The Birthplace of Jazz: A Walking Tour Through New Orleans' Musical Past

Tour curated by: UNO Public History Grad Students, Prof. Charles Chamberlain

New Orleans' claim to be the birthplace of jazz is explored in this walking tour, which focuses on the musical artists and the communities where jazz developed in and around the French Quarter.

Starting with the discovery site of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band on Canal Street, the tour ventures to the Back of Town neighborhood of Louis Armstrong's youth, the vaudeville playhouses and dance halls of the Tango Belt and Storyville districts. In the Treme neighborhood, public artworks in Louis Armstrong Park celebrate the city's rich musical history, and a conclusion in the lower French Quarter underscores the neighborhood's past as an African American and Italian immigrant community.

Whereas early jazz historians romanticized the birth and spread of jazz in the 1910s and 1920s, this tour reveals the diversity of venues and performance sites during this period, as well as the rich social context of the neighborhoods where musicians grew up.

Locations for Tour

The intersection of Exchange Alley and Canal Street reflects jazz's early roots in youth culture and community, as well as Canal Street prominence as a commercial corridor. On December 13, 1915, Chicago café owner Harry James discovered a…

The Blue Room is an historic supper club in the Roosevelt Hotel where the greatest jazz artists performed from the 1930s through the 1950s. The Blue Room officially opened to the public on New Years Eve 1933. Louis Armstrong - who grew up four…

401 South Rampart, known as the Eagle Saloon, anchors this block associated with Louis Armstrong's youth and musical upbringing in this diverse neighborhood of African Americans, Jewish and Chinese immigrants. Louis Armstrong grew up on…

This African American vaudeville and movie theater operated from 1911-1920. One of the first theaters to feature jazz in a concert setting, it was eventually eclipsed by the larger Lyric Theater which opened in 1920. In the era of Jim Crow, new,…

The Lyric Theater existed as New Orleans' premiere African American vaudeville theater during the 1920s. Formerly located at the downtown-lake corner of Burgundy and Iberville streets in the French Quarter, the Lyric Theater was touted as…

In the 1910s and 1920s, the Tango Belt was a popular entertainment section of the upper French Quarter, and where dance halls featured local jazz. Named after the Argentine dance that swept the globe in 1913, the Tango Belt spanned several blocks…

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…

Preservation Hall is a French Quarter concert hall with nightly performances by esteemed local jazz musicians. Established in 1962 by young Philadelphia natives Alan and Sandra Jaffe, the space provided a safe place for older jazz musicians to…

Louis Armstrong Park is a 30 acre park featuring several sites and sculptures related to New Orleans music history. The main pedestrian entrance is on N. Rampart at St. Anne Streets. The shady landscaped space to the west (towards Canal St.) is…

Musician, educator, author and storyteller Danny Barker was born in 1909 in the rear building at this residence. At the time of Barker's birth, the lower French Quarter community was largely home to African American and Sicilian immigrant…