Training to New Orleans
April 12, 2014 § 4 Comments
In Chapter 3 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House I wrote:
Easy travel was a relatively new concept in the 1890s. At the beginning of the 19th century, rivers, canals, and horse-drawn coaches were the primary modes of transportation in America. The emergence of the train provided speed and the ability to travel regardless of the weather. With the addition of Pullman’s sleeping cars and the new concept of dining cars, those who could afford it moved from one city to another in luxury…The Lawrence/Dana family took advantage of the convenient and comfortable way to travel the country…In February of 1895, Susie, her mother, and [her husband] Edwin attended the Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
This 1895 trip to New Orleans by Susan was the first of several that I found reported in newspaper articles or letters. Her cousin, Mrs. George (Mary) Halbert, lived in the Crescent City. In March of 1900, for example, Susan and her mother escaped to New Orleans from a severe Springfield winter. George Halbert died in June of 1918, and Susan spent a month in her cousin’s New Orleans home before bringing the widow back to Springfield for another month of recovery. Each of the trips was by trains with what were then the modern conveniences of Pullman sleepers and dining cars. I plan to make that same train trip this week. The Amtrak train that I will be riding will follow the route that Susan’s trains took and will also provide sleeping and dining accommodations (with contemporary amenities, I assume). I don’t often get the chance to re-live one of Susan’s life experiences, so I look forward to the 17 hour journey.
One essential thing will be different. When we arrive in New Orleans, sadly I will not disembark into a Louis Sullivan designed train station as Susan did. Completed in 1892, New Orleans Union Station was the only train station Sullivan designed. Historians say that Frank Lloyd Wright, then Sullivan’s head draftsman, was involved in the final work on the building. Sullivan’s New Orleans Union Station was demolished in 1954 and replaced with the New Orleans Passenger Terminal where I will arrive. After re-tracing Susan’s steps for almost a day, I will be thrust back abruptly into my contemporary world in this modern building. I’ll try to adjust.