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 on one side and the turning basin of the Carondelet Canal on another. It hosted a variety of performances, including opera and 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, often-mythologized gatherings at which white men pursued free women of color as mistresses.)
The Globe Ball Room stayed open for a while longer before falling into disrepair, and by 1890 a new, three-story brick building identified 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 moving to further restrict 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.
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 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 has lived 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 radically transformed the area in the late 1920s, erecting the Municipal Auditorium and filling in the Carondelet Canal.