Nostalgia: New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club
History, sport and society
Founded in 1876, the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club is the oldest tennis club in the United States. The founding members were mostly English, working in the cotton business in New Orleans. Over their first decade as a club, they moved their courts to several different locations in or near the Garden District.
In February of 1898, they moved into a full tennis club on Saratoga Street with a clubhouse and multiple grass tennis courts. Ladies were admitted on equal terms as the gentlemen, and the more than 150 members celebrated their new home with a fashionable afternoon tea to open the season.
The club quickly became known for its full schedules of tournaments: singles, doubles, mixed doubles, veterans, interclub and the annual Gulf States championships.
In 1924, the club started converting some of its courts to clay, but still maintained four grass courts, which were some of the only ones in the South, as the humidity and popularity of tennis (and subsequent high rate of play) made them expensive and difficult to maintain.
In 1935, the club debuted a city tournament, open to all New Orleanians. To be completely accurate in naming a true champion, a women’s singles bracket was introduced for the first time at an NOLTC tournament.
The club was represented on the society pages as frequently as the sports pages. The 1950s and 1960 were full of poolside debutante and engagement parties, costume parties and cocktail dances in the reception room and Mardi Gras royalty dinners in the dining rooms.
The NOLTC moved into its new (and current) location at 5353 Laurel St. in 1973. The modern facility provided members with 12 courts (none of them grass), a 15,000-square-foot clubhouse with covered balcony space and a larger swimming pool. Social events continued along with the tennis, including their yearly anniversary party with fun themes, delicious buffets and live music provided by local sensations like Irma Thomas and Alvin Alcorn, among others.