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Blake Pontchartrain: a 'mini Gallier Hall'? Commercial Germania bank building

The classical revival building opened in 1906



Hey Blake,

There is a building on South Rampart Street near Poydras that stands out because of its Greek Revival style, sort of a mini Gallier Hall. What can you tell me about it?

Dear reader,

  Though its history may be little known, that building at 518 S. Rampart St. has been designated a historic landmark by the city's Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC). According to a report prepared by the HDLC in 2009, the building originally housed the Commercial Germania Trust and Savings Bank, which was organized in 1881 and had branches all over town. The Rampart Street branch was opened in 1906 when the bank added six new branches, all located near public markets. A terrazzo mosaic by the front door bears a later version of the bank's name (Canal Bank and Trust, with which it merged). The mosaic also identifies it as the Poydras Market Branch, a reference to the nearby public market that operated from 1838 until 1932.

  The building, which the HDLC refers to as a good example of small-scale classical revival commercial architecture, was sold in 1940 when Canal Bank and Trust was liquidated.

  From 1940 until 1966, the building was home to the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) Local 1419. The union, representing mostly African-American longshoremen, was led by noted local labor leader Clarence "Chink" Henry from 1954 until his death in 1974. In 1966, the group moved to a new hall at 2700 S. Claiborne Ave., which became a meeting site during the civil rights movement as the union became a political force. The hall also was a hotspot for music, hosting R&B and gospel acts. It was demolished after Hurricane Katrina.

  As for the Rampart Street building, after the longshoremen left in 1966, it was sold. Today it is home to several different businesses, including a law office.

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