Merry Christmas Eggheads! This is the last post of the ArtEgg History Project, where we'll wrap up some final details stemming from this project.
While we were unsuccessful in putting together a whole chain of title for ArtEgg, we did find one owner dating from the 1700s—an S. Trudeau (from the 1723 Newberry Library Map found here). Unfortunately, we were unable to find further information about this individual though we can speculate that perhaps this individual is somehow related to surveyor Carlos or Charles Trudeau.
One of the challenges to putting together a full chain of title is that most surveys of the area dating from the 1700s focus in the main on the French Quarter area, the center of population, and not the surrounding area. French and Spanish colonial archives in those countries may well offer further maps and surveys with which, when combined with local archival resources, a complete reconstruction of the chain of title becomes entirely feasible. With this primary documentation, a historical geographic information systems (GIS) analysis would be possible. For a look at the possibilities that a historic GIS can provide, refer to Dr. Richard Campanella's Geographies of New Orleans.
During the two and a half years that this project has been in progress, the project has undergone a number of changes, most notably the shift in emphasis from an academic history to a community history. This is in response to the materials discovered and used during the course of this project. Events related to Katrina were largely garnered from oral interviews, supplemented by newspaper articles. Newspaper articles acted as the primary vehicles of information in discovering H. G. Hill Stores' history. The chain of title information comes from primary documentation saved in the Office of Real Estate and Records file on Square 596 and the Conveyance Office. Rather than scrambling for information, we found on the contrary reams of information.
In 1895, H. G. Hill Stores first opened its doors in Nashville, TN. In September 1922, the chain, an early proponent of the cash and carry movement, opened its first New Orleans stores at Banks and Salcedo. By the end of 1922, six stores were in operation with eleven more stores planned. To say they were big is an understatement. The company credited its success to a number of factors, including the elimination of credit, adopting a cash and carry plan and buying in bulk. A year later, in September 1923, the chain boasted 26 stores.
Not only did Hill Stores offer competitive pricing, they made it a point to woo the shopper by various means, such as presenting displays of the latest in kitchen technology, contests such as the Jinky contest of 1933 (Jinkys were like cutout snowflakes), offering discounted tickets to Audubon and City Park and lavish giveaways.
The first Hill warehouse, located on S. Liberty Street, moved to the 1001 S. Broad Street location in mid-1926. The warehouse played a small role in the 1927 Mississippi River Flood, though they may have made a virtue of necessity. According to reports, the warehouse (location not pinpointed in the article) ". . . was in a flooded area and their fleet of trucks was unable to make deliveries." Hill employees loaded milk into boats and delivered it to victims of the flood, giving two bottles to families with children and one bottle to others.
It appears that the railroad spurs, built to accommodate deliveries at the building, needed the permission of city fathers. Too, built in the early 1950s, the S. Broad overpass changed the open street design and helped create the funky little pocket that ArtEgg exists in today.
Hill Stores became ubiquitous to New Orleans' city landscape. By the late 1940s, other businesses would reference Hill Stores in their own advertisements as a landmark to navigate by. H. G. Hill Stores generously donated to the Community Chest and acted as a dissemination point for government information such as when federal housing information could be found at the stores in 1934. In 1935, the franchise hosted a home expo show at the Municipal Auditorium.
During the Depression and into the late 1940s, the 1001 S. Broad location became the hiring center for the Hill enterprise. This later moved further up S. Broad to the 2500 block of S. Broad.
On July 18, 1956, H. G. Hill Stores, Inc. dissolved and the following day, the Times-Picayune published a notice that the chain had been sold to Winn-Dixie. The store continued operations under the Hill name but a new warehouse and distribution center would be constructed, rendering the S. Broad Street location redundant. By January 1958, the S. Broad location was listed for sale or rent and it disappears from the newspapers, later being sold to the Frank family in 1964.
Greetings my fellow good eggs. Great to see you all again after surmounting the biggest problem a small business could have—equipment breakdown! This month’s post will discuss the Kickstarter campaign we’ve posted in order to raise the money to create a physical exhibit of the written history.
This project combines the old (the history itself) with the new (digital history—content originally created digitally). The “old” also includes the skills used in writing history such as evaluating and using primary and secondary materials. In recent posts, we’ve explored some of what goes into writing a history, these things holding true whether content is “traditional,” like a monograph or educational materials, or “born digital,” like this web project.
The new? This project itself takes full advantage of the wide world of web, presenting written materials with illustrations of primary source materials that might otherwise be difficult for the non-historian to view due to the document’s physical location (such as a 1723 survey map located in Chicago’s Newberry Library) or fragility.
We are also using the crowd funding platform, Kickstarter, to raise the funds to create the physical exhibit. Arriving on the scene in 2009, Kickstarter revived the traditional artist-patron relationship, taking full advantage of Web 2.0’s interactive capabilities. According to Kickstarter, “Backing a project is more than just giving someone money. It’s supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world. People rally around their friends’ projects, fans support people they admire, and others simply come to Kickstarter to be inspired by new ideas.”
