Monday, July 28, 2014

Roman Candy, A New Orleans Favorite Since 1915

Blogger's Note: A personal favorite of this blogger, and the highlight of any trip to the Crescent City, Roman Candy is a New Orleans tradition with roots that date back to the early 1900s.  Never on a set route, you may count yourself lucky if, on a perfectly sunny day, you find the Roman Candy Wagon parked alongside any of the historic New Orleans thoroughfares.  Do yourself a favor, and invest in purchasing at least one of each flavor, they are that good and you never know when you will be lucky enough to find this distinctive New Orleans treat again.

(Above): A video about New Orleans Roman Candy on Travel Channel's Food Paradise - Food Truck Paradise show.

From the Roman Candy Company's website:

"The Roman Candy Company began as a family treat with a recipe that dates back at least four generations. My great grandmother, Angelina Napoli Cortese, made the candy for family and friends at social and special events like Christmas and St. Joseph's Day. Her son, Sam Cortese, who was a street vendor by trade since the age of 12, would on occasion bring the left over candy on his fruit and vegetable wagon to sell the next day.

(Above): Roman Candy comes in three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.  It would be hard to decide which flavor is the favorite, we encourage trying all three.

Roman Candy always sold very well and people began to ask for it, so Sam decided to try to sell candy on a regular basis. The problem however was that his mother didn't have time to make candy everyday and still tend to her other children and do all the things that mothers do.

(Above): Handmade taffy from the Roman Candy wagon has been a treat for New Orleans children and adults alike for many generations.

Sam realized he would have to find a way to make his Roman Candy as he rolled along and sold it. In 1915, he went to a wheelwright named Tom Brinker and together they designed the wagon that is still used today.

(Above): Still made by hand, the old-fashioned way, the Roman Candy wagon has even been spotted at such events as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

The Roman Candy gourmet taffy initially sold for 5 cents a stick and stayed at that price until 1970. After his death in 1969, Sam's grandson took over the business and it continues to this day. The wagon and mule can be seen rolling through the streets of New Orleans, uptown, downtown and occasionally even in the suburbs on an almost daily basis."

What's In A Name? New Orleans' History Told Through Its Street Names

Blogger's Note:  Notoriously difficult to pronounce for visitors to our fair City, New Orleans street names are more that just fun to say, they also give clues to our multicultural background and the storied history of our City's origins.  Even the porcelain tiles that mark the names at street corners have become an iconic symbol of New Orleans culture it their own right.

(Above): A stylish picture of some of the famous New Orleans street tiles for Montegut Street.


"New Orleans' fanciful street names have captured the interest of history enthusiasts for years, in part because of their natural romance and poetry, and in part because they track the growth of the city from the original Vieux Carre to the expanse that New Orleans is today.

Because the original city was founded by the French, it has streets that bear the names of French royals and patron saints. Upriver from Canal Street, several thoroughfares are named for prominent Spaniards who took over the city from the French in the late 1760s. Then, as plantations both upriver and downriver were subdivided into faubourgs, or suburbs, the process of naming streets became more personal, with developers choosing names according to whatever criteria they chose.

(Above): Throughout the French Quarter you can find tile markers of the historic Spanish or French name of a certain New Orleans street.

The order of street names in the French Quarter represents the fact that various sectors of French royalty were suspicious of each other and always struggling with one another for power. So when streets were named for royals, they were separated by a street named for a saint.  What do you do with a live wire? You insulate it with rubber. And the 'saint streets' served as a kind of insulator, if you will.

That's why Dumaine Street, which was named for an illegitimate son of Louis XIV, was boxed in on one side by St. Philip Street and on the other, by St. Ann. It's also why Toulouse Street, named for another illegitimate son, was flanked by St. Peter and St. Louis.

(Above): 1728 map of New Orleans, showing de Pauger’s original grid plan. (courtesy US Census Bureau)

Not all street names have hidden meanings or sly political references, said Chapman. Some names were simply practical. Press Street, which separates Faubourg Marigny and Bywater, was named for the Levee Cotton Press, an important amenity for local plantations in early New Orleans. Rampart Street takes its name from the fortifications that once guarded the city's lakeward flank. Barracks Street, where soldiers were stationed, is equally literal.

(Above): A historic marker for the Faubourg Marigny, one of many early plantations absorbed into the ever-growing French Quarter footprint, and from which we get many of our historic street names.

In the faubourgs that ringed the original city after plantations were subdivided, developers seized the privilege of the naming the new streets. Many, predictably, chose family names.

'That's why you have Robert, Soniat and Dufossat street all in a row Uptown,'  said Daniel Taylor, an architect and historian at Koch and Wilson Architects.

Situated in what was Faubourg Avart, the streets were named for plantation owner Francois Robert Avart and his son-in-law, Valmont Soniat du Fossat. Likewise, Hurst Street was named for Cornelius Hurst, who subdivided his plantation into 'Hurstville' and named its streets Eleonore, Arabella and Joseph for his wife, daughter and son, respectively.

