Tales of the City

Tales of the City
New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau

he Goods on Gumbo
The ultimate Creole dish is a tasty metaphor of New Orleans culture: not a melting pot, but a spicy mix of ingredients that complement each other with - out losing their individual flavors.

Based on the African tradition of soup, gumbo is made with local seafood like our superb Gulf shrimp, crabs and crawfish, or a mix of meat and sausage (usually Cajun Andouille sausage).

Native American filé spice thickens and flavors the stock. Okra (from the Bantu nkombo) is an African transplant. Creole tomatoes originated in the West Indies.

Prompt Succor
On January 7, 1815, the eve of the Battle of New Orleans, citizens spent the night in the old Ursuline convent on Chartres Street praying to Our Lady of Prompt Succor for victory.

Fearing the arrival of British guns at their doors, they asked for a miracle and promised to dedicate the city to her if she helped them win an impossible battle— a ragtag American army against thousands of England’s finest.

New Orleans won decisively, losing only eight men. Grateful citizens donated their jewels and made two fabulous crowns for the lady and the infant in her arms.

Every year, on the anniversary of the battle, Our Lady of Prompt Succor and her infant are crowned during a solemn high mass, keeping the city’s promise always to remember her help. You can see the gilded statue at the national shrine in Ursuline Chapel on tree-lined State Street.

They say jazz was born one brassy day in the 1890s when Buddy Bolden put his cornet to his lips and blew a few hot notes and a cool tune. Just like that, he’d invented an American original and a world favorite.

Jazz mixes African and Creole rhythms with African American and European styles. The Irish, Germans and Italians contributed the brass bands. Surprised?

Jean Lafitte
He had the manners of a gentleman, the wealth of a king and the mystique of a legend. Some called him the Hero of New Orleans, others the Terror of the Gulf. He preferred the term privateer and crowned himself King of Barataria, his labyrinthine empire of waterways where he ruled 1,000 men.

Lord Byron wrote, “He left a corsair’s name to other times, linked one virtue with a thousand crimes.”

Marie Laveau
Well over a century after her death, people still believe in the Voodoo queen’s power. Laveau’s grave in the city’s oldest cemetery is regularly marked with fresh gris-gris, a charm or spell indicated by Xs. If you want to test Marie’s power, visit her at St. Louis No. 1 on Basin Street, just outside the Quarter.

This area, centered around Basin Street just outside the French Quarter, was the official red-light district of New Orleans from 1897 until 1917, when the U.S. entered WWI and decided it was better to make war than love. For two centuries, women of easy virtue walked the streets and filled the city’s notorious bordellos, where sailors on leave and politicians on the take collided.

Attempts at regulating and taxing the trade failed until 1897 when a city alderman named Sidney Story drafted an ordinance confining prostitution to a controlled district where it was still illegal, yet madames were required to have a brothel operating license. Instantly dubbed Storyville, the madames cheerfully profited from consolidation, creating the Blue Book, their own private yellow pages listing the houses, girls, services and prices for many of the 700 women who worked there. The book’s famed photographs inspired potential customers to take a closer look. Business boomed, and jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver played in bordellos there, though they played behind a screen, so as not to divert attention away from the business at hand. Jazz players were paid in this part of Storyville, while holding court in a separate section of the area along Rampart. Louis Armstrong Park today sits across Rampart from many clubs where a young Satchmo got his start, including Donna’s Bar and Grill and the Funky Butt. You can still hear local jazz in these clubs today.

Although its heyday lasted only 20 years, illegal houses continued operating through the ‘60s, and Storyville slipped into legend.

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