Thursday, January 1, 2009

D.H. Holmes Department Store

D.H. Holmes Department Store
As A Confederacy of Dunces opens, Ignatius is waiting for his mother outside the D.H. Holmes Department Store in the 800 block of Canal Street. Irene Reilly had driven her only son to the French Quarter and left him to his own devices while she went to the doctor to tend to a painful elbow. Now, as the sun was setting, Patrolman Mancuso spotted a suspicious character and was carefully watching him from behind a nearby pillar.
The D.H. Holmes Department Store was a landmark in New Orleans and “under the D.H. Holmes clock” was a popular place to meet. The building where the store once flourished is now a hotel, called the Chateau Sonesta Hotel which opened in 1995. The D.H. Holmes Department Store opened on Canal Street in 1849 and closed in 1989. It closed after the chain was purchased by Dillard’s the same year.
This is the building…

As New Orleans is prone to do, she honored her native son, Ignatius, by placing a statute of him under the clock. She also placed a plaque on the pillar behind which Patrolman Mancuso was hiding.
Here are a couple of photos showing the statute of Ignatius…

Here’s a shot of the pillar, and Ignatius, and then a close-up of the plaque…

The text of the plaque is one of the first lines of the book and describes Ignatius…
“In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly’s supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D.H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress.
John Kennedy Toole”
Toole says that Ignatius killed some time while waiting for his mother. He bought some sheet music for his trumpet and a string for his lute at Werlein’s. In 1853 Phillip P. Werlein moved his music business to New Orleans and set up shop on Canal St. The business flourished and locations were opened across the country. The business was family owned until the company was bought out in 1940. The Werlein family continued to run the New Orleans shop on Canal Street and they still own the building, although the music shop is no longer there. They moved their music business to a much larger, more modern building in Metairie in 1989. The original Werlein building now houses a very successful restaurant and the Werlein Music sign still sits atop the roof. It survived Hurricane Katrina and is a beacon of neon in the French Quarter…

After purchasing the sheet music, Ignatius then wandered into a penny arcade on Royal Street and was disappointed to find his favorite mechanical baseball game absent. I’ve walked up and down Royal and found no sign of a penny arcade, or any other sort of arcade, for that matter. Today, Royal Street is known for its antique stores, jewelers, and art galleries. Most of the stores are small and a penny arcade would fit in quite well.
Here’s a couple of photos of Royal Street…


  1. The Penny Arcade used to be at 131 Royal St, it closed down maybe 15 years ago.

  2. I was in New Orleans this weekend and noticed the clock is gone above the statue.

  3. As a kid, I used to ride the bus downtown. The bus stop was right in front of the Penny Arcade between Canal and Iberville. I can still remember the games there.

  4. The clock is indeed gone. The new corporate owner (Wyndham) says that "it doesn't fit" with their corporate image. I suspect the statue is soon to go as well.

  5. My Mom Just told me that her Grandmother (Helen McGarry) made a crochet Bedspread and sold it to D&H Holmes when she was young for $100.00 dollars.It was Popcorn Stitch.My mom lived on Larel St.In New Orleans ,La.Her name Inez (Toland) Randall.Her dad was a garbage truck driver,pulled by Mules.

  6. Luckily, with the end of 2015 in sight, the statue still stands. It's removed during Mardi Gras, and recently for some roadwork, but it seems to be there to stay. For a while, anyway.