harkins, the florist, Newsletter Debuts
For awhile now we here at harkins, the florist, have kicked around the idea of a newsletter for our patrons. The idea began with a weekly newsletter we receive from our major shipper in Miami which has proved to be very helpful in our day to day operation. Several developments of late prompt us to say "There's no reason not to just dive in and do it!" We plan on including care of product instructions in each issue and news items of note here at 1601 Magazine Street. We plan on highlighting bargains of the day and ways of enjoying flowers even more during these trying economic times. We would welcome any ideas any of you might have. And, last but not least, Ole Jawn always has wanted to practice his writing skills. He loves to imagine spending the early part of his retirement producing a book about life in the flower business on Magazine Street. There are some unbelievable stories. Trust us! So, without further ado, let us proceed with Volume One, Number 1.
Steeped in history as we are here at 1601, we are often quizzed as to the background of our unique building. We begin by explaining that the 1850s building came about because Felicity Street is where the crease is taken in the city compensating for the uptown crescent. Slabs were poured with whatever space there was, and thus there are many interesting buildings along Felicity. We tell of our building being the entry to the mid-19th century city of Lafayette, the first town upriver from New Orleans. We conclude with two theories of the building's history. The Historic New Orleans Collection promotes a belief that it was originally a military installation with an armory downstairs and living quarters for soldiers on the second floor. They say there was originally a widow's walk on the third level from which movement on the river was observed. The most difficult suggestion for us to believe is that the building actually gave Magazine Street its name.
The other story told around the neighborhood is that the building housed the city's first oyster bar. Originally one of the Compagno families was said to live here. When success came their way they supposedly moved to Orange Street and had a restaurant upstairs. Over the years as the neighborhood declined, the downstairs evolved into a rather sleazy bar (Miss Pauline's in the early 1980s) with a flop house upstairs (50 cents a night). We came here in 1984 after the building had undergone major restoration courtesy of the Hibernia. But that's a story unto itself to be revisited at another time.
Just before Christmas, the most wonderful thing happened for the history nuts on the premises. A long time customer, Jean Cranmer Rue appeared with a copy of what we believe to be a late 19th century photo of the building. Click here to get a shockingly different appearance of the Triangle Building, or, as is said by the old-timers, "Dat building on de purnt."
We haven't been able to tack down a date, but, judging from the clothing of those in the picture, it must have been no later than very early 20th century. Several hints of the building's past are apparent in this photo. First there is verification that oysters were sold here. Receiving equal billing, however, was fruit. Barrels of different fruits were offered, but, more interesting, were the many clumps of bananas.
Evidently the trade with Central America was well established.
Another point of interest are the signs advertising "Northern Ice." Predating the age of manufactured ice, blocks were harvested from northern lakes and shipped here packed in sawdust. A final note is a sign which mentions a "Family Saloon" upstairs. Is this an oxymoron or what?
We always thought that the building always had overhang above the sidewalks on all three sides. From the picture we now know the West Indies appearance sleeping porches were added later along with the turned columns.
A thousand thank yous to Jean for bringing this magnificent glimpse of the past to us!
Those who know our shop have long realized that we pride ourselves in being 180 degrees apart from those awful wire services. We maintain membership in the lesser of the evils so we can have the convenience of sending orders worldwide. We've become quite adept over the years at reading between the lines in the directory to find shops on the same wavelength as we are.
There has been a great breakthrough lately, however. We found, explored and joined an alternative wire service aimed at the upper end of the flower merchandizing world. It is such a breath of fresh air to be able to plug in a zip code and come up with new upscale alternatives to serve our customers across the country. Often it is a floral studio rather than the traditional storefront, a new trend in the industry. But have no fear: This Mom and Pop is here to stay! We're simply having too much fun to give it up.