Canal Street, New Orleans
Canal Street is a major thoroughfare in the city of New Orleans. Forming the upriver boundary of the city's oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter (Vieux Carré), it acted as the dividing line between the older French/Spanish Colonial-era city and the newer American Sector, today's Central Business District.
Up until the early 1800s, it was the French and Spanish who lived in the French Quarter. When the Louisiana Purchase was made, a large influx of new cultures began finding their way into the city via the Mississippi River. A number of Americans from Kentucky and other Midwestern states moved to the city and settled uptown. Along the division between these two cultures, a canal was planned. It was never built but the street that took its place was named in its honor. Furthermore, the median of the street became known as the neutral ground acknowledging the cultural divide. To this day, all medians of streets in New Orleans are referred to as such.
One end of Canal Street terminates at the Mississippi River. Often called "The foot of Canal Street", at the riverfront the Canal Street Ferry offers a connection to the Algiers Point neighborhood, an older, 18th century portion of the larger Algiers area across the river. Canal Street's other terminus is in Mid-City at a collection of cemeteries. Slightly offset from Canal Street's Mid-City end is the beginning of Canal Boulevard, which extends to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain via the Lakeview neighborhood. Throughout its length, Canal, which runs east-west, serves as a dividing line for cross streets running north-south, although the New Orleans layout follows the Mississippi River.
The street has three lanes of traffic in both directions, with a pair of streetcar tracks in the center. Canal Street's downtown segment serves as the hub of the city's mass transit system, with numerous streetcar and bus line terminals. (Of note, it is the home of the Canal Streetcar Line, operated by the RTA.)
Canal Street is often said to be the widest roadway in America to have been classified as a street, instead of the avenue or boulevard titles more typically appended to wide urban thoroughfares.
For more than a century, Canal Street was the main shopping district of Greater New Orleans. Local department stores Maison Blanche, D.H. Holmes, Godchaux's, Gus Mayer, Kreeger's and Krauss anchored numerous well-known specialty retailers, such as Rubensteins Men's Store, Adler's Jewelry, Koslow's, Rapp's, and Werlein's Music. These department stores began as sellers of fabric, notions and accessories with large floor space and glass windows. As elevators allowed for multi-floor stores, the stores became more elegant and larger by adding adjoining buildings. Though Canal Street began to lose its primacy as a regional shopping destination in the late 1960s, it retained a robust mix of department stores and specialty shopping into the mid-1980s - somewhat later than main street shopping districts in most other major U.S. cities - and it received a boost in 1983 with the completion of Canal Place's retail component, which included a Saks Fifth Avenue department store and a Brooks Brothers outlet. However, national trends disfavoring downtown retail finally caught up with Canal Street - with a key assist from the regional economic depression of the mid-80s (the Oil Bust). One Canal Place has 3 lower levels of that are occupied by The Shops at Canal Place. The mall contains a Saks Fifth Avenue, The Theatres at Canal Place, food court and approximately 45 high-end retailers including Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, Michael Kors, and Morton's The Steakhouse. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a fire inflicted heavy damage to the Saks Fifth Avenue. The mall reopened in February 2006, and a completely remodeled Saks reopened in November.
One Canal Place Office Tower is a Class A commercial office building managed by Corporate Realty. It is adjacent to the Westin New Orleans Hotel and The Shops at Canal Place. The office space is made up of more than 650,000 customizable square feet and includes a parking garage and health club facilities.
New Orleans has historically been a center for opera, theatre and concerts. In 1871 the Varieties Theater opened on Canal Street between Dauphine and Burgundy streets. The building was renovated and renamed the Grand Opera House in 1881, which could be used as both a theater and ballroom. Theaters and movie palaces were centered around the intersection with Rampart Street, with the neon marquees of the Saenger, Loews State, Orpheum, and Joy casting multicolored light nightly onto surrounding sidewalks. It is reputed that the world's first movie theater (that is, the first business devoted specifically to showing films for profit) was "Vitascope Hall", established on Canal Street in 1896. By the 1910s there were several movie theaters open on Canal Street, including the Alamo, the Plaza, and the Dreamworld. In 1912 the Trianon, the first movie palace in the city opened. The Tudor followed in 1914 and the Globe in 1918. By the 1950s they had become lower grade theaters and they closed in the 1960s. Although most of the grand movie theaters have closed over the years, several cinemas on Canal Street operate today.
In the 1830s, several hotels on Canal Street near the river were in operation, including the Union Hotel and the Planters Hotel. Although most of the grand 19th century hotels were located in the French Quarter, the Perry House was on Canal Street. By the 1920s a growth was seen in the number of hotels on Canal Street. These included the LaSalle Hotel, the Hotel New Orleans, and the Jung Hotel with its rooftop ballroom. As convention industry began to grow in the 1960s, the Governor House motor hotel and the International Hotel were built. Almost a whole block was taken up by the Marriott Hotel that opened in 1972 as the tallest hotel in the city. Canal Street began to accommodate large convention hotels, such as the Sheraton New Orleans and the JW Marriott. The emergence of new hotels has since slowed, but continued operation of many on Canal Street indicate the sustained importance of the street in both business and entertainment.
Both business and government leaders in New Orleans have taken steps over the past 50 years to encourage development and corporate centered business in the city. These began with the construction of the Superdome using public money, choosing not to build an expressway along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter and allowing the riverfront to be developed for tourism, and the under used wharves made available by the New Orleans public port authority for non-maritime use in the 1960s. These decisions opened the door for changes in land use, encouraging business, especially that of the tourism industry, for the city. The downtown New Orleans segment of Canal Street is today undergoing redevelopment along the lines called for in the Downtown Development District's Canal Street Vision and Development Strategy (2004). In recent years the street has welcomed the addition of numerous new anchors, including the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, luxury apartments at 1201 Canal, the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, the rehabilitated Joy Theater, the Saint Hotel, the Audubon Nature Institute's Audubon Insectarium, and the Astor Crowne Plaza. In October 2011, the New Orleans City Council granted final approval for the construction of 1031 Canal, a 190-foot (58 m) multi-use highrise at the north-east intersection of Canal and North Rampart Streets. After exiting downtown New Orleans, Canal Street runs for its remaining length through the Mid-City neighborhood, part of which is now designated as BioDistrict New Orleans, a state-chartered economic development district created to encourage growth in the region's biomedical sector. Construction of two new teaching hospitals, the University Medical Center and a Veterans Administration regional facility, involving a total expenditure of approximately $2 billion, is now underway in the BioDistrict.
- Canal Street: New Orleans' Great Wide Way by Peggy Scott Laborde and John Magill, Pelican Publishing, 2006. ISBN 978-1-58980-337-4
- McKinney, Louise (2006). New Orleans: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press.
- Lewis, Peirce (2003). New Orleans: The Making of an Urban Landscape. Center for American Places.
- New Orleans Maps (2012) Downtown Development District. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- Peggy Laborde; John Magill (2006). Canal Street: New Orleans' Great Wide Way. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Co.
- Capochino, April (2006-02-10). "One Canal Place reopening a hit - Sake to come back". New Orleans CityBusiness. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- Brooks, Jane; Alma Young (1993). "Revitalizing the Central Business District in the Face of Decline: The Case of New Orleans, 1973-1993". The Town Planning Review 64 (3): 251–271.
- "New Orleans City Council approves modified plans for Canal Street high-rise". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
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