Woodward, Wight, and Co. in the Warehouse District

Woodward, Wight, and Co., Ltd. Warehouse #9Today’s ride took me down to the Treme for S.’s going-away brunch. It seems like people are always leaving, like New Orleans is a stop on the road to elsewhere for lots and lots of folks. It can be sad to say goodbye so often, but S. is off to bigger and better things in New York City. After brunch I ran some errands, which included getting a new seat for Rhoda after it finally broke for good outside the Auto Zone on Elysian Fields. On my ride back Uptown I took this picture of the Woodward, Wight, and Co. warehouse on Constance in the Warehouse District. I only ever ride around this part of town to get from one place to another, and I never take Constance. But road work on Magazine has pushed me over there. I’m not sure when the Warehouse District became the empty place it seems to be now, with places like this behind barbed wire and burned out inside. People surely work and live in this area, but inhabited buildings seem to hide amongst ones like this. I’m not sure what Woodward, Wight, and Co. did, but what little I could find points to sugar plantations, which would make sense. Now, I’m not sure what will become of this one. This city is full of buildings with uncertain futures. I wish that felt more like opportunity and less like blight sometimes. When I got home, I was happy to see an email from a friend of last night’s bike accident victim, replying to my craigslist posting. She has some stitches and no memory of last night’s events, but it sounds like she’s going to be ok. I’m glad she’ll get her bike back, too; we’ve got to watch out for each other, we bike riders.

36 thoughts on “Woodward, Wight, and Co. in the Warehouse District

  1. The Woodward Wight was turned into upscale apartments in the late 90s, I thought? Is it unoccupied right now? Odd. There’s lots of work related to the WWII Museum expansion going on in the area at the moment.

    I Googled on Woodward Wight a bit and found an old invoice on eBay:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?VISuperSize&item=180394937064

    The masthead lists:

    General Railroad and Mill Supplies
    Ship Chandlery & Cordage,
    Heavy & Shelf Hardware, Tinware, etc.
    Wholesale Grocers.

  2. Kate,

    It’s good to hear that the fallen rider is relatively okay. Good on you, for taking the responsibility for her bike, too!

    Indeed, we need to all watch out for each other, on the bike and off.

    Jon

  3. Oops sorry, I posted my question before I read all the way through this post with the reunion info. Glad to hear she’s going to be okay! Once a few years ago I was driving in my hood and saw a car hit a cyclist…pulled over to wait with them until the ambulance came, it was all super-scary so I can only imagine how unnerved you must have been. Sounds like this story has a happy ending though 🙂

  4. My, I was behind but now I have caught up again. Lots of stuff going on, good and bad but being able to view a lot of it from your bikes must help a lot.

    Always good read you.

    judy

  5. Hi Kate,

    The Woodward Right Building is, last I knew, an apartment complex. WAY back in the day, the whole area was devoted to the sugar and molasses production, including my mom’s old job, Dixie Mill, which is next door. That changed in the early twentieth century when Mill supply, basically tools of all kind, took over the area because of, then, the railroad and, now, the oil and gas industry. Dixie Mill is still a mill supply, providing tools to all kinds of companies that make and shape metal for any type of machine (here in LA, oil rigs and such, but they also sold the dyes that made the astroturf in the Superdome). The Woodward Wright company didn’t survive the oil bust of the 1980s, and it was empty until the early 90s when an apartment complex/building co-op bought it.

  6. Kate,
    My uncle, who was 20+ years older than my mother, worked at Woodward Wight in the 20s. As others have noted, it was a “mill supply” company, meaning it sold heavy hardware, nuts and bolts, steel, tools, etc. for various industries. Factories were often called “mills” back then. My uncle moved to Memphis after WWII and started his own mill supply company modeled after Woodward Wight.

  7. At one time Woodard-Wight and Co was one of the largest industrial wholesale distributors in the South. My grandfather, Milton F. Hilbert, started working for them in the mailroom when he was 14 years old and retired 65 years later, when he was 79, as the Exec. V.P. They sold to oil fields, hardware stores, manufacturers, marine, etc. After they sold the company in the 70s it was never the same.

    • Cliff, I started working for Woodward Wight a year or two before it was sold. I was secretary to George Sins, but also handled correspondence for your grandfather and Mr. Gus Rasch. I also took care of correspondence for Mr. Deckbar, who seldom came out of his office and remained a mystery to most employees. It was a pleasure to go to work at that time because you felt secure in your job and the people who ran the company. Such a sad ending for this great company that sold everything from curling irons to heavy duty equipment parts and supported hundreds of families.

