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What's the story behind Daniel H. Holmes, who founded D.H. Holmes department store, and his being buried here? 

Blake Pontchartrain: The New Orleans N.O. It All

click to enlarge The clock that served as a meeting place for generations of New Orleanians still hangs in front of the former D.H. Holmes department store, now the Hyatt French Quarter Hotel.

The clock that served as a meeting place for generations of New Orleanians still hangs in front of the former D.H. Holmes department store, now the Hyatt French Quarter Hotel.

Hey Blake,

What's the story behind Daniel H. Holmes, who founded D.H. Holmes department store, and his being buried here? Was the store on Canal Street his only one?

Della Stiles

Dear Della,

  Your question is timely because this year marks 25 years since D.H. Holmes, the store chain founded by Daniel Henry Holmes and a landmark in the city for nearly 150 years, was sold to the Dillard's chain. As for the man who started it all, Holmes was born in Ohio, orphaned at age 2, worked in the dry goods business and came to New Orleans in 1836.

  His first store here was on Chartres Street, but the more familiar location in the 800 block of Canal Street opened in 1849. Holmes reputedly was the first to introduce store deliveries in New Orleans and the first to employ women clerks. At the time of Holmes' death, on July 3, 1898, the store was billed as the largest dry goods store in the South, employing more than 700 people. His obituary described Holmes as "a merchant prince, a citizen who has played a large part in building the city's fame." Funeral services were held in New York, but Holmes was buried in Metairie Cemetery in a family tomb.

  After a group of businessmen bought the D.H. Holmes store, it grew into a retail giant, but didn't expand to other cities until 1955, when it opened a store in Baton Rouge. Stores at Lakeside Shopping Center, Oakwood Mall, Lake Forest Plaza and The Esplanade followed. By the time Dillard's purchased the D.H. Holmes chain in 1989, it had grown to 18 stores. The site of the Canal Street store is now the Hyatt French Quarter Hotel. The familiar clock, under which generations of New Orleanians would meet, still hangs outside.

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