The C.J. Peete Public Housing Development, commonly called the Magnolia Projects, opened to black residents in 1941. Its low-rise brick apartment buildings were arrayed around courtyards on the land bounded by Washington Avenue, LaSalle Street, Louisiana Avenue, and Magnolia Street, expanding later nearly to Claiborne Avenue to include more than 1,400 units of public housing. The projects were evacuated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s levee failures in 2005. In 2007 the New Orleans City Council, with the backing of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, voted to demolish the Magnolia despite some public opposition. The new development here, Harmony Oaks, opened as a mix of subsidized and market-rate units in 2010.
The Magnolia community lived on a main artery of New Orleans’ vernacular culture. The intersection of Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street is a historic rendezvous point for Mardi Gras Indians; the park on this corner, originally called Shakspeare Park but now known as A.L. Davis Park, is a staging ground for their rituals. Social aid and pleasure clubs regularly parade along these streets in Sunday-afternoon second-lines.
The Magnolia Projects were home to many New Orleans artists. Harold Battiste, acclaimed producer, musician, and mastermind of AFO Records, sat on his porch as a child in the 1940s and listened to jazz and R&B coming out of the Dew Drop Inn just across LaSalle Street. Bill Sinigal, composer of the Mardi Gras classic “Second Line” and player in the Dew Drop house band, lived here for decades. Members and followers of the Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indian tribe have called the projects home, as have Cash Money Records co-founders Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams. Juvenile, a solo artist and member of the Hot Boys and UTP, made the “Nolia Clap” a national hit in 2004 (the video was filmed on location in the ’Nolia). Soulja Slim was raised here, recording as Magnolia Slim early in his career. Magnolia Shorty, Keedy Black, and Vockah Redu were among the last generation of New Orleans musicians to come out of these projects.
Video from Rap-A-Lot Records.
The video for "Nolia Clap," which charted nationally in 2004, was filmed on location in the Magnolia Projects.
Video from Cash Money/Universal Motown Records.
The video for "Slow Motion," released in 2003, includes footage of the Magnolia Projects and Shakespeare Park. It also references the death of rapper Soulja Slim, who was killed not long after recording the song with Juvenile.
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Clips from the 2011 Ponderosa Stomp Conference panel “Booty Green: Reflections on Bobby Marchan” on Marchan and the origins of Cash Money Records.