Karnofsky Shop and Residence

427 S. Rampart St.
New Orleans LA 70112
Location Status: Location threatened, damaged or not in use
Curated by
e/Prime Media & Randy Fertel

Beginning in 1913, this was the tailor shop, with a residence above, of the Jewish family that provided a second home to the young Louis Armstrong. He grew up nearby on Perdido Street; this is the area where, on New Year’s Eve 1912, Armstrong was arrested for firing a .38 and sent to the Colored Waif’s Home. The Karnofsky family hired Armstrong to work on their junk and coal wagons, on which he would play a small tin horn. He recalled:

“After blowing the tin horn—so long—I wondered how would I do blowing a real horn—a cornet was what I had in mind. Sure enough, I saw a little cornet in a pawn shop window—five dollars—my luck was just right. With the Karnofskys loaning me on my salary—I saved 50 cents a week, and bought the horn. All dirty—but was soon pretty to me.”

Armstrong developed a close relationship with the family, learning a song called “Russian Lullaby” from Tillie Karnofsky, who sang it to her baby. As he remembered:

“My first Jewish meal was at the age of seven. I liked the Jewish food very much. Every time we would come in late on the little wagon from buying old rags and bones, when they would be having ‘supper’ they would fix a plate of food for me, saying you’ve worked, might as well eat here with us.”

Morris Karnofsky, the son of the family and Armstrong’s boyhood friend, went on to open Morris Music here, the first jazz record shop in the city, and a place that Armstrong visited on his many returns after he moved away in 1921.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Considering it alongside the Little Gem Saloon, the Iroquois Theater, and the Eagle Saloon, John Hasse, curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution, said “There is probably no other block in America with buildings bearing so much significance to the history of our country’s great art form, jazz.”

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Videos

2011 clip from author John McCusker: "Louis Armstrong's New Orleans," a five-minute look at Satchmo's formative years and the state of landmarks associated with him.

Segment from Louis Armstrong-
Satchmo
, released by Masters of American Music in 2011

A four-minute survey of the life of Louis Armstrong, released in 2012.