And for a time, the front of Holmes was adorned with bells. All of the stores had beautifully decorated windows, and Mr. Bingle was the star of puppet shows in the window of Maison Blanche as well as his own television and radio shows. Especially loved by all was the village in M.B.'s windows, a charming snowy winter scene with a toy train that ran through the town. One year Santa arrived at M.B. via helicopter with Mr. Bingle, his helper, suspended underneath. It was quite a spectacle!
It may have been the creation of that suburban phenomenon called the shopping center -- the first one to open here was Lakeside Shopping Center in 1960 -- that did in Canal Street, but whatever the cause, the stores started to leave one by one. The last to go was Holmes in 1989 when it became Dillard's.
During the holiday season of 1979, The Times-Picayune ran a series of stories on the grand department stores. The last story in the series told of a time capsule that was buried beneath the floor of Holmes and suggested that when the capsule was dug up, the contents would reflect the changes that had taken place. The author wrote, "But chances are that Holmes and Godchaux's and Maison Blanche and Krauss will still be selling merchandise on Canal Street. After all, what would that street be without them?"
Now we know.