(Above): Royal Street is another famous New Orleans street with a colorful history.

Other developers weren't quite so egocentric. Chapman cites Denis de la Ronde of St. Bernard Parish, who named the streets of his "Versailles" faubourg for luminaries of the French Enlightenment.
There's Montesquieu, for the political philosopher (Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu) known for the concept of separation of powers in government, and there's Delille, named for the poet (Jacques Delille) known as the French Virgil.  Lambert (Anne-Thérèse de Marguenat de Courcelles) is named for a French woman who hosted the most intellectual salon in Paris, and Laplace for the astronomer (Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace).

Taylor pointed to street names Uptown that are associated with Napoleon Bonaparte.

'There's Napoleon Avenue and all the side streets named for his great battles, like Marengo and Austerlitz,' Taylor said.

(Above): Once rumored to have a plan to escape from Elba and live out his years in New Orleans, there are many streets named for Napoleon.

Street names help a community understand itself, and should be preserved -- although there are exceptions to that rule. Without change, New Orleans wouldn't have its famous 'Muses streets' -- Erato, Terpsichore and the rest.

'Before Barthelemy Lafon drew up a plan for the Lower Garden District, there were no streets named for the nine Muses there,' Taylor said. 'Instead, the streets were named for members of the Saulet family, who had subdivided their family plantation into Faubourg Saulet.'

Because the towns of Carrollton and Jefferson City were absorbed by the city of New Orleans, street names sometimes changed to ensure continuity from one part of the city to the other, or to eliminate duplication of names. And sometimes, political trends dictated the name changes.

'Part of Melpomene Street was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to honor King and the civil rights movement,' Taylor said. And Chapman noted that Judge Perez Drive in St. Bernard Parish -- originally Good Children -- was renamed twice: Once to honor segregationist Leander Perez, then a second time when Perez's controversial political ideas fell out of favor. The name now refers to Judge Melvyn Perez.


(Above): A book on the history of New Orleans' street names, written by John Churchill Chase.

Each street name has a story, simple or convoluted, and they tell us a lot about who we were and how we developed.  Next time you read a street sign, think about it."

Now for a brief description of the meanings of some of  New Orleans' most storied street names:

Horyu-ji Temple Complex World's Oldest Wooden Structure, Japan 670 AD

Blogger's Note: After speaking with Richard Woods, CEO and Owner of Albany Woodworks, about their building project, our customers understand the long standing tradition of using Heart Cypress and Sinker Cypress in Southern Louisiana for it's enduring beauty.  Intrigued, one particular customer researched further to find an even deeper connection with Cypress and its traditional use in building temples in Japan for centuries.  What they found surprised them, and it began with the story you see here.

(Above): The Horyu-ji temple complex is considered the oldest wooden structure in the world. Originally completed in 607 and reconstructed in 670 AD (the original was struck by lightning and completely burned down) near Nara, Japan, the temple exemplifies Japanese temple architecture of the Asuka period.

Cypress is a nationally revered wood that is cultivated and protected by a long line of particular families for centuries in Japan. All the ancient temples were built exclusively from the Cypress forests and are carefully tended to this day.

From Hinoki (Japanese Cypress) Lives Twice: The World of Tsunekazu Nishioka, a Temple Carpenter by Tanaka Masakazu, Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, Japan

Hinoki (Japanese Cypress) or the King of Woods
One cannot truly apprehend how the Japanese traditionally relate to the environment, without understanding the role of wood in Japanese culture. Jiro Kohara, for example, compares the Japanese and European cultures as below.

'Japanese and European houses differ most in the way their indoor and outdoor spaces meet. Our [Japanese] houses have developed based on the sense of life that everything, including plants, animals, and even human beings, is ephemeral, that a single nature has manifested itself in these ephemeral shapes, and that this world, as a single nature, is our 'life-long dwelling.' So the basic idea [of the Japanese people] when building a house is to build it in such a way that it is inconspicuous in the surrounding environment, by simply erecting thin wooden posts, putting shoji or paper screens between neighboring posts, and laying down a veranda around the house. Open the screens, and you will find the surrounding environment, erasing the boundary between the green outside and the indoor space.'

(Above): Japanese Cypress, or Hinoki, Forests are destinations for visitors and locals alike, as part of the spiritual journey to visit the oldest of Japanese Cypress-built Temples.

For Nishioka, the essence of Japanese culture is not a specific architecture or life-style, but the people's attitude to wood, and their accumulated knowledge about the nature of wood. He believed Horyuji Temple to be a showcase of these attributes. What astonished him was the knowledge and technology of the people of the Asuka Era (593-710), in which the temple was built, regarding wood, especially hinoki (hinoki, or Japanese cypress, was the wood used in the temple), and not its architectural style.
'When a temple or shrine carpenter says wood, he means hinoki. Because there was hinoki, Japan could develop wooden architecture, and possess the world 's oldest [wooden] structure.'

