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Blake Pontchartrain: City Park's casino building 

Or is it "cantina"? Or "casina"?

click to enlarge Morning Call opened in City Park in 2012 and serves cafe au lait, beignets and other dishes 24 hours a day.

Photo by Kevin Allman

Morning Call opened in City Park in 2012 and serves cafe au lait, beignets and other dishes 24 hours a day.

Hey Blake,

What is the history of the building in City Park that is now Morning Call? It has such unique architecture; I know it must have a story.

Dear reader,

  For more than 100 years, the spot in New Orleans City Park that bustles with the business of beignets and cafe au lait 24 hours a day has been known as the City Park Casino Building. While the name suggests gambling took place there, City Park historians say it did not.

  The Spanish Mission Revival-style building opened in 1913 as a place that sold refreshments. Because of that, the City Park legend says that the building originally was called a cantina, using the Spanish word for a place where food and drinks are served. In a 2008 Times-Picayune story, City Park Executive Director Beau Bassich said he believed the New Orleans dialect colloquialized the word into "casina." However, 1913 newspaper articles do use the word "casino" to describe the new building, explaining it will be "the amusement center of the park," though there is no mention of gambling. In addition to selling refreshments, the building also housed administrative offices for the park.

  In 2000, after $2 million in renovations, the building was renamed the Timken Center in honor of the Timken family of Ohio. A few years earlier, the family's foundation donated a marsh island in St. Charles Parish to the park, allowing it to benefit from mineral and oil revenues. The building was renovated again in 2008 to repair damage from Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. The private upstairs reception area, Parkview Terrace, also was renovated and a new cafe was unveiled. In 2012, Morning Call, which was founded in the French Market in 1870, opened for business on the first floor.

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