JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
I have a two-part question. We live on one of most beautiful, Live Oak tree-lined streets in the city (Neron Place). No one seems to know the origin of the name (I even read the book by John Chase about New Orleans streets).
Here is a picture of our house from around 1905, before it became a “raised basement.” Any idea about the street name or when houses in the neighborhood were raised?
I was unable to determine the origin of the name, but I do know it was in July 1894 that the City Council passed Council Series ordinance 9411 C.S., which renamed a number of local streets. The renamed thoroughfares included Napoleon Avenue, which became Neron Street. In mid-1909, New Council Series ordinance 5965 N.C.S. changed part of Neron Street to Neron Place. (The Napoleon Avenue that became Neron Street was one block of Claiborne Avenue and is totally different from the street we now know as Napoleon Avenue.)
It is difficult to say exactly when your home was raised, but it may have been modified for use as a duplex rental rather than a single-family residence. Checking all tax assessment rolls from the 1920s to ’40s would probably reflect more precisely when the basement was added. A ’40 update of the ’09 Sanborn fire insurance map shows your home after the addition.
Also, in the early ’40s, newspaper advertisements for a rental property at 57-59 Neron Place mention both an unfurnished ground level apartment and a furnished upper apartment, both of which featured two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It is safe to assume the house, which in ’40 was on a block full of two-story residences, was altered prior to that time.
Years ago, I scoffed when an uncle told me that someone in the family, last name Nunnemacher, played on a baseball team in New Orleans in the mid-19th century. Since, I’ve learned that the game of baseball is indeed that old and I wish he could’ve provided details. Have you or Poydras ever heard of the Terpsichoreans?
Yes, your ancestor, Joseph Nunnenmacher (whose surname often appears with an extra “n” in the middle) was involved with both Terpsichoreans and baseball, but his team wasn’t known as the Terpsichoreans. I think your uncle most likely misread an old advertisement for Joseph Nunnenmacher and Messrs. Merhoff and Reutter that ran in the Dec. 9, 1866 issue of the New Orleans Times. The notice read, in part, “… The ball season is now at its height, and the Terpsichoreans are almost nightly reveling in their favorite enjoyment …” That is “ball” as in a formal dance, not “ball” as in “baseball,” even though the men hosting the Terpsichorean entertainment were members of the Unknown Base Ball Club of Louisiana.
In classical mythology, Terpsichore is the Muse associated with dancing and choral singing. Therefore, in this particular instance, “Terpsichorians” refers to participants at the formal dance Nunnenmacher and fellow members of the Unknown Base Ball Club of Louisiana were hosting at the Phoenix Ballroom on the night of Dec. 15, 1866. I could find no further information about the Unknown Base Ball Club of Louisiana. I suppose they were aptly named.
During my young adult years (I am now an “old adult”) I remember my mother talking with fondness of two places she and my father used to visit with regularity during their pre-children years in the late 1930s and early ’40s.
One was called, I believe, West End Roof, and was located along the New Basin Canal near the lake. This was where their “gang” went during the summer months to dance. The other was called, I believe, The Little Club and was located in the city. This was their “gang’s” hangout during the winter months.
Now I know many of Poydras’ friends hang out in the palm trees along the lakefront. I thought he might be able to gather some intelligence on these places and let me know a bit about them.
I believe your parents were dining and dancing a bit earlier than you estimated, since the nightspots you mentioned were gone by the late 1930s and early ’40s. If they patronized either of the original Little Clubs or the West End Roof Garden, their outings happened somewhere between ’22 and the mid-’30s.
The West End Roof Garden opened in the early 1920s and remained in existence until around the ’30s. The Hotel Grunewald (later the Roosevelt Hotel) managed the popular dining and dancing location where the Silver Leaf Orchestra, The New Orleans Owls, Papa Celestin and Kid Ory are known to have played. Mexican composer Miguel Lerdo was an early musical director at the popular West End night spot.
At the same time the West End Roof Garden was operating, entrepreneur Anthony “Tony” Denapolis’ Little Clubs (note the plural) were going strong. Denapolis ran two different Little Clubs in downtown New Orleans that operated during Prohibition. He also scuttled plans for a planned French Quarter location. Another, unrelated, Little Club Bar was a Bourbon Street watering hole in the early 1940s.
In late 1922, Denapolis opened the Little Club Restaurant at 201 Dryades St. (now O’Keefe) at the corner of Common. Featuring French and Italian cuisine and headline entertainment, it was a casualty of Prohibition and was shuttered in ’25. The following year, it was rumored that Denapolis was preparing to open a new Little Club at 613 Royal St., but his plan encountered strong local opposition and never materialized. In October ’27, Denapolis opened the second Little Club at 824 Baronne St., which remained in operation until about ’36.
Johnny De Droit’s dance band was one of the acts known to have played there. I suspect the second Little Club, located at 824 Baronne St., is the one most likely to have been your parents’ winter hangout.
The Little Club Bar, which Frank Schifano, aka Frank Little, ran at 240 Dauphine St. in the 1940s appears to have been unrelated to either of the Denapolis-operated Little Clubs. In late May ’40, a former employee shot Shifano to death at the club; Schifano’s father managed the Little Club Bar following his son’s murder.
Win a restaurant gift certificate
Here is a chance to eat, drink and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for a Jazz Brunch for two at The Court of Two Sisters. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are Cheryl Moulin, Abita Springs; and Reginald Smith Jr., Metairie.