Where did the 17th Street Canal get its name?
The 17th Street Canal has been making international news since last Aug. 29, when all hell broke loose. It got its name from the street that eventually ran parallel to the canal. Also known as the Metairie Outfall Canal, it was dug in 1858, with the spoils being used to build an embankment for the Jefferson & Lake Pontchartrain Railway, which ran from about 1853 to 1864 and connected Carrollton with a small port on Lake Pontchartrain.
In 1833, the village of Carrollton had been created from a plantation. By 1845, it was incorporated as a town. Carrollton, if you didn't know, used to be part of Jefferson Parish, and in Carrollton there were many numbered streets, including a 17th Street. The canal that ran along 17th Street was used to drain water from the area. To aid in this, a pump was installed in the 1870s.
However, when a major portion of Carrollton was annexed by the city of New Orleans in 1874, problems began because in New Orleans there were also many numbered streets. So when the confusion in the ever-growing city got to be too much to stand, the city started changing street names.
In 1894, Ordinance No. 9411 was passed. It began thus: "Whereas there are several streets in the city of New Orleans that have the same names, and whereas there are streets bearing several names, and whereas this condition of affairs creates a great deal of confusion, be it ordained by the Common Council of the city of New Orleans ... ." Following this was a very long list of name changes -- 135 in all. In the Seventh District, the streets numbered 11th through 20th all were renamed for trees: Apple, Apricot, Fig, Oleander, Olive, Palm, Palmetto, Peach, Pear and Quince. However, folks never did rename the canal the Palmetto Street Canal.
Hey Blake, Can you tell me if traditional flambeaux are still used in any Mardi Gras parades?"I suppose I should say pre-Katrina. I recall there was a controversy regarding flambeaux around the same time [the City Council) refused the city money to help police and clean-up after parades of krewes that were still "exclusive."
Oh, yes. The traditional flambeaux have been used in many parades before Katrina. Just last year, the Knights of Sparta, the Knights of Babylon and Proteus (to name a few) used them to light the way for their parades. But their tradition goes back to the first parade by the Mystick Krewe of Comus when they were used, out of necessity, to light up the night parades.
The original flambeaux carriers were African-American men, and most of them still are. But today, they often have to compete for the gig. For more than two decades, the men have been vying for the opportunity to carry the traditional flambeaux -- the gravity-flow gas torches -- in the Krewe of Sparta, and in some families there are several generations of carriers.
At one time, flambeaux were essential for the parades until battery-powered lights began illuminating the floats. In the old days, there were sometimes hundreds of flambeaux, but now a parade might only feature about 20. A few of the big krewes kept them for the sake of tradition.
The controversy you refer to in 1991 was not over the flambeaux carriers. This brouhaha involved another issue: An ordinance was passed that required all parading clubs to desegregate. In order to receive parade permits, krewes would have to prove that they did not discriminate.Ê
As a result, 1991 was the last year that we saw a parade by the Mystick Krewe of Comus. This original Carnival krewe first paraded in 1857 and every year after, missing only when Carnival was cancelled for a few wars, a yellow-fever epidemic and a police strike. However, Comus no longer brings the Carnival season to an end as the last parade of Mardi Gras.