WWL>Topics>>3-17 1:10pm Angela, History of Bourbon Street

3-17 1:10pm Angela, History of Bourbon Street

Mar 17, 2014|

Bourbon Street! People come from around the globe to walk down this mile long strip…that evokes equal parts passion and disdain…blends history with “anything goes” …and exemplifies the contradictions of cultural authenticity and commodification! Just how much do we know about this intriguing artifact in our own backyard? Angela talks to critically acclaimed author (& geographer at Tulane School of Architecture), Richard Campanella about Bourbon Street – A History!

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Well I hope you had a wonderful weekend probably stay in green and hopefully years still lingering. We continue to celebrate. It's a great day but it doesn't make any difference it's our special Monday. And I'm very happy was a three programs were going to have this first one in particular -- get back to put our second hour. Is going to be almost -- probably our final discussion. I think which now eight hours we've talked about the Affordable Care Act and the deadline is coming up in two weeks or two specialists to gonna come and and we're gonna talk about where it is right now as it continues to sort of more. And then our third our very interesting book written by a woman whose four year old child. Essentially died and came back and -- had quite an experience -- are gonna listen to what that experience wise. But we begin with us. What is your opinion of urban street. Is it up too loud bad smelling walkways for people who just wanna get loaded and of the so called new orleans' experience. Or is -- the one street in New Orleans where you can people watch and witness slices of life that make our little world unique. Or is it something else. Well what Bergen street is to our guest today is fascinating. So much so he has written a book. Richard Campanella is the author of six critically acclaimed books on the human and physical geography. Of New Orleans. Bergen street history is a scholarly and entertaining look at the famous and infamous street so many love to hate. We have a lot to learn from him in the next hour and we love to hear from you to your thoughts on the street or perhaps an experiences you've had. Or your grandparents and and -- like to share to 60187. Day. So I welcome you Richard Campanella very much to our show. And I just wanna say you are geography professor at Tulane in the school of architect. That's right so you've just love this whole area. It has provided me with that just an analyst -- of fascinating material particularly as it geography or who looks in the historical dimension. So Bergen street you know. There should be a book on Bourbon Street. Bob -- streets. Is special. It is a street. That in your own analysis I think you look at. Is that it evokes emotions from people love or hate to love nothing in between so let's talk about our love hate relationship with the street. Well of often sensed that the most fascinating topics are those that Ron either hot or cult and not lukewarm at ought at all. And that's exactly what we get from both in the nation more perception as -- a local one. That eight evokes very intensive passions and what's curious about it and I should point out that this book. Looks across the full 300 year history from its original surveying and naming which -- 1722. And for the first a 150 years. Almost to two hunt first 200 years it was the polar opposite. Of the exception now at the end deviant that we see in the street today. It was a completely normal and rather prosaic down team to downtown street. And so take us through the years and how -- evil okay. Colonial era its first laid out in on 1720 to one of the first twenty streets of of the -- the city. And throughout the French and Spanish colonial era it had roughly. The on meddling trance act of colonial New Orleans society so in terms of class it was quite well next. In terms of racial patterns it was it was. On -- comparable to other streets. During the 1788 fire about 50% of the structures on urban were burned. And that did away with -- with the exception of defeats blacksmith shop which probably dates in the 70s70s has no documentation. That's a pretty good representation of what. Free 17885. Or -- look like. Steep double pitched roof -- between post architecture so imagine structures like that slightly different orientations and setbacks sprinkled in. Almost like a village like. Density. After the 1794. Fire we get the Spanish building codes we get more of -- A Spanish dancers CD of brick and mortar rather than would. And the best surviving example of that on -- street today is a deal that -- house which actually posting it's a Spanish it's early American era. But it's a very. Represented of of Spanish colonial architecture. So. Throughout the -- the next 4050 years. This intermediary needling status continues. Such that an -- -- plotted out all these patterns. That if you look of of how our. City historically. Changed in terms of its human geography from the front of town to the back of town that is. From the riverfront in the big busy streets closer to the river. And gradient across the natural Levy to the did the edge of where the backs -- used to date. Urban street was roughly in the middle in this era and likewise