The United States Congress, in 1987, designated JAZZ “A rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood and promulgated.” (Concurrent Resolution 57)
How do I know this? You wonder. From a walking tour brochure put out by the New Orleans Jazz Commission. I’m not certain if they still exist. The work they did, that I’m familiar with, was through the Jazz National Historical Park. Which does still exist (and thrives) as a fabulous resource for enjoying jazz: it’s performance, history, evolution, clubs, and so much more.
One of the neighborhoods that was closely tied to jazz and its early development was Faubourg Ste. Marie (now part of the Central Business District). The back edge of the business district was referred to as “Back O’Town”, “Black Storyville”, and “ The Battlefield”. A large portion of it is now comprised of the City Hall and the Civic Center, the Superdome and Arena, and some of the old medical corridor (now being relocated to lower mid-city with construction underway!).
Although much of the old neighborhood was razed. Many magnificent landmarks are still standing, and some even enjoying wonderful renovations. These landmarks were places that jazz innovators such as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, and so many other players and influencers of jazz lived, worked, and strolled… you might say, where they got “Out and About”.
Things are once again appearing to prosper in what was recently a derelict section of the city. Much renovation, restoration, and growth is happening “back o’town” that it will soon be called “the gateway”. Starting with the brand new Loyola Avenue Streetcar line taking guests from Union Passenger Terminal to Canal Street. A strip that is active now for more than just a Saints Tailgate party (which used to be the only time you saw this area jumping).
Some of the spots you might want to pay attention to when you get out and about “back o’town” on the new streetcar line include, as I mentioned above, the old, the new, and the re-newed. One of the old things that you will certainly find interesting are the murals in the Union Passenger Terminal. If memory serves me correctly, these are WPA murals depicting many facets of life in the South.
I haven’t been there in quite some time, and it sounds like the toddler and I might need to ride the streetcar down to the terminal for a fresh view.
Other aspects of the “back o’ town” renaissance that you will notice while you are Out and About: The long awaited reopening of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. They moved the main entrance from that cave on the dome side to a beautiful glass window front, fountains, and entrance highlighting their new restaurant Borgne. (I know they’ve been opened for a year, I still call it new).
Chefs John Besh and Brian Landry grew up fishing on Lake Borgne, the epicenter of coastal cuisine in Louisiana. Their shared passion for Louisiana seafood brought them together to create Borgne, a celebration of coastal Louisiana with a touch of Isleño influence. One of the old jazz clubs from the S. Rampart Street jazz “glory days’ is the Frank Douroux’s Little Gem Saloon. It is wonderful to see this building that had been boarded up for decades finally back in action. Better yet, it’s once again the Little Gem Saloon featuring a daily organ trio at happy hour, and nightly shows in the second floor club. They are already booking top flight talent. This Friday WWOZ members get in free for Mischeya Lake and the Little Big Horns.
There are so many exciting things happening in this corridor, that can’t possibly be covered here. Let me throw out a few happenings that hopefully will get you out and about “back o’town”:
The recently re-opened Civic Theater
Jamba Juice ( I know, it’s a franchise, they are work a mention). In fact that whole block where they are located on Poydras and O’Keefe deserves a shout out, with St. Marie Restaurant, and something else that escapes my memory right now. I’ll come back and update you later.
And how about RepurposingNola. A New Orleans based, female owned, triple-bottom-line business launched in 2009 that just opened their first brick and mortar shop on the second floor at 843 Carondelet.
Have lunch at the new Rouse’s Fresh Market around the corner.
Pick up a New Orleans Jazz History Walking Tour Brochure for Back O’Town at the Jazz National Historical Park located in the French Market to enjoy a stroll back in time through this culturally rich neighborhood.
And stop by some of these establishments to make an every thing lovely outing.
Or call Every Thing Lovely to assist you. We always enjoy getting Out and About in New Orleans.
Out and About is a weekly blog by Leslie Compton of Every Thing Lovely, a special event and creative consulting team, and is sponsored by Key to NOLA Properties, a full service real estate brokerage firm specializing in furnished rental properties in New Orleans. Key to NOLA Properties and Every Thing Lovely have joined forces to provide a full array of services for travelers’ (and locals’) personal and professional needs while in the Crescent City.