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Blakeview: American Can Company

The factory-turned-apartment building in Mid-City

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With the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo taking place this weekend along Bayou St. John, we look at the history of another major factory in this area — the American Can Company, whose building still sits near the bayou's banks. The New York company, incorporated in 1901, announced in 1905 that it planned to build a factory in New Orleans, partly because of the state's seafood industry. A July 1905 article in The Times-Picayune announced that the company "is now convinced that Louisiana oysters are to take rank with the most delicious bivalves in the world and it will erect a factory in New Orleans for the manufacture of tin cans to provide the canneries that are springing up all along the coast from Mississippi to Texas." When the factory opened a few years later, it was one of 34 across the U.S. owned by the company. At the peak of its operation here, the Orleans Avenue plant (a complex of six buildings spread over 7 acres) employed three shifts of 1,400 people each and produced 600 million cans a year for different uses. After the plant closed in 1988, the building sat vacant for several years. It was heavily damaged in an eight-alarm fire in December 1989. In the 1990s, developers Pres Kabacoff and Edward Boettner and their company Historic Restoration Inc. led a $44.5 million project (financed in part with city and federal money) to convert the factory into more than 250 residential units. The development, with retail space on the ground floor, opened in 2001.

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