(Above):  The Horyu-ji Temple complex is constructed completely out of Japanese Cypress, or Hinoki.  The natural durability of Cypress is why it is has been the first choice of Temple Carpenters in Japan, like Tsunekazu Nishioka, for thousands of years.

There is a reference to Hinoki already in the first of the thirty volumes of the Nihon Shoki (the oldest official history of Japan, covering the mythical age of the gods up to the reign of the empress Jito, r. 686-697): 'Hinoki should be used to build a shrine.'

Nishioka also said, '[People of the Asuka Era] knew that Hinoki has nobility, aroma, and long life...Hinoki has a long life, yet is easy to handle. It can be chiseled and planed well...But it isn't just tame, soft, or manageable. When it is new, it is easy to drive a nail into it; yet, you can't pull the nail out when a long time has passed, because the wood shrinks and clamps the nail. After fifty years, you can never pull a nail out. If you try to force it, you will tear off the head of the nail. Hinoki can be so strong.'

Hinoki not only has a useful life of longer than a thousand years; it also sharply increases in strength about two hundred years after being cut down, and maintains that strength until another thousand years. This means that, in terms of strength, a hinoki tree doesn't die when it is cut down, but continues to "live" for almost one thousand years more. Therefore, the mission of temple or shrine carpenters, who use almost only hinoki, is to draw the longest second life out of hinoki. 

(Above): The plan of the complex follows the Chinese general monastery plan. The main compound is laid out on a north-south axis with the main entrance facing south. The four main components, the pagoda, the Main or Golden Hall, the Lecture Hall and the Middle Gate and the Great South Gate, are aligned symmetrically through a central axis.

Although Horyuji Temple is the world's oldest wooden structure, built one thousand and three hundred years ago, and was recently added to the World Cultural and Natural Heritage list, Nishioka said that it was not 'old and tattered' at all. He explained as follows; 

(Above): A detailed view of the construction of the eves of the pagoda temple, utililizing the natural rot-resistance and durability of Cypress.

'If you look at the tips of the eaves of five-storied pagoda [of Horyuji Temple], you realize they are aligned in a straight line pointing to the heaven. No disarray after one thousand and three hundred years... What is more, the wood older than one thousand years is still alive. If you take off the roof tiles and remove the dust underneath, you will notice that the wooden structure rebounds gradually. If you plane the wood surface, you can smell the aroma of Hinoki. This is how long Hinoki lives.

(Above): Looking across one of the many open spaces contained within the temple walls, notice the hearty construction of the Cypress beams used to construct the temple structure.

Because Hinoki has such characteristics, it is the responsibility of a carpenter to let it live its full life. You must make sure to let the wood live for at least one thousand years, if that is its life. For that purpose, you need to know wood and how to use it very well. 

(Above): An interior view of the temple shrine, which has looked much the same for over one thousand years.

This doesn't apply only to large temples. It applies also to private homes. Wooden posts used in private houses have a life of about sixty years, so you have to make them last for at least the same length of time. If you tear down houses and throw away all the lumber every twenty years, you will never have enough wood in Japan. It is a natural obligation humankind owes to nature to make wood last for the same length of time as the original tree lives. If we could do that, we would never run out of wood resources."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Historic Green Space Cate Square Hammond, Louisiana, 1861

Blogger's Note: Located in the heart of Downtown Hammond, Louisiana, Cate Square is an historic green space that holds a lot of clues to the early back story of the city.  We delve deeper in to the beauty of the area and the notable historic occurrences that helped shape the story of the City of Hammond.

(Above): Historic marker caption reads, "The home of Charles Emery Cate, C. E. Cate first settled here in 1861 and erected a saw mill, a tannery, and a shoe factory which supplied many shoes for the army of the C.S.A. (Confederate States Army).  After the Civil War, he played a major role in planning and promoting the town and in establishing its first school and church. (Documented by Department of History, Louisiana State University)”
(Above) One of two bronze statues in Cate Square Park in Hammond, Louisiana has a plaque with caption that reads, "Walter A. Reed, M. D. 1879-1945, Dr. Reed was the first African-American physician within Hammond and its vicinity. He represents the spirit of personal accomplishment and dedication to the community, which serves as an example to all of us.” Toward the end of the war, Cate laid out the city grid, using the rail line as a guide and naming several of the streets after his sons.


(Above): The Cate Square Gazebo is a popular destination for picnics and special events held by the city.

(Above): To remember the fallen - A soldier's boots, helmet, dog tags and rifle sat outside the gazebo during the POW/MIA Remembrance Day ceremony at Cate Square to remind those passing of the soldiers who didn't make it home.

 (Above): Plenty of space in the park for relaxing, reading a book, or taking in the sites.

A great stopping point on  the way to visit Albany Woodworks!