Posted in Around Town, Did You Know ?, research

Westward Ho: Ghost Signs in Omaha

In the days of Westward Expansion, before the freeways and highways were taking us places quickly, waves of migrants were inspired by the promises of cheap land and riches, due to the California Gold Rush in 1849 and the Homestead Act of 1862.

Before the interstate billboards, and neon signs, signs painted on bricks helped the businesses advertise their locations and wares. They’re also located on streetcar routes and where pedestrians were able to see them, in a slower time.

Ghost ads give us a glimpse into the past of our towns and cities, the history of the buildings, and that of the surrounding area as well.

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Baum Iron Company, Omaha, NE. Baum Iron sign is one of Omaha’s most recognizable ghost signs. The business, now Baum Hydraulics, was founded more than 150 years ago.  – photo courtesy of Omaha Magazine

Let’s take a stroll to Omaha, Nebraska. Yes, it was surprising to me to find out that Omaha is one of the main points for ghost advertisements, but after more research, I found out that Omaha served as the eastern terminus and outfitting center for pioneers headed to the west to find their fortune in the California gold fields or to settle available inexpensive land.

Did you know? “The fortunes of Omaha took a positive turn when President Abraham Lincoln selected Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the terminus of the Pacific Railroad, which was subsequently relocated on Omaha’s side of the Missouri River. Actual construction began in 1863, the first step in Omaha’s development into one of the nation’s largest railroad centers.” [1]

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On the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Eggerss O’Flyng building built around the turn of the century near rail lines in downtown Omaha. According to the city of Omaha’s Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission, “Omaha was a major distribution point for a wide variety of goods shipped by rail throughout the west and Pacific northwest.”  Photo courtesy of Waymarking.com

“’They have their own historic value,’ said Ruben Acosta, National Register coordinator at the Nebraska State Historical Society. ‘They oftentimes are one of the very few sources we have as to what businesses were in the building, or what type of economic activity occurred in the district.’

They illustrate the city’s role in the country’s westward expansion, as both a manufacturing center and a trade hub, where ‘jobbing’ wholesalers provided product for retailers throughout the region. And the number of signs for hotels, Acosta said, is evidence of the number of traveling salesmen who did business in Omaha.”[2]

Map of ghost signs of Omaha:

Maya Drozdz, a graphic designer in Cincinnati, says ““I love seeing old examples of graphic design ephemera. The signs were never intended to be permanent, and to see old ones gives me a context for the history of a given area. It gives me a little bit of insight into the kind of community that a neighborhood used to be, or the kind of businesses that used to populate it.”[3]

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Parmer Co. Coffees & Teas, est. 1907. Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Interested in reading more? See Part One of the Ghost Ads series on my blog, “Off the Wall: Faded Ghost Ads“.

Do you know of more ghost ads in your cities? Let me know, you might spark some research and a blog post! Find me on Twitter @bookdoctordara.

Featured image of Bull Durham Chewing Tobacco and Butternut Coffee ghost sign courtesy of Omaha World-Herald.

 


1. City-Data: Omaha Furthers Westward Expansion

2. Barbara Soderlin. “Love Letters to the city’s past”. Omaha World-Herald. December 13, 2015

3. Bill Rinehart. Ghost signs: art or pollution? WVXU. January 16, 2015.

Posted in Around Town, research

Research into the Churches and Parishes of New Orleans

Research, like writing, is never linear. I have a running chat conversation with Edward Branley that delves into many different directions. The beauty of it is, I can search on it and find the conversations that pop up as a “hey, what do you think of this” and use it later on. One perfect example of this was a conversation we had back in November of 2017 about Catholic Churches and Parishes, in New Orleans.

Father Anastase Douay held the first recorded Mass on Mardi Gras  [March 3, 1699] on Louisiana soil near the mouth of the Mississippi River, as part of the founding expedition of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. This is the beginnings of New Orleans Catholicism taking root.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Patroness of New Orleans, is believed to have helped the city defend itself against a British attack in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Deborah Krause, a Presbyterian minister wrote a historical paper on how “the figure has presided over New Orleans transformation from an 18th century colony to a 21st century republic — and lately to a devastated landscape after Hurricane Katrina.”

The history of churches and parishes have always been fascinating to me. Who builds them, where they’re built, why they’re built in that particular location. Churches, are the building, Parishes are the surrounding neighborhood. Post-Katrina reorganization, there are parishes in New Orleans that have multiple churches. I’m lucky in that Edward always ties churches / parishes into his novels.  For the current novel (almost out, in June!), Trusted Talents, these are all the Churches/ Parishes he mentions:

  • St. Mary’s Assumption Church, Irish Channel
  • St. Alphonsus, Irish Channel
  • Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, main campus of Loyola University New Orleans
  • St. Stephen’s Church on Napoleon Avenue, Uptown
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Kenner
  • St. Mary’s Italian Church, French Quarter (Old Ursuline Convent)
  • Annunciation Church, Faubourg Marigny
  • Our Lady of the Rosary Church
  • Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Chalmette
  • St. Angela Merici Church, Metairie
  • St. Ann Catholic Church, Metairie
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Faubourg Treme
  • St. Anthony of Padua Church – S. Bernadotte Street

    Vienna, Austria:

  • Peterskirche (Church of St. Peter)
  • Vergilius Chapel
  • Stephansdom (Cathedral of St. Stephen)

    Manhattan Beach, California:

  • American Martyrs Church

Wonder why I tease him about needing a spreadsheet to keep it all straight? 

There are many old photos, and many histories listed on all the church websites, which helps date the timeline for the church creation, and even if it has been merged since it was consecrated/dedicated.  Case in point, is St. Stephen’s Church, which is a merged parish now (St. Stephen’s, St. Henry’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel to form Good Shepard).

