The Dryades Market was one of many city-owned public markets that sprung up all over the city. It was a large open-air market on Dryades and Melpomene streets. (That intersection is now Martin Luther King Jr. and Oretha Castle Haley boulevards.) It opened to the public on January 10, 1849, and was one of the largest and busiest in the city.
Before 1763, under French rule, there were many different markets on the levee where the ships docked. When the Spanish took over control, they constructed, around 1782, the first public market building on the corner of Chartres and Dumaine streets and later relocated it to what is now Decatur Street, between St. Ann and Dumaine. This was the beginning of the French Market, although it wasn't called this for many years. This market helped to protect the consumers from high prices and poor-quality food and gave the Spanish government more control over the local commerce.
When the city began expanding, other markets appeared. The first of these was the St. Mary Market in 1828 in the Faubourg St. Mary.ÊSoon there were markets everywhere, usually named for their locations: Dryades, Poydras, Annunciation, Magazine, Claiborne, Ninth, Soraparu, St. Bernard, Treme, Washington and Prytania, to name only a few. One especially fine market was the Ewing Market, which opened in 1907 at the corner of Magazine and Octavia streets. By the First World War, there were thirty-two markets scattered all over the city.
Yes, there was prepared food sold in the markets, but what was allowed by the city changed with time. In the 1800s, there were ordinances governing the preparation of food making it unlawful to cook any meat, game, fish or vegetables within the markets or on the sidewalks or nearby public grounds. And lack of refrigeration made keeping food fresh difficult. Other ordinances dealt with matters of lighting fires, but vendors were allowed to heat coffee, tea, chocolate and milk. However, you could always find women selling pralines, calas tout chaud (hot rice cakes) and gingerbread.
In 1931, a Division of Public Markets was established, and many of the markets were modernized; $125,000 was spent on the Dryades Market alone. By this time, keeping food fresh with modern refrigeration devices enabled the markets to provide an enormous selection of prepared foods. In 1938, for example, you could go to any public market and find a bakery and a confectionery. In the meat department were sausages, head cheese and smoked beef. There was a delicatessen where all sorts of prepared foods were available to take home: cheeses, salads and dressings, cooked meats and poultry, ham, corned beef, puddings, smoked fish, fresh mayonnaise, and at the lunch counter were hot and cold soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts, breakfast foods, steaks, chops, roasts and stews. And, of course, there were the traditional fish sellers, butchers, cheese and dairy producers, and produce sellers. There was even a pickle store.
In 1946, the city relinquished control of the Dryades Market along with sixteen other public markets. The French Market was kept for its "historic value."
As noted on the enclosed newspaper account of the wedding of my wife's grandparents, Angelina Ruello and Joseph Caruso on April 21, 1903, their reception was held at the Portuguese Hall. I have searched as many New Orleans city directories as I can find and cannot find any reference to this hall.
This hall did exist under the name of the Portuguese Benevolent Society's Hall, and it was located at 203 Hospital Street, today Governor Nicholls Street. It was used for years -- at least 12 years before the family wedding -- for all kinds of receptions and Carnival balls.