      • Hi Pamela, I remember all those gentlemen you mentioned because I met them at different times through my grandfather. I remember that Larry Deckbar had a house on Exposition Blvd. just off St. Charles overlooking Audubon Park where I used to fish as a kid, as well as 8 Acres in Slidell because my family spent many good times over there.

        You must have started just after Mae Desangles retired.

    • Cliff, I have fond memories of Mae. I apologize for stating I started working a year or two before the company was sold. I started with WW June 1972 and resigned June 1978. Most of my time with WW was a pleasure. It was only after the company was sold that it became difficult to go into work.

      I will often be reading something or see something on TV that reminds me of WW and all the wonderful people I knew and wish I could see again.

      Pam

  8. I work for a mill supply company whose original office used to be on Annunciation, a few blocks over from Woodward Wight. I spoke to the owner today about some of the supply companies that aren’t around. Woodward Wight sold pretty much EVERYTHING. Grills, hardware, lawn equipment, and all of the other stuff everyone else mentioned. Imagine Grainger before there was such a thing. Woodward and Wight had sales at or near $100 million when that actually meant something.

  9. I worked for Woodward, Wight & Co., Ltd. from 1959 through 1962, in the plumbing department. WW had everything imaginable, from heavy steel products, to the tiniest of screws. I worked in kitchen cabinets, built-in appliances and central heating/air conditioning sales. Woodward Wight had a beautiful showroom, displaying Eljer plumbing fixtures, DuMont TV’s, builders’ hardware, a fully equipped custom display kitchen (non-working), and more. Radio/TV repair was also done there.
    Woodward, Wight & Co., Ltd. opened it’s doors in 1867, but not sure if that was in the same facility on Howard, between Constance and Tchoupitoulas (as I recall). It’s catalogs were published every 10 years, and bore the slogan “Largest Supply house South since 1867”. There were probably over 200 employees at the 451 Howard Ave. building, WW’s main office. I remember Mr. Hilbert, mentioned above, very well. Mr. Larry Deckbar was president during my time there. WW prospered for over 100 years, until it was sold in the early 1970’s, at which time it began decline into bankruptcy. A sad ending for a great company which supported many hundred families over it’s lifetime.

  10. “A sad ending for a great company which supported many hundred families over it’s lifetime.”

    Bob, you are absolutely correct, they cared about the people who worked for them, and watched over them. They were one big family. I remember many times how my grandfather talked about the people under him and how much he respected them. It is a rare thing to find that type of environment in today’s business world.

  11. As of this date, January, 2011, the Woodward Wight building has been and continues to be upscale rental apartments since just after 1984, when the World’s Fair closed. The building in the picture was indeed vacant for some time, and may have, at one time, been part of the Woodward Wight Company, but for many years was the administrative part of Gulf Marine Offshore Supply Co. who never painted over the name “Woodward Wight”. Coincidentally, while I’m not sure who bought it, it is currently being turned into residential units as the entire warehouse district area has been. Not sure what you were thinking or seeing in 2009, just two years ago, but I live on that street, in the Woodward apartments and the entire area has been bustling since right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005…apartments, hotels, restaurants, bars, businesses, etc.

  12. The building in the picture was indeed part of Gulf Marine & Industrial Supplies, Inc. They moved to Elmwood in late 2007. The building in the picture, 400 St. Joseph, and 401 St. Joseph were purchased to be turned into condos or apartments. The developer ran out of money and the buildings sat for a while. I think things are back on track now.

  13. Today I purchased an old copper and brass fire extinguisher that was made by Woodward-Wright in New Orleans. I can’t find a date on it, but I remember the same type of fire extinguisher being readily available on the walls of the old Covington High School back in 1964-1967………..

  14. We have purchased a building on the corner of Celeste and S. Peters that has “Woodward & Wight” stenciled on the side of the building. The research that I have done shows that this may have been their original location. Does anyone have any additional info? Thanks.