St Joseph’s Church

history-images2

Another bit of interesting that I found during my trip down research lane is about St. Joseph’s Church [1802 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans] .  Dedicated Sunday, December 18, 1892, the original building was across from Charity Hospital. In 1895 under Archbishop Francis Janssens ( the fifth Archbishop) who renovated the ‘old’ church, it became a place of worship for many Negro Catholics under the patronage of St. Katherine. Demolished in 1964, it was rebuilt on the current location in 1866 when Father John Hayden purchased the current plot of land.

Why does St. Joseph’s call to me, other than the history behind it? It has the longest main aisle in New Orleans at 12′ x 150′ long.

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St. Joseph’s Church

The Redemptorists and The Irish Channel:
St. Alphonsus, St. Mary’s Assumption, and Notre Dame de Bon Secours

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The first of three great churches built by The Redemptorists for Catholics in the Irish Channel.  St. Alphonsus for the Irish, St. Mary’s Assumption for the Germans and Notre Dame de bon Secours for the French.

Charles E. Nolan writes in his book, Splendors of Faith: New Orleans Catholic Churches, 1727-1930, “St. Mary’s Assumption formed part of a unique cluster of ethnic Catholic parishes in the South. St. Mary’s Assumption (German speaking), St. Alphonsus (English speaking), and Notre Dame de Bon Secours (French speaking) were all served by Redemptorist fathers who shared a common rectory. By 1885, St. Mary’s Assumption numbered 4,000 parishioners; St. Alphonsus, 5,200; and Notre Dame de Bon Secours, 340.  St. Mary’s Assumption ceased to function as a separate parish after Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Following a decade of repairs, the renovated church reopened on August 15, 1975, as the place of worship St. Alphonsus Parish” (page 97).

Editor side note: The last line on the plaque “as the St. Aphonsus arts and cultural center” is a typo. Someone should tell them to fix it.

Another site I value for research is the New Orleans Catholic Church website. They even give you history of the various pipe organs that are still (sometimes) in use at the churches.

Finally, don’t be afraid to follow an idea or a fragment of a sentence you find when you are reading, you never know where it may lead.  I find that most of the readers are hungry for the historical details you can put in your novel/ manuscript, especially when it furthers your storyline. This is true for real-world places.  One never knows what reader you may spark to learn more.

For more information, check out:

https://nola.curbed.com/maps/new-orleans-oldest-places-of-worship-church-religion-

http://www.nola.com/living/index.ssf/2017/03/closed_catholic_churches_of_ne.html

Restoration of St. Stephen’s church:   http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/article_e251edf8-4719-11e7-8db3-5f938ca9af9e.html


Featured image of “Our Lady of Guadalupe Church” courtesy of Christopher Chen.

“Built in 1826. Originally deemed The Old Mortuary Chapel, Our Lady of Guadalupe incorporates the oldest standing building of worship in its design. The founders created the church to hold funerals for yellow fever victims in the mid-19th century.” 411 N Rampart St., New Orleans.  Information courtesy of : https://nola.curbed.com/maps/new-orleans-oldest-places-of-worship-church-religion-

Posted in Arcadia Coach, From The Editor's Desk, research, Writing

The Fourth “R”- RESEARCH (Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmatic and…)

Editor’s Note: This is cross-posted at Arcadia Coach, the new venture I am working on with Edward Branley. Hope to see you there! 

Writing Research!

Writing research for your manuscript is nothing like you remember having to do in school, when the teacher or professor assigned you a topic you weren’t interested in, or you just picked it to be near the girl or boy you had a crush on. For your manuscript, you get to control all the aspects of the story from scratch, but be sure that your research is spot on.

writing research

Readers are smart, they know when you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and send them down the misdirection path.  Become an expert. Tell all your friends, family, and even strangers in the grocery store line all your useless knowledge you are picking up in the process. You want to be able to discuss with your readers that you meet all the little details, and enthrall them with the stories of how you went in that direction.

Today with the advent of the Internet and social media, it is easier to get information that is further away from your location, in the far nether-regions of the world. [If you can find it, so can your reader base!]  From the comfort of your couch, your local watering hole, coffee shop, or public library, you can find anything you are wondering about. No more waiting weeks for the InterLibrary Loan to arrive to find out it wasn’t the right one; sifting through card catalogs (what’s that?- see below), and microfiche and microfilm for hours, days, or weeks. Carrying a hundred books home to find the one line you think you need, only to return 99 of them the next day.  If you were lucky, the librarian took a liking to you, and put stuff on the side if you told her what you were looking for.

writing research
Card Catalog Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Magazine


Devil is in the Details

Be careful in how and where you sprinkle the details throughout your manuscript since you don’t want it to read like a textbook; more like “the reader can visualize what is in your head”. Keep them remembering where things were in the story, don’t overload them with every tidbit you know on the subject on one page. Call back to the earlier times in the timeline and in the story in various parts of the book. A little detail can go a long way in completing your manuscript.

Think about all the little details, yes.. sweat the small stuff. Food blogs, architectural drawings, what clothes people were wearing, even what was happening in the news at the time, can affect your ability to make sure your reader is totally enmeshed in your novel / manuscript. You want it to be seamless.

Make sure your research is in the right time period, including cars, ships, horse & buggies, trolleys … you don’t want to say the first car started driving down the street in 1850, when the first car, the Benz Patent Motor Car, didn’t hit the street until New Year’s Eve 1879.

writing research
Benz Patent Motor Car image courtesy of Daimler Benz

No question is too silly or wrong. If you have an interest in it, it is a spark that you can use to bring knowledge to someone else who has the same question.

Oh, and most important: Have fun! If you are not enjoying the process, then it will show in your writing. Let the writing research take you down various rabbit holes… be sure you have a ladder to get out though!

Cheers,
Dara