In 1924, Times-Picayune journalist Lyle Saxon provided a description of Gallatin Street as it appeared in the 1920s, calling it “deserted, forgotten, given over to warehouses and storage rooms of produce merchants. It is permeated with the smells from the fish market, and with the odors of decaying garbage. Its narrow width is littered with trash and dirt—old shoes, broken barrels, rotting fruit. And yet, before the dark doors of one or two old houses, battered signs sway, signs proclaiming that ‘rooms’ are for rent.”
By the 1880s, Gallatin Street no longer fostered the kinds of crime and vice it was known for during the previous three decades. The Live Oak Gang had been mostly killed or jailed. On September 18, 1886, the Times-Picayune reported the arrest of Live Oak members Albert “Lagerbeer” Lockerby and Hugh O’Brien for the unsurprising charge of being drunk and disorderly.
The reporter goes on to assess the current state of Gallatin Street: “There was a time when no policeman on the force, single-handed, would have essayed the arrest of either one of these two men, nor of any one of the “Live Oak” crowd and has he possessed sufficient courage to place his hand on his shoulder, bloodshed, possibly murder, would have followed. Now they are weak and broken in spirit and in purse, and there are none so faint-hearted as to fear them.” The article continues, “Occasionally the old spirit will manifest itself among them, but they no more resort to the deadly revolver and murderous knife as they did in years gone by when Gallatin and Barracks streets were in their prime.”
William Knuckley, former member of the Live Oak Gang who was the intended victim of Thomas Pickett and the murderer of D.A.C. Lee, visited the Picayune office to respond to “a bad break” in the Times-Picayune’s previous article about Lagerbeer and O’Brien’s arrest. He expressed nostalgia for the men he used to call his “gang” and told stories of some of the more colorful characters on Gallatin Street. Knuckley had this to say of killing D.A.C. Lee, former owner of the Green Tree Tavern: “I killed Lee at his own door, and the man drank his own blood. He was full and so was I. Jack Lyons was with me. To tell the truth I feel kinder sorry that I killed Lee. He was a pretty good feller, but had my brother Mike’s girl, and I wasn’t going to stand that. Lord, how he did bleed! De floor at his feet was full of blood in a minute. I just out with my knife and let him have it.” For all his nostalgia, Knuckley certainly didn’t express remorse.
Two city ordinances solidified the decline of Gallatin Street as a center of vice. In 1897, City Ordinance 13032 created the boundaries of Storyville. It became illegal for dance houses and brothels once found on Gallatin Street to operate outside of Storyville’s limits. As Saxon noted, the street became a quiet, almost haunted, area, reserved for those who sold at the nearby markets. However, in 1935, Gallatin Street received its final blow. City Ordinance 14427 officially renamed the two-block stretch French Market Place, and plans were developed to tear down the two riverside blocks to make way for a new French Market shelter. This is the street we see today.
The nighttime no longer came alive with music and dancing and brawls on Gallatin Street. Once one of the most dangerous streets in the country, in the middle of one of the South’s economic centers, Gallatin was now slated for demolition to make way for a new cast of characters in the French Market. “From the river comes the sound of the whistles, the lapping of the water against the piling of the wharf. From the French Market there is a muffled sound of voices, the rattle of wagons unloading produce,” Lyle Saxon wrote in the Times-Picayune. He continues: “you find yourself listening for other sounds from behind the tight-shut doors of the deserted houses,” However, those sounds you strain to hear are long gone. The music is silenced, and the ladies’ screams of fear or of pleasure are replaced by the whistle of steamships in harbor. Saxon warns, “There are only ghosts on Gallatin Street.”