Frank Manning on St. Louis Street.
Frank W. Manning was interviewed in the January issue of the Community Standard. He told about the Vieux Carré of the 1930's. In this issue Manning discusses trends in the Quarter today.
The former investigator understands people and is capable of quickly and correctly analyzing situations. His judgment is sound and his intuition almost uncanny. In fact, Manning's pronouncements sometimes seem to carry the significance of those from an oracle.
Community Standard: Has the French Quarter changed much recently?
Manning: I think it has changed considerably, not for the good. It seems to me that they've torn down the old traditional things that made the French Quarter great. For instance, they practically destroyed the French Market area. That was where all the fruit and vegetables were sold, and where the famous coffee stand was for almost a century. The French Market, as old as historic as it was, should have remained as it was. There was history behind the thing.
Community Standard: What about the renovated French Market? Won't that be nice?
Manning: Just like people want antique furniture, they want the old stuff. They don't want a replica, even though the buildings may be better constructed. They have lost the old atmosphere that was here.
Community Standard: The developers hope to bring lots of new shops to the French Market. Do you feel that will be successful?
Manning: They are thinking about renting all of those places out at a high rent, but there are no parking facilities in that area. People can't possibly pay the high rent. They fold up. They're folding up like the Arabs fold their tents in the night and vanish.
Frank Manning at home, with the Knute Heldner painting Apocalypse (photograph by Henry H. Mitchell).
Community Standard: What do you think of the changes in the Jackson Square area?
Manning: There used to be plenty of parking and you could park your car at night. The blocking off of the Square at night is, I think, one of the greatest mistakes that has ever been made concerning the Quarter. Very often people used to get in their automobiles when they had guests in and drive past the Cathedral to show them the beautiful Cathedral and Cabildo. Frequently I had prominent people — attorney generals from various states — visit. I would take them and their wives down and they'd take a walk in the area. Now that's impractical.
Community Standard: Have there been any positive changes in the Quarter recently?
Manning: Lots of working over on the apartments. A lot of the buildings have become more valuable because people have renovated them.
Community Standard: Do you expect property values in the Quarter to go up or down?
Manning: Way down. Things are going to move in the area of the domed stadium.
Community Standard: Do you feel that rents in the Quarter are high at the present time?
Manning: They are way out of line and usurious. I suggest to my good friend Claude Mauberret that he ought to investigate some of those landlords. He should make a thorough investigation to see what they're charging the tenants in those buildings and assess them according to those rates, because the rents are really outrageous.
Community Standard: In the past you have owned quite a bit of French Quarter property. Would you buy real estate in the Vieux Carré now?
Manning: No, I wouldn't purchase any property in the Quarter at this time — not at their prices. Under no circumstances, because I don't see how you can possibly be fair to a tenant and get the kind of rent that would warrant you to make that investment.
They are driving the people out every day. I was with a fellow recently who rented a place down on Chartres Street two or three blocks from the Cabildo. He was in the jewelry business. He was paying $350 a month. He was in there for a month and a half and was doing $10 and $15 a day business and he folded up.
Manning with Henri Alciatore of Antoine's Restaurant.
Community Standard: Moving into a different area of questioning, has the French Quarter become more licentious in recent years?
Manning: Shamefully so! Today you don't want to know what goes on on Bourbon Street. In the six and seven hundred blocks what's going on how is terrific. Girls are running wild down there, hustling every male they can see. Black and white girls, most of them in their teens.
Community Standard: You still spend a lot of time in the French Quarter. With all the recent changes, what about the Quarter continues you attract you?
Manning: It's the old historic part of New Orleans. It has a nationwide attraction. Also, I know quite a lot of the people who operate businesses in the Quarter, and I still enjoy a couple of the restaurants in the French Quarter — Antoine's and Galatoire's.
Community Standard: What is your hope for the Vieux Carré?
Manning: That it be kept as historic as possible.
Copyright © 1975–2006 Henry H. Mitchell.