it had a very needling demographic on you had. And working class middle class -- and wealthy living in surprising space shall proximity. In a way with that we just don't see anymore. On the also had of the three casts of antebellum New Orleans society. The the white cast the free people of color cast and the enslaved black last. Also living in this high frequency so this starts to change. -- around the 1860s. What happens. After the civil wars that American cities start it's changed their social structure. Arm and the wealthy who tended to live. Armed disproportionately in the in -- core start to move out to the garden suburbs places like uptown and esplanade avenue. And. Vice and indulgence and the nighttime entertainment economy. Which he used to be in the urban periphery in antebellum times started to move into the -- And so we had this reversal and it's in this year that we start to see things like concerts saloons. And -- holes setting up and where are they now they're not at the periphery. Where they used to be they're now in the -- French Quarter on places like custom house street which is now ever -- in also places like -- You know that it's fascinating and it was something else that I learned much from looking at this but it was in antebellum time. That we had a synagogue yes and the first Protestant church in the same building on the same block. Alex a blanket. The 100 block of -- found the 100 blocks for the French -- -- be very fascinating because as you know they're technically out of the jurisdiction of the -- commission. And therefore there are prone to a lot of the the messy -- vanity coming off -- canal street it's less control it's less. Ecstatically choreographed. And so the 100 block suburban. Was in antebellum times it was kind of a nexus between the mostly francophone creole. Society below canal street and the mostly angle farm Anglo American society of -- On that first 100 like you had everything next. So it in this very Catholic city was home to just about the first major Protestant church on congregation. And in the 1830s they've built this very distinctive have a photo in the book this. Greek classical. Almost like temple. It proved they said that the congregation eventually moved uptown to the Christ church today. And -- Toro bought it and be became a synagogue and -- editorial live right next door. We also had the first free library public library at the same time on that same block. A few couple of decades later the very first of these concerts solutions this new innovation. Like -- described in a moment also set up on the first one on purpose it was also on the 100 block. That mostly we had a catastrophic fire there and 1892 both sides of the block. Collapsed and -- And that -- you would think that might have tripped up this transformation. But in fact it accelerated it because it created space for. The first of the big fancy new hotels for this -- notion of luxury leisure tourism. Was cosmopolitan hotel it was actually. On royal but the fire allowed them to extend onto the first block suburban -- start to see the various elements of a tourism environment and a night time entertainment. District formed their but it really accelerates in the early twentieth century history of one very special street in America. The history of it goes very very deeply. And we pick let's pick it up on the story tells a story bill was. Was where I oracle projects -- ended -- correct. OK so there's two transformations going on in late nineteenth century New Orleans as ours privilege that previously describing. Vice and indulgence in the sort of thing used to be at the fringes of the city. After the civil war that starts to move into the inner core what's also going on at this time nationwide. Is that Americans industrialization. Is creating a new middle class. Railroads have become luxurious travel becomes fun and comfortable. And more and more Americans are wanting to kind of stretch their legs and see their new country the frontier is closed Yellowstone National Park is now open. That the local color literary genre has created. A sense of -- the schism of romanticism. About places like north -- -- people wanna visit. So we start to see on new high rise. Six and seven Storey luxury hotels. -- to see restaurants as eating out is entertainment rather than just a necessity. Say have more more visitors coming to visit New Orleans and the same time. You have this device and prostitution in the same area. So city authorities are concerned about this in -- city Sydney story comes up. With what I would call us -- geography race facial solution. By declaring a certain space. Outside of which prostitution would be bent and by default it became legal. Inside of this sixteen block area where was it declared. Well it was in one of these. Antebellum -- areas at the intersection. Of roughly Franklin street and custom house street which is now it propel. So the sixteen blocks just adjacent there became declared as where all of this would go and tip so this comes at the expense. Of this new industry building up in the -- French Quarter. On and. Many of your listeners are probably well familiar with the story of story -- in terms of prostitution but the -- -- recognized. Is that there was also a follow up ordinance that sent concerts or lose there as well. And