Historic photos of turn-of-the-century Gretna and McDonoghville are the stars of a new 2021 Calendar produced by the German-American Cultural Center and Museum (GACC).
The 13-month calendar, from January 2021 through January 2022, is available now for a $15 donation at the Center, 519 Huey P. Long Avenue in Gretna. The Center is open and free to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
Founded 21 years ago, the GACC is an interpretive center celebrating the German immigrants who settled in southeast Louisiana starting in the 1700’s. It has a small museum and a genealogy research room.
The historic building that houses the center, built as the town’s primary school and surrounded by lovely Live Oaks, now has a stunning mural depicting early life in Gretna on the 5th Street side of the building by renowned Lafayette artist Robert Dafford.
According to the German Center’s Director Carol Schlueter, the GACC’s Ira Hopkins curated the photos for the new calendar using images from Gretna families, the Jefferson Parish Review, the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Tulane University Special Collections, a part of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library and other sources.
“We are extremely pleased to produce our second calendar of historic West Bank photos. Our 2020 Calendar was very popular, so we did more research and found even more images we wanted to share,” Schlueter said.
One feature in the 2021 Calendar is Streetcar No. 76 whose service began in 1882. Destined for the Canal Ferry in Algiers, No. 76 traveled the route from Algiers to Gouldsboro, now McDonoghville and to Gretna and Marrero. Among the “motormen” at the controls was Sidney Debartlo and George Strohmeyer who lived on Ocean Avenue in Gretna and also ran a grocery store out of his home. The streetcar photo was shared by Strohmeyer’s grandson, Ray Gibson, a member of the Friends of the GACC. Buses replaced the streetcars in 1931.
The Hepting Store, photographed at its grand opening in 1931 is featured in the new calendar, thanks to GACC member Don Falcon who donated the photo. The Hepting Store was located on the northwest corner of Huey P. Long Avenue and 3rd Street. Serving from behind the counters were Eola Dauenhauer, Jane Perez Lawrence, Mae Dauenhauer, Magdelena Hepting and Charles Hepting. The German Hepting family developed a number of businesses in Gretna’s early years, including several bars, stores and a busy Moss Factory on Huey P. Long Avenue that shipped moss by rail to Ford Motor Company to use as stuffing for car seats.
Another 2021 Calendar feature is the Railroad Ferry. Before the Huey Long Bridge was built in the 1930’s, train cars had to be transported across the Mississippi River on barges and ferries. The photo, from the Jefferson Parish Review shows the L.S. Thorne steel transfer ferry that operated out of McDonoghville, with a load of tank cars carrying molasses. The ferry was named for Texas railroad pioneer Lansing S. Thorne, general manager of the Texas & Pacific Railway Company.
McDonoghville was an important hub for those steel transport ferries, so there are several images of that activity in the calendar.
“The 2021 calendar includes several images from McDonoghville, in honor of this early West Bank settlement that is currently being nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. It features McDonoghville family stores, an early fire company and photos from its history as an important railroad hub,” Schlueter said.
The new calendar also includes early images of downtown Gretna, showing one of the first chain grocery stores, the A&P Store and the nearby Tower Theater, well-remembered by older Gretna residents.
What a fun opportunity! You’ll learn interesting facts about Gretna throughout the year as you use your 2021 CACC Calendar and help a good cause, too.
The German-American Cultural Center has so much to offer about the history of Mechanikham, the original German settlement that is today basically known as Old Gretna and is the heart of the Gretna Historic District.
The GACC interprets the German immigrant contribution to Louisiana, from 1720’s to present, through exhibits, lectures, programs and other educational activities. Exhibits depict the colonial experience, immigration, world of work, culture and religion. An additional exhibit panel features “culture in crisis” during the two world wars.
The GACC sponsors special events in non-pandemic years with a Maifest on the grounds outside the Center and an Oktoberfest Bier Garten. It also provides a genealogy and research room, which includes church records, computers, websites and many other research materials.
The GACC is supported and operated through memberships in the Friends of the German-American Cultural Center and other fundraising activities.
The Museum already has a photo exhibit on view of early photographs that were featured in its 2020 calendar, but that exhibit will be expanded in early 2021 with additional images that were used for the 2021 calendar.
“There is so much we want to share about Gretna’s history. The more we research it, the more we discover. It’s too rich not to share,” Exhibit Curator Hopkins said.
For more information or to join the Friends of the GACC, call 504.363.4202
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