Dryades Streetcar Line: Urban Transit above St. Charles Avenue

Stop 7 of 9 in the Streetcars and their Historian Michael Mizell-Nelson tour

The Dryades Streetcar line opened in 1866 to serve the areas above St. Charles Avenue. Known as the "Banlieu" (outskirts), this area was an economic center even before the Civil War. The Dryades Street Market opened in 1849 at the corner of Melpomene and Dryades and drew many to the neighborhood. The New Basin Canal had its head on nearby Rampart street; many businesses, especially lumber and construction-related ones, located near the terminus for ready access to lumber barged in from Lake Pontchartrain. After the Civil War, Hugh Kennedy served as the city's appointed mayor. During his brief tenure, his office granted franchise agreements to various street railway companies.

The original route of the Dryades line began on Canal Street and went up St. Charles to Delord (Howard) before joining Dryades; its return path followed Rampart and then rejoined Delord. With only one set of tracks leading uptown from Canal, the St. Charles Street Railroad company economized by using its St. Charles rails until Lee Circle, when other lines fanned out for different neighborhoods.

The railway fueled the development of the Dryades Street residential areas and shopping district, which became second in size only to the Canal Street commercial district. Dryades shopkeepers also allowed African-American consumers some freedom from the worst aspects of Jim Crow racial discrimination practiced in shops along Canal Street.

Images

1865 editorial statement

1865 editorial statement

Post-Civil War New Orleans saw a great need for public transportation, especially streetcar lines. The newspaper editors expressed the prevalent sentiment as the city started the difficult process of re-establishing its economy. The Dryades streetcar line opened in November of 1866. Courtesy of the Times-Picayune, July 23, 1865. View File Details Page

St. Charles Avenue, 1890

St. Charles Avenue, 1890

All of the uptown-bound streetcars of the St. Charles Street Railroad traveled this route before radiating out into various neighborhoods. Image: "Views of New Orleans," (MSS 235), Louisiana and Special Collections Department, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans. View File Details Page

Lee Circle, 1890

Lee Circle, 1890

From St. Charles Avenue, the Dryades streetcar turned onto Lee Circle and headed up Howard Avenue to Dryades. Image: "Views of New Orleans," (MSS 235), Louisiana and Special Collections Department, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans. View File Details Page

Canal Street, 1890

Canal Street, 1890

Streetcar traffic on Canal Street circling the Henry Clay statue. Electrification of the New Orleans streetcar lines began three years later; the last of the horse cars disappeared completely in 1901, but draft animals pulling carts remained a common sight well into the 20th century. Image: "Views of New Orleans," (MSS 235), Louisiana and Special Collections Department, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans. View File Details Page

New Basin Canal, 1900

New Basin Canal, 1900

Theodore Fraenkel's water color depicts a quiet stretch on the New Basin Canal. The Dryades streetcar line's return run along Rampart Street passed by the head of the canal; workers who commuted to the industries located in this area may have taken the Dryades car. View File Details Page

Union Station New Orleans. Opened 1892

Union Station New Orleans. Opened 1892

The New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern railroad was another economic draw to the Banlieu. While the Dryades line did not directly service the original depot (that honor goes to the Clio line) it did pass much closer to Union Station, which opened in 1892. Courtesy of Louisiana Division/City Archives, New Orleans Public Library View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Michael Calabrese, “Dryades Streetcar Line: Urban Transit above St. Charles Avenue,” New Orleans Historical, accessed March 28, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/309.
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