Storyville District, New Orleans


The city of New Orleans was not unlike many cities that had a large population of "ladies of the evening''. They may have been one of the few big cities that provided them with their own area of the town. Storyville was where the prostitutes lived from 1897 until the forced closure of the district by the federal government in 1917. They were ordered to shutter their doors after the beginning of World War I when it was decreed that a brothel couldn't be within five miles of a military base.

This area got its name from the alderman that provided the legislation for the district. His name was Sidney Story, and that is where the name Storyville District was derived. The streets that surrounded Storyville were to become very well known, but not necessarily for prostitution. Iberville, St. Louis, Robertson and the most famous Basin Street were all within this district. This area is two blocks from the French Quarter. The Iberville Housing Projects take up most of the area where Storyville once was.

The original idea behind the district was so that the city would have the ladies in one area which would make monitoring and regulating easier. The city looked at the legalized German and Dutch red light districts to help them set up their own. There were books called "blue books'' that listed the houses, the services available, prices and the "stock'' as the girls were known that each house had. Many of the establishments on Basin Street were mansions. There was a railway station in close proximity to the red light district and Storyville became one of the attractions of the city.

While jazz was played in the better houses it did not originate in Storyville. Many of the more expensive brothels would hire a piano player or a band. After the government closed down Storyville it was still considered a place for entertainment. During prohibition there were cabarets, speakeasies, restaurants and gambling establishments. Prostitution was still available as well, but police did raid these houses.

The buildings became rundown and most were demolished in the 1930's. The mansions of Basin Street were part of the destruction, and in an effort to rid the city of the districts reputation they even changed the name of the street from Basin to North Saratoga. Today it bears the name of Basin Street once again.

Many famous musicians performed in the Storyville District. Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmie Noone and Joe "King'' Oliver are just some of the names. This thirty eight block parcel has the Iberville Housing Projects on it and something else as well.

Ralph Brennan, a well known restaurateur, along with George Wein, jazz musician, Quint Davis, Producer/Director and Arthur Davis, architect opened the Storyville District entertainment complex. There is 12,000 square feet with different rooms that provide live entertainment from the afternoon into the evening. There is a restaurant that serves some of the greatest New Orleans cuisine while guests listen to traditional jazz music.

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