Unione Italiana (aka Italian Hall)1020 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans LA 70116
Unione Italiana (aka the Italian Hall) was home to some twenty-seven Italian benevolent societies and was also used for jazz dance band performances and recordings. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings played dances here upon their return to New Orleans in the mid-1920s. Irving Fazola, Punch Miller’s band, and Chris Kelly’s band also performed here. In 1929, the Jones & Collins Astoria Hot Eight recorded here with the white clarinetist Sidney Arodin, likely the first racially integrated recording session in New Orleans.
The original building at this location was built and designed by noted New Orleans architect James Gallier Sr. in 1835. In 1912, the Italian Hall Association purchased the structure, and the Italian Chamber of Commerce spent eight years rebuilding and enlarging it to include a dance hall on the second and third floors. Rival Italian benevolent organizations’ bands performed here, including the Contessa Entellina Society Band, comprised of Albanian-Sicilian Italian Americans, and the Roma Band, which was made up of Sicilian Italian Americans.
The building was converted to apartments in the 1970s and then into condominiums in the 1990s.