Jazz music was nurtured throughout the city, in a variety of neighborhoods. From the riverboats of Lake Ponchitrain to the 'cutting contests' of Gerttown, This 'History of Jazz Neighborhood Map' will show you where imortant neighborhoods were located, and why they were important.
Historic Commercial Areas The retail, financial, and transportation hub of New Orleans grew up along the twin axes of Canal and Rampart streets. The thriving commercial activity there supported an assortment of entertainment establishments, both genteel and illicit. Plentiful employment opportunities meant that more working musicians were concentrated in this section than in any other part of the city. Although not as intensive, there were also plenty of music jobs at Lake Pontchartrain resorts where the atmosphere was relaxed and festive.
Storyville, also known as the "District," was the legendary tenderloin district in New Orleans, which operated legally between 1897 and 1917. Prostitution was the primary business in Storyville, but music and entertainment were prominent sidelines. While jazz was not born in Storyville, as legend has it, the district helped expose the new music to a wider audience. Several brothels had a piano "professor," but most jazz musicians in the district were employed in dance bands in clubs and restaurants such as Pete Lala's, the 101 Ranch, the Fewclothes Cabaret, the Tuxedo Dance Hall, and the Big 25. Virtually all Storyville structures were removed for the Iberville public housing project in the 1940s, and only six original structures and remnants remain. One of them, Frank Early's Saloon (described later in this document), directly relates to the development of jazz.
The Tango Belt (further described later in this document) was in the French Quarter just across Basin and North Rampart streets from Storyville, and there was a symbiotic relationship between the two entertainment areas. The Tango Belt had numerous saloons, cabarets, nightclubs, and three large theaters that employed jazz musicians, including the Oasis Cabaret, the Elite, Butzie Fernandez, the Haymarket and Ringside cafes, and the Black Orchid. The name Tango Belt derived from a 1915 newspaper article that used that name to describe this district. At its peak, the area had one of the highest concentrations of commercial jazz venues in the city. Many buildings in the Tango Belt have been removed or significantly altered, and more research is needed to determine the status of many of the structures related to early jazz.
The Back o' Town/South Rampart Street
Back o Town, also known at the time as the Battlefield or the "colored red light district," was a tough area; Louis Armstrong grew up in this area. Back o' Town included illicit gambling and prostitution houses as well as residences. The adjacent South Rampart Street corridor contained more respectable AfricanAmerican businesses and legitimate places of entertainment. From the turn of the century through the 1920s, Back o' Town had a concentration. of saloons, social halls, dance clubs, and vaudeville theaters where early jazz was played. These ranged from low-down dives, such as the Red Onion, to a middle-class ballroom like the Parisian Garden room in the Pythian Temple building. Most of the area has been redeveloped for government offices, parking areas, high-rise office buildings, and the Superdome. The Red Onion, the Pythian Temple Building, the Odd Fellows and Masonic dance hall, and the Iroquois Theater remain. Louis Armstrong's birthplace, Union Sons hall, the Astoria Hotel and Ballroom, Spano's, and several other important early structures have been torn down.
The Central Business District
The central business district contained theaters, music companies, and publishing houses that were part of a mainstream entertainment district in the early 20th century. Theaters featuring minstrel shows, ragtime, vaudeville, and, eventually, jazz included the Crescent, Lyric, Strand (all no longer extant), No Name, Alamo, Plaza, and Trianon. Publishers included Piron-Williams Publishing (no longer extant), Hackenjos Music Company, Junius Hart Piano House, L. Grunwald and Company, and others who documented the floating folk strains and popular rags that contributed to early jazz. These businesses reflected how early jazz was affected by popular music and how that process was eventually reversed when jazz received national acclaim.
The Lake Pontchartrain shore includes Bucktown, West End, Spanish Fort, Milneburg, and Little Woods. Historically, the lakefront was a resort area where brass bands played at amusement parks, dance pavilions, saloons, picnics, and family "camps" (i.e., cabins on piers for weekend retreats). Early jazz musicians of all races and economic classes performed in groups at the lakefront, which was important as a place where musical ideas and techniques were shared and mixed. Joseph Sharkey Bonano was born in Milneburg. Most of the lakefront relating to jazz history was irreversibly altered in the late 1920s when the shoreline from West End to the east of Milneburg (more than 5 1/2 miles) was extended about 2,000 feet into Lake Pontchartrain. Important sites that were obliterated by the reclamation project and other efforts included Tranchina's and the Tokyo Gardens at Spanish Fort, the boardwalk and stilt camps at Milneburg, and the West End Roof Garden. Only a few isolated and altered structures related to early jazz remain today.
