Stop #7: Site of Storyville District

A legalized prostitution district associated with the early development of New Orleans-style jazz existed from 1897-1917.

Romanticized by early historians as the birth-place of jazz, this red light district included brothels, bars and dance halls where jazz artists performed and socialized.


Standing at the intersection of Basin and Conti Streets and facing just west of St. Louis Cemetery #1, is the former location of the Storyville district in the Tremé neighborhood.

From 1897 to 1917 New Orleans established a centralized prostitution district known as Storyville, named after the city alderman Sidney Story who sponsored the creation of the district. Storyville was bound by Iberville, Basin, St. Louis, and North Robertson Streets.

In this period, upscale brothels in mansions such as Lulu White’s Mahogany Hall lined Basin Street and employed parlor pianists such as Jelly Roll Morton. On the backstreets Fewclothes’ Cabaret, Pete Lala’s, the 101 Ranch, and the Tuxedo Dance Hall provided many of jazz’s most notable performers with stable income and an environment in which they could hone their various musical styles.

The District closed in 1917 upon order from the U.S. Navy, and the neighborhood was razed in 1939 to make way for the Iberville public housing development for low-income white residents.

The closing of Storyville provided romanticized lore regarding the birth and spread of jazz. This legend emphasizes the closing of Storyville as a catalyst for musicians leaving New Orleans and spreading the style. In fact, jazz musicians performed  throughout the city from before World War I well into the 1920s and 1930s.

1216 Bienville, now a local corner store, is the site of Frank Early’s My Place Saloon, one of only three remaining structures from the Storyville period. Tony Jackson, considered to be one of the great piano professors of the period, worked at Frank Early's before moving to Chicago in 1912.

"I also looked forward to every night in the Red Light District, when I was delivering Stone Coal to the girls working in those Cribs. I could hear these wonderful jazz musicians playing music the way it should be played." -  Louis Armstrong, as published  in Thomas Brothers, ed.,  Louis Armstrong in His Own Words  (Oxford Press,   2001)

"It's not true that nothing happened after Storyville closed. [In New Orleans] before and after Storyville closed there were so many great jazz musicians, so many cats all the way down the line. Buddy Petit, Kid Rena, Sidney Desvignes, Sam Morgan, Punch Miller....there was pleny of work with vaudeville and minstrel shows, roadhouses, circuses, riverboats, and lake-boat excursions, as well as circuits and tours that travelled the South."
Musical Artist/Educator Danny Barker

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Cite this Page:

Helen Bouzon, Jessica Jennings, Charles Chamberlain, “Stop #7: Site of Storyville District,” New Orleans Historical, accessed July 22, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/1307.

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