To visit this site, enter Louis Armstrong Park at 801 N Rampart Street and once inside turn left; the building stood on the far side of Congo Square.
The Globe Ball Room opened on the the corner of St. Claude and St. Peter streets in 1851, with second floor windows overlooking Congo Square, where generations of enslaved people had practiced sacred traditions of music and dance with African roots. In its early years, the Globe hosted an array of performances including opera and Western classical music. In June 1863, for example, with the Union Army in control of New Orleans, bandleader Charles Jaeger conducted a program of arias and overtures here, followed by a dance.
In 1875 the Globe introduced New Orleans to can-can dancing, scandalizing some public officials, who called for its closure (the venue had reputedly managed to host quadroon balls, too, often-mythologized gatherings at which white men pursued free women of color as mistresses.)
The Globe Ball Room eventually fell into disrepair, and by 1890 a new, three-story brick building identified by the city as a “Negro dance hall”–Globe Hall–stood on this spot. Bands performing inside were known to come out to Congo Square and play a few numbers to attract an audience. When Buddy Bolden, the legendary “First Man of Jazz” did this, the musician Manuel Manetta claimed to hear his cornet from the far side of the Mississippi River.
Mental illness brought an abrupt end to Bolden’s career, but his group, called the Eagle Band, carried on, including a run at the Globe from 1910 to 1912. Famed trombonist Kid Ory played here regularly, too—the clarinetist Johnny Dodds first joined his band on a gig at Globe Hall around 1909. At the beginning of the 20th century, with the city clamping down on the assembly of Black people in Congo Square, Globe Hall was as close as some could get to that hallowed ground, and to the kind of cultural expression that once thrived there.
Western classical performances continued at the Globe concurrent with the emergence of jazz. The composer, musician, and educator Professor William Nickerson led his own orchestra and a student orchestra here (he also formed a “Ladies Orchestra,” which toured nationally). Nickerson was a major figure in Black music education: He headed up the music department at Southern University in New Orleans, and later at Straight University. He also gave private lessons to first-generation jazz musicians including the great Jelly Roll Morton and Manetta, a multi-instrumentalist who held a regular piano gig at Globe Hall.
Bands played here for a range of other events, including theatrical performances, fundraisers, labor union meetings, and political gatherings. In 1892, the Times-Picayune reported that a group of Democrats accompanied by a brass band “marched into Globe Hall, about 350 strong, where a large Republican meeting was in full blast. This large hall was packed with over 1,000 voters and the two bands and shouts were terrific.” Globe Hall was also known as a venue for annual soirees held by Black benevolent societies and social clubs. In 1895 the Original Illinois Club held its first dance in the Globe, a tradition that lives on (in other venues) as a debutante ball.
The Globe Hall went dark around 1914, and a broom manufacturer moved into the facility. In 1918, perhaps unsurprisingly, a storeroom full of straw and wood went up in flames, gutting the building. The city took ownership of the property and transformed the area in the late 1920s, erecting the Municipal Auditorium on one side of it and, on the other, filling in the Carondelet Canal, the turning basin of which gave its name to nearby Basin Street, and in turn to the standard tune “Basin Street Blues”).
For more about Louis Armstrong Park, click here.
For more about the Treme neighborhood, click here.