I can't be the first one to ask you this: What's up with Camellia Grill? Are they ever going to open up again?
Just like you and many, many other folks, Old Blake is pining for the days when I once again can stand in line for an hour to sit on one of those stools and eat until I'm ready to explode -- and then die happy.
If you've been past the place lately you must have noticed all the notes that have been scribbled and left stuck to the door. There are notes that beg, notes that promise, and notes that praise. Perhaps you've even left one yourself.
The current status of Camellia Grill is one of mystery. It seems that the owner, Michael Schwartz, has not been seen much since Hurricane Katrina. A search party has been organized by New Orleanians who are dying for the omelets, burgers, pies and pecan waffles for which the grill is known. No effort has been spared in trying to find the owner. There is even a search for two of the best-known employees -- Harry Tervalon and Michael Carbo -- but no luck.
The Camellia Grill has been a fixture in our city for 60 years. All we can do now is hope that the eatery will return and make thousands of us happy and full once again.
Why is there a tile printed with "ELM" embedded in the sidewalk on the corner of Freret and Pine streets?
Of course, you're confused by this. But the answer is a simple one. That portion of Freret Street used to be Elm Street before the name was changed to Freret. Before it was Elm Street, it was Third Street. In fact, this city went wild changing street names, beginning in 1852.
Beginning about 1788, New Orleans started to spread out -- upriver first and then down river -- and many new suburbs developed. We didn't called them suburbs, however, we called them faubourgs. The faubourgs were subdivided and lots were sold. The owners of the faubourgs got to name the streets in their divisions. This worked out pretty well until the faubourgs started to grow together and street names didn't match from one neighborhood to the next.
The really big street-name change came in July 1894 when hundreds of streets got new names. The City Council took charge and made a valiant attempt to eliminate the confusion caused by the fact that many of the faubourg owners had chosen the same names for streets in different neighborhoods, especially in the upriver faubourgs. So C.S. Ordinance 9411 ordered the renaming of streets.
Only part of Third Street was changed to Elm because of this ordinance. I'm always amused by the fact that this same ordinance -- over 110 years ago, mind you -- changed Seventeenth Street to Palmetto Street. But absolutely no one has ever referred to the canal that ran along the former Seventeenth Street as Palmetto Street Canal.
But the City Council was not through yet. More street name changes were on the way, and 1924 was another big year for that. Over a hundred names were changed with Ordinance 7742, and again Elm Street was a target. Elm Street from Broadway to Leake Avenue was henceforth to be known as Freret in honor of William Freret, who served as mayor of New Orleans from 1840 to 1842. Eventually all the bits of Freret were united, and now we have a very long Freret Street that crosses many of the old plantations. But New Orleans has no Elm Street.
You may have noticed that the city council is still committed to changing the names of streets, but mostly it just changes the name on part of the street. While the initial name changes were reasonable and made to prevent confusion, some of the more modern ones really confuse old guys like me. For example, relatively recent name changes have given us John Chase Boulevard, Margaret Place, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, St. Aloysius Drive, Stars and Stripes Boulevard and the West Bank's Mardi Gras Boulevard.
Now I do believe that all the street name changes to honor important people are a good idea. Perhaps one day there will be a Blake Pontchartrain Boulevard. Nope, that would just cause confusion.