NOLA Spotlight: Storyville
New Orleans is a city filled with rich history and diverse culture. With so much to see and do, it can be difficult to know where to start exploring. On your next visit to New Orleans, step off Bourbon Street and into one of the city’s lesser known neighborhoods. Read on to discover one of New Orleans’ most historically infamous neighborhoods, Storyville.
History of Storyville
While the rest of New Orleans’ established neighborhoods have been around since the 1700s, Storyville’s history only dates back to the 1890s. This slightly younger neighborhood began near two major transportation hubs: the Carondelet Canal and the Canal Street Terminal. This led to an influx of travelers coming in and out of the area, shaping its culture to the needs of the transient population. As a result, Storyville eventually grew to become New Orleans’ dedicated red light district. Throughout the turn of the century, the neighborhood was home to countless brothels, saloons, and dance halls.
While primarily known for the brothels, Storyville was also home to a thriving musical scene. Many prominent early jazz musicians — including Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, and “Big Eye” Louis Nelson — frequented the jazz clubs scattered throughout the neighborhood.
The start of the US involvement in World War I saw proponents against the legalization of prostitution pushing for the closure of the district. With an influx of troops to the area, the city finally ordered the brothels to close, ending the red-light-district era of Storyville.
Storyville no longer exists today, but May Baily’s Place celebrates this time in New Orleans history with live ragtime and jazz music on Fridays and Saturdays. A renovated former bordello, May Baily’s is known for its still-burning red light above its entrance, delicious cocktails, and for its numerous ghost sightings — as featured on the Travel Channel’s hit TV show, “Ghost Adventures.” To pay homage to its status as the city’s first licensed brothel, May Baily’s showcases its unique history through special design details, including the framed operating license hung on the walls and a photograph of a “Madame” by the famous bordello photographer EJ Bellocq.
On your next trip to the Big Easy, explore Storyville and experience one of New Orleans’ most infamous neighborhoods.