Historic Downtown Neighborhoods
Treme started as an early (about 1830) French-speaking Creole of color community and later became a culturally mixed neighborhood typical of New Orleans. The residents of Treme take great pride in their history and musical traditions. Many downtown marching clubs parade through the streets; in fact the area has one of the highest concentrations of jazz parading in the city. The neighborhood includes Armstrong Park and Congo Square. Historically, the Treme neighborhood was home to several early musicians including George Lewis, Chris Kelly, Jimmie Noone, and Henry Ragas; it had a number of important social halls and commercial venues. Today much of Treme looks as it did at the turn of the century when jazz was evolving. Nonetheless, demolitions for a cultural center (later incorporated into Armstrong Park) and other urban renewal projects removed several important jazz sites including Economy Hall and the Gypsy Tea Room. Equity Hall, later known as Jeune Amis Hall, remains.
Contiguous with Treme, the Sixth Ward neighborhood on the lake side of Claiborne Avenue is a residential area that was home to Sidney and Leonard Bechet, Freddie and Louis Keppard, Alphonse Picou, Kid Rena, and other predominantly Creole of color jazz musicians. Claiborne Avenue, which divides Treme from the rest of the Sixth Ward, was formerly a tree-lined promenade that was frequently used for marching club parades, Mardi Gras, and other community activities. However, construction of the Interstate 10 viaduct down Claiborne in the 1960s dramatically altered the community landscape. In spite of the 1-10 intrusion and poor economic conditions, social and pleasure c]ubs and mutual aid societies continue the jazz parade tradition in the Sixth Ward.
The Seventh Ward is opposite Esplanade Avenue from the Sixth Ward and, like those neighborhoods, was a predominantly Creole of color residential area. The list of former residents from the Seventh Ward is impressive and includes Paul Barbarin, Barney Bigard, Lizzie Miles, Jelly Roll Morton, Manuel Perez, Buddy Petit, Omer Simeon, and Lorenzo Tio, Jr. Today, the Seventh Ward retains much of its historic appearance. Several historic social halls, such as Perseverance Hall on Villere Street and Francs Amis Hall, are still standing but now serves community churches. Jazz parading is still strong in the ward.
Eighth and Ninth Wards
The Eighth and Ninth wards begin east of Elysian Fields Avenue. This was a racially mixed workingclass neighborhood at the turn of the century. Woodmen of the World Hall, where early jazz was played, still stands. Famous residents of the area included Papa Jack Laine, Manuel Mello, Manuel Perez, and John Robichaux.
Historic Uptown Neighborhoods
Central City was an Englishspeaking, racially mixed community. Jazz and prejazz greats from this neighborhood include Buddy Bolden, King Oliver, Kid Ory, Papa Celestin, Pops Foster, the Dodds and Shields brothers, and Tom Zimmerman. Social halls in Central City important in the early days of jazz included Providence and Jackson halls, both now gone. Although much of the neighborhood has been affected by urban renewal and economic hardships, some of Central City retains its historic appearance. The area has many social and pleasure clubs and benevolent aid societies, and the neighborhood supports a high concentration of jazz parading.
The Irish Channel was mostly a white working-class community during the early days of jazz. Musicians from the channel included Tom Brown, the five Brunies brothers, Nick LaRocca, and Tony Sbarbaro. Social halls here included the Cherry Pickers Hall (extant), the Corner Club, and the Jesters Club. Much of the residential area looks as it did during the jazz age.
This culturally mixed neighborhood was home to Tony Jackson, Bunk Johnson, and Leon Roppolo. Much of the neighborhood retains its historic appearance.
Gerttown was on the edge of the city and still being reclaimed from swamplands in the early 1900s when jazz was young. However, the suburb contained at least two important jazz sites, Johnson and Lincoln parks, best known for the cutting contests (i.e., informal musical matches between bands to win over an audience) around 1905 between Buddy Bolden's hot, uptown band and John Robichaux's smooth, downtown orchestra. Both park sites have been redeveloped. There is some parade activity in the neighborhood today.
Carrollton and Black Pearl
There is a tradition of blues and gospel music in the black community in these neighborhoods that may have contributed to early jazz. Some parade activity occurs in these neighborhoods.
Historic West Bank Neighborhoods
Algiers was home to jazz pioneers Red Allen, Peter Bocage, Norm Brownlee, Emmett Hardy, Manuel Manetta, and Kid "Thomas" Valentine among others. Algiers has a long history of brass band music, and there were a number of social halls including Perseverance Hall, the Elks hall, and the Masons hall where early jazz was played. There is some jazz parading in the neighborhood today.
Gretna and Westwego
These communities are in Jefferson Parish and outside the city of New Orleans proper. Gretna was a short ferry ride across the river from the Jackson Avenue landing in the Irish Channel. Near the Gretna landing was a raucous honky tonk called the Brick House, where Louis Armstrong met his first wife. There were also a number of social halls including Come Clean Hall. Westwego, a relatively young community during the early days of jazz, was home to Sidney Arodin, and Author "Monk" Hazel was from nearby Harvey.
Jazz on the Waters
In addition the districts and neighborhoods in and around New Orleans, early jazz also developed aboard steamboats sailing out of the city. On the Mississippi River, the S.S. Capitol and the Sidney were among the best-known riverboats to feature jazz, and the S.S. Mandeville and the Susquehanna used jazz to entertain passengers on excursions on Lake Pontchartrain. None of the vessels associated with early jazz still exist.