The Prytania Streetcar began operation in 1861 as a mule-drawn car line. It was called the "Silk Stocking" line because its route included the streets of the "Garden District," an uptown area of the city developed in the 19th century by wealthy merchants. Lined with live oaks and mansions, the Prytania Streetcar route's many patrons included the philanthropist and founder of Touro Infirmary, Judah Touro.
Only the populated areas of the city enjoyed fixed-rail transit. Prior to 1861, horse-drawn omnibuses traveling over regular streets serviced the less populated areas around Prytania Street. This system proved adequate until the city experienced a population boom in the 1850s. Unable to handle the increased traffic, omnibuses were replaced with horse-drawn railroads.
According to the Daily Delta newspaper, the New Orleans City Railroad Company was chartered on June 15, 1860. By 1861, twenty-six miles of horse railroad track had been laid in the city. Service commenced on the Camp and Prytania Line (later Prytania) on June 8, 1861. Streets of the original route included Canal, Camp, Prytania, Toledano, Poeyfarre, and Magazine. Various route changes and consolidations took place over the years.
New Orleans experimented with several potential substitutes for horsecars. The ammonia motor was tried on several lines in the city, including the Prytania. The motor suffered several failures and was considered to be impractical. City fathers were hesitant to adopt the "new-fangled" electric cars.
The 1890s saw the electrification of all the horsecar lines in the city. The Prytania Streetcar Line was electrified on September 15, 1894. It became a main artery of travel. Uptown residents eager to shop Canal Street merchants could now travel in the speed and comfort of electric streetcars.
The Prytania Streetcar Line was serviced almost exclusively by the "Prytanias," a luxurious class of electric cars just as distinctive as the elegant "Garden District" neighborhood. Mahogany interiors surrounded patrons seated in St. Louis rattan seats. They looked out of Robertson windows that slid conveniently into side panels when open. The "Prytania" cars were designed for double-end operation and the prepayment of fares, the first of its type in New Orleans.
A public's changing preference for private transportation made streetcar operation unprofitable. After 1926, streetcars were no longer the lifeblood of the city. According to a New Orleans Public Service Inc. newspaper announcement, the Prytania Streetcar Line discontinued operations on October 1, 1932, and the Nashville Bus Line began service over a part of the territory formerly served by the line. Prytania Street was not included.