  15. My family was involved with sawmills in Florida in Middleburg, Lake Helen, and perhaps others towns. I have a paper weight with advertising: “USE THIS PAPER WEIGHT TO REMIND YOU THAT YOU GET FULL WEIGHT, QUALITY and SERVICE FROM THE PALATKA FOUNDRY & MACHINE WORKS.
    PALATKA FOUNDRY & MACHINE WORKS, PALATKA, Fla. Phone 59 P.O. Box 616, Mfg. of Tanks and sheet iron works. Mfrs. of iron, brass, bronze, aluminum castings. This is a rectangular glass paper weight, with paper text on the bottom. It still has its original bag that it came in, made of material much like the old flour sacks, and on the outside of the bag; FROM WOODWARD, WIGHT & CO. LTD., NEW ORLEANS, LA,. FRAGILE. The bag has a tie string at the top. Several years ago I wrote a book called The Measure of Their Days, no longer offered to the public as printing costs became too expensive. In the book is a photo taken in Palatka, FL that includes some family members associated with sawmills and who likely acquired this paper weight on one of the visits to the Palatka Foundry & Machine Works. Interesting that the bag was apparently supplied by Woodward, and advertises the Palatka company.

  16. Oh, hi! I was looking for a good pic of my old apt building. This is actually not the apt building, but next door. And it has been “recycled” as the precinct building seen on Memphis Blues . . .how cool is that?

    This pic was taken while the building was being refurbished . . . refurbished very slowly . . . the company that owns it has property all over the country and is very busy!

    Happy Trails!

  17. Wow, I also worked for Woodward, Wight from 1976 until 1982. We had softball and good times. I was in Sales for the Welding Dept and sold to all the ship building and oil industry. We had the Woodward, Wight Big Three stores that we sold to Lincoln Elec which then became Lincoln Big Three. Louis Rousel bought the company around 1980 and stripped it of it’s cash assests (Big 3) and that was the dimise of the company.

    I would love to hear from some of my co-workers, some 500 of us.

    • I worked there also and would still be working there today if it still were in business. the last 3 or 4 years I worked in Customer service with Henry Ebel, I also remember, Willie he was in charge of the file room dept. Steve Weber in the Machine tools dept, and the fine chick Elizebeth, I remember the faces but not the names of more. We were just getting into the computers. It was the best job I ever had!

  18. My grandfather is an engineer and worked for Woodward Wight in the 60’s/70’s in Sales/Welding/Design. He’s currently writing his “memoirs” and has included a good bit about his time there and what he did. Richard Herr is his name.

  19. Peter H. Godfrey is my name working at WW from 1962 to1977. in Pricing, Electrical Sales and the third in accounting under I B Whiteman and Charles Bernoil. My memories of Hilbert ( who hired me) is immense. I was the resident Republican in New Orleans some may remember me.

      • My grand daughter introduced me to the e-mails concerning your grand father who I knew very well, since I worked for Woodward Wight for 25 years. I was hired in 1948 and trained by the Lincoln Electric Co. for which WW had an exclusive agency in La. and Miss.My job was to introduce Automatic Welding to their customers. After working for WW 17 years, I spent 6 years in NJ, but returned WW in 1971. When Mr.Roussell bought the company, your grand father and several other vital employers retired. I was made a VP but left the company in 1979 after it was sold to out of state investors who eventually ruined the company. There never has been another company like WW whose ethics and service to customers was paramount. Your grand father was the key officer who I greatly admired.

  20. My Grandfather, David C. Lagarde, worked on the fourth floor of Woodward Wright for 43 years.
    He raised the Flag every day. He was a great man. Mr. Lawrence C. Deckbar was the president of the company and had my grandfather do repair work on his estate in Slidell.
    Does anyone know where the Deckbar estate was located?

  21. I worked at WW in the late 60’s – the division selling mostly to offshore drilling operations. We sold the first barge-mounted 1000-ton Clyde Derricks, winches, much smaller hydraulic cranes, rotating drums for cement trucks and [my favorite] Vulcan pile drivers. Hired by Mr. Jimmy Stinson. Wonderful working for him. Always interested in learning something new. And selling it.

  22. Today, I was challenged to share my most unusual job with my co-workers, and that job was one I held one summer in the late 70s…I was an office clerk at Woodward Wight during my summer break while an LSU student. The job was unusual because it involved retrieving pneumatic tubes. Salesmen would hand-write purchase orders on 3-part carbon paper forms and send the orders from the sales floor to the warehouse and the warehouse would return paperwork via the pneumatic tubes. I feel like a dinosaur as I reflect on old-school office practices! Pam Page… thanks for being my ride home to the Westbank each day! (I took the ferry and bus to the office in the morning.)

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