While driving through lower Mid-City, I happened to notice a large stucco home at 219 South Miro St. It is both distinctive and gigantic, quite unlike the rest of this Victorian neighborhood. Can you tell me if anybody well-known was associated with this magnificent home?
This villa-like 1920s residence was once home to Smith W. Green who, beginning about 1908, was Supreme Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, a benevolent organization also known as the Colored Knights of Pythias. The author of major works on Pythian history and ritual, Green was a major force behind the construction of the Colored Pythian Temple on Loyola Avenue (formerly Saratoga Street) near Gravier Street.
Once boasting a roof garden and a theater where a 1909 play is said to have inspired the Tramps to found the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, the Pythian Temple was also a renowned musical venue where played such talents as Sidney Bechet, A.J. Piron and Papa Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra. The century-old Colored Pythian Temple still stands at 234 Loyola Ave.
Even though I don’t live in your fantastic city I subscribe to New Orleans Magazine and have for several years. It really makes me want to visit more and gives me ideas on where to go and what to do.
In the December 2008 issue the article on Deacon John mentions that he went to Corpus Christi Elementary School. Since I live in Corpus Christi, Texas I was wondering if Deacon John lived here or is there a school by that name in New Orleans. If it is or was there how did it get its name?
Corpus Christi, Texas
I was going to have Poydras look into this, Don, but he stays away from Texas. He won’t talk much about what happened but it had something to do with an amorous toucan, a jealous vulture and a near lethal dose of jalapeño in his bird seed. Beyond that, the incident is a mystery.
Fortunately the answer to your question can be found in New Orleans.
The Corpus Christi school that Deacon John attended traces back to a Roman Catholic parish, established in 1916 and located at 2022 St. Bernard Ave. Less than 10 years after the parish was founded, its parochial school, administered by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, was founded. According to Colored Catholics in the United States by John T. Hillard, S.J.J., Ph.D., Corpus Christi was, by 1941, the largest African-American Roman Catholic parish in the country. Led by the Josephite order of Roman Catholic priests, Corpus Christi parish then had 12,000 congregants.
The Church of the Epiphany, located at 1949 Duels St., had been founded in 1948. One of the churches the Archdiocese of New Orleans closed in the years following Hurricane Katrina, Epiphany’s congregation recently merged with the larger and older Corpus Christi to form a new parish, Corpus Christi-Epiphany.
Have you heard anything about the Saenger Theater on Canal Street reopening? My friends and I enjoyed Sunday brunch and the afternoon performance of the Broadway series so much and have really missed it.
Last month the Nagin administration announced that the old theater would be redeveloped by a city agency, the Canal Street Development Corp. The plan is quite complicated and involves tax breaks and incentives. Under the plan, the theater’s most recent owner.
Saenger Theater Partnership, Ltd., which is donating the property to the city, would have the right to manage it once the work is complete. Projected completion is 2011. One request to the developer: “Save the cloud machine and the organ, please!”
I have heard about Blue Books, those naughty guides for gentlemen visiting Storyville. Are they really blue?
Blue Books were guides for visitors intending to explore the “sporting” scene in Storyville, the city’s legal prostitution district that existed from 1898 to 1917. An unknown number of such guidebooks were produced. At least a dozen authentic versions are known to exist. Although most editions have blue covers, red and green versions were also produced.
Fakes and reprints of the notorious little booklets are quite common. Readers seeking sexually explicit content can expect to be disappointed. Genuine Blue Books are actually very tame, usually containing little more than lists of names and addresses as well as a smattering of advertisements for saloons. Discreetly worded, the Blue Books don’t mention or describe sex acts. Genuine Blue Books are visually tame as well and don’t contain erotic illustrations, although some ads for taverns contain sketches of fully clad women dressed in ordinary period attire.
Where was the French Hospital? Several generations of my family were born there but I haven’t been able to find out much about the hospital itself. How long was it around?
In the early 1840s, some local French residents founded a benevolent organization called La Société Française de Bienfaisance which rendered medical care to its members in the French community. In 1860, the group revised its policy, allowing the general public to receive medical care.
Located at 1821 Orleans Ave., the French Hospital was built in 1861 and closed Oct. 31, 1949. In 1951, the Knights of Peter Claver purchased the hospital, eventually demolishing it and building at the site their national headquarters. Founded in 1909, the Knights of Peter Claver is the country’s largest predominantly black lay Catholic organization.
Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch or a night at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel
Here’s a chance to stay at an elegant local hotel, or to eat, drink and listen to music, 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 one of two Jazz Brunch gift certificates for two at THE COURT OF TWO SISTERS in the Vieux Carré or an overnight stay for two at the elegant Omni Royal Orleans Hotel.
To take part, send your question to: Julia Street c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This month’s winners are Don Kraeft, Corpus Christi, Texas; Della Dawkins, New Orleans; and Arnold Jekins, Mid-City.