Which coffee house is the older -- Morning Call or Cafe du Monde?
The oldest coffee shop in New Orleans still in existence is the Cafe du Monde, which began in 1862. Morning Call -- "New Orleans' Most Famous Coffee Drinking Place" as it claimed on the sign in front -- began its operation in 1870. Located at the lower end of the French Quarter, it -- like the competition -- was a 24-hour rendezvous for tourists and locals. One notable break in its round-the-clock service was in 1944 when a shortage of sugar ration points forced a temporary 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. shutdown.
Both coffee stands competed for years, and many folks were sorry to see Morning Call leave the French Quarter when it moved out to Metairie in 1974.
It was the French who founded the city, but the Spanish erected the first French Market building in 1791. Tradition has it that this was the place where the Choctaw Indians had their trading post and waited with baskets of wild herbs and sassafras leaves to trade with travelers on the river. Later, European settlers also sold their produce and dairy products in this location.
In 1812, one of our hurricanes destroyed the building, but in 1813 it was replaced by a meat market known as Butcher's Hall. This is where the Cafe du Monde is located now.
During the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration made some renovations and added buildings. And for the past 30 years, the French Market Corporation has improved and maintained our historical French Market that extends from the Cafe du Monde through seven buildings to the farmers' and flea markets.
For many visitors to the French Quarter, a stop for coffee and beignets at the Cafe du Monde is at the top of their lists. But I'll bet not too many know that New Orleans is a leader among U.S. coffee ports. Beans are shipped here in large containers from 31 coffee-producing countries. Then the coffee is shipped out to large bulk roasters and smaller specialty roasters around the world.
I have often passed a monument inscribed "Barnes Memorial Overpass" on the overpass on South Broad heading in the downtown direction. Who was Barnes?
On Nov. 17, 1955, a motion was passed to name the South Broad-Union Passenger Terminal overpass the "Barnes Memorial Overpass" in honor of Ray W. Barnes, former vice president of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. For many years he was identified with the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal project. Barnes died in Houston, Texas on Feb. 8, 1954. The motion was introduced by then-council president Victor H. Schiro, and it stated that "it is deemed fitting and proper that Mr. Barnes' untiring efforts in behalf of this program and his material contribution to the success thereof should be publicly acknowledged and his memory perpetuated."
Lots of folks still remember the days before the Union Passenger Terminal was constructed to replace the city's five scattered depots. It began officially in October 1947 when the city and the railroads signed an agreement to build a new terminal. It opened on Jan. 8, 1954 and was built at a cost of $2,225,000. The terminal belonged to the city, but the railroads themselves built and paid for it. When it was dedicated, the terminal claimed to be the only air-conditioned station in the country. There were eight railroads that used the terminal, which served 44 passenger trains. Destinations included New York, Los Angeles, and Kansas City as well as Ocean Springs, Miss.
The first train that arrived was the Southern Pacific's Sunset Limited. Coming in from the West Coast on Track 12 at 4:35 p.m., it was greeted by Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison and other VIPs. The dignitaries and their guests boarded the train at the Carrollton Station and rode it in to the terminal. The first train to leave the new terminal was the Illinois Central's Panama Limited, which departed at 5 p.m. for Chicago.
Today, there are three major Amtrak routes that arrive and depart from the UPT. And these trains carried many of the folks that came to celebrate Carnival with us this year.