While digital formats offer today’s audience a richer experience in terms of media—websites offer great flexibility in terms of media presented with countless combinations of text, illustrations, video and audio possible—they are not very durable. Technology quickly becomes obsolete and history can get lost as formatting protocols change.
This is partially why we want to create a physical exhibit—digital history can become lost and the physical exhibit acts as a backup copy of the conclusions reached in the written history. Canvas is inarguable pretty durable.
A real-world example of just such a scenario is Britain’s Domesday Project, organized in honor of the original Domesday Book’s 900th anniversary and discussed in Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. According to Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, “One imagines that the Domesday Book’s modest scribes, who did their handiwork with quills on vellum that withstood nine centuries intact and perfectly readable, were enjoying a last laugh.”
We also wanted to explore new realms of experience. I have the desire to use the design skills learned during my high school years when I was Editor of the yearbook in combination with the skills in historical method I honed at the University of New Orleans. Dr. Dyer is driven by her curiosity as to the building’s history and interest in art installation in general.
Our Kickstarter campaign began last week. You can see it here at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ArtEggStudios/fresh-art-exhibitartegg-everybody-loves-a-good-egg. Check it out and become part of the historical process!
Update! I am beginning the writing process and look to have a rough draft in about a month’s time. Due to the equipment problems I recently experienced, we are “missing” three posts for the months of April, May and June. This will be remedied post-writing process prior to the exhibit opening.
First, I want to thank all you patient Eggheads who have patiently waited for the February post, which has now become the March post. I wanted to get the best possible sources of information and tap expertise available to me, which sometimes takes longer than one first assumes. But it is always worth it in the end, as I hope you will agree with by the end of this post.
Public History first developed in c. 1970s as a result of an over-abundance of PhD level historians and not enough traditional academic positions available to employ this glut of History geeks. So the field of history got creative and combined with other movements, such as peoples' history, cultural history and social history, thus introducing a new way to examine our own past and extend an awareness of historical knowledge to the mythical, everyday common man. It is not traditional history that focuses on "Great Men," like President John F. Kennedy or major political events such as World War II.
But what is public history? There are many different ways to describe public history but the following definitions are something of a majority rules definition. According to Emma Wilmer of the Public History Resource Center, "Public history is history, practically applied." Robert Weible, in his essay, "Defining Public History: Is it Possible? Is it Necessary?" found at the American Historical Association website states, ". . . a majority just defines the field by the workplace: academic history, they assume, is practiced within the university, public history elsewhere." The National Council on Public History, in an essay, "What is Public History," defines public history as, ". . . history that is applied to real-world issues."
Alison Twells, in her 2008 essay, "Community History," defines peoples' history as a ". . . the belief that all histories should be acknowledged as History;" Historylink.org identifies a key feature of peoples' history as a reliance on primary source materials, oral histories and eyewitness accounts. According to Raphael Samuel in his article "What is Social History?," social history, ". . . prides itself on being concerned with 'real life' rather than abstractions, with 'ordinary' people rather than privileged elites, with everyday things rather than sensational events." ". . . cultural history can be exercised in every field of activity: politics, economics, kinship, gender, religion and all their interlocking and overlapping domains," writes Miri Rubin of the Institute of Historical Research.
I am sure you are wondering how ArtEgg's history comes into play with these various strains of historical practice. At its most basic, ArtEgg is public history practiced outside the academy. As well, "real-world issues," come into play when considering hurricane Katrina and its effects on ArtEgg and its tenants. Additionally, ArtEgg as a peoples' history adds to the overall body of knowledge of the city of New Orleans, which is capital "H" history. Too, these essays that have been presented in past posts are largely based on primary source materials, including oral interviews, newspaper articles and maps. These primary sources will be the star of the ArtEgg history.
It is also a social history. With the property having hosted not just one, but two grocers, (H. G. Hill and Loubat-L. Frank), square 596 provides a lens to examine the shift in "making groceries" from a market-based supply to the modern mass-produced grocery stores. It is hard to think of a more "everyday thing" than grocery shopping.
This particular factor also shades the ArtEgg history into cultural history, which will examine the intersections of transportation, food production, and economics. Professor Michael Mizell-Nelson of the University of New Orleans points out that the proximity of the L & N railroad proved instrumental in the growth of commercial grocery stores. Philip Frank states that the frozen turkeys would be brought straight from the train, (which ran directly alongside the building). Currently, this set of tracks referred to by Frank is not in use, though the nearby Union Passenger Terminal Line is still utilized today. Further investigation is needed to determine if the defunct rail line is a remnant of the Louisville and Nashville railroad.
Professor Michael Mizell-Nelson, of the University of New Orleans maintains that, "This once essential industrial corridor needs to have its history researched and made public. The histories of those buildings deserve to be researched and shared, even if well-heeled visitors to New Orleans will never encounter them." Further, Mizell-Nelson asserts, "It's refreshing to find an art space whose patrons and community of artists delve deep into the history. I hope that the ArtEgg history project becomes a replicable model for similar art spaces."