concerts saloons which something of a innovation drawn from the tradition of the English music call some say there's some French. Our origins to it. But basically if you imagine. In a typical western it's a movie the scene where they go to a bar and the women are dents in the ten K and then there's a single up pianists. That's it that's on a concert hall I'm sorry I'm a -- excellent. And one of their strategies. Was that they were higher -- attractive young female. Waitresses to serve the alcohol so you basically get this. This. Sexual sexual lies to performance. It was mostly a male dominated a client now. And so. The upper quarter including Burma street had these but now this scene is also gone to story -- -- so this comes at the expense of the upper corner but it doesn't last for long. There's violence. In the story -- area there's a shootout among rival dance halls coping tenderloin war. In 1913. And then of course the closure of story of bill when the great when the US joins the great war because the navy is concerned about the health of -- sellers. What the red light district there so it closes in 1917. And that sends this industry. I term entertainment and on -- being associated with back into the upper quarter where does it go it goes into the rear upper corner for gun. Of rampart. Any gains in named -- -- belt but then it is subjected to police rates and this is sub -- this is illegal as opposed to starve out. So it's subjected to police raids. In the nineteen teens in 1920s. Right around this time -- remember this is probation now. Urban street comes up with another innovation that comes over from across the Atlantic. And it's count and -- are now pretty unfounded the restaurant. And -- what's all the balls in Paris. Since the 1890s. Was something called the nightclub. And what was revolutionary in the nightclub and -- it really took hold of 1920s. Is that instead of these sketchy -- male dominated bars and saloons in concert saloons. Nightclubs. Allow women to go and allowed women to go exactly they region entered the space to make it come odious and welcoming to not just women but. Quote and quote decent middle class when you would bring your wife there you would get dressed to the -- you would be proud to go there. It was a hot date. There was an -- of exclusivity that was specially built into the experience there was a doormat. Not everyone could get in there was -- on a coat check there was a barrier. And nightclubs also remember this is that your women's suffrage this is that your in the 1920s the jazz age when dating becomes. A new cultural phenomena this is where you take your data if you word. You know worth. And -- day it was a classic days. And so the first one is called Max seems count on us that's basically across the street from where he set up -- restaurant. This would have been on the 300 block of -- and across the street also from the old maps and house. And and it's -- hit. I remember this is also during prohibition so there's this this clustering of speak DC's and places like this. And -- grand opening if if you want to mark. A date for con of the birth of modern urban street I would argue it was January 13 1926 when vaccines. Opens the -- logical Maxine. Because in 1993 in Paris. The first -- called there was called -- so here we have direct. Influences comment from France. So and so that's done another inflection point just backing up -- -- I wanted to mention an earlier. Seeds planted into this fertile soil and that was the all French opera house this -- generals and 1859 but. It's going right up until it burns down in 1990. You have theater patrons they want something to eat afterwards so you have other seats. -- so into the depression. World War I brought a lot of troops out into the city and it's possible barbs he -- taken off there but that prohibition. It's possible that the Maxine in these clusters would have taken off but and depression and it's. What changes everything the final major inflection point is world for -- Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and its first. People are rightfully distracted ready for a two front war annually in the news that they were going to be right at the crux of it whether Eden either direct. Direction -- going. And it became a port of embarked Haitian. But it actually lent itself suburban street to act absolutely explode. Because you have on hundreds of thousands of troops disembarking from New Orleans. More importantly you have millions of troops training at. Boot camps within a 122 day real road trip including my own uncle from Brooklyn New York. One to two million within. -- -- a couple million. And they would take their rest and relaxation. -- leave and they would come to New Orleans. Here was this preexisting. Locally known but not nationally known cluster of bars. And and -- and clubs and there they went to blow off steam indulge in a little bit -- a world of worries on their mind. And -- listen to World War II veterans memory suburban street. And they have very warm nostalgic. Memories as they do of New Orleans in general it was a happy time it was well it was happy industry it was a happy space for them to escape. From this this traumatic based discount on. The street that you walked down probably many times Bergen street has a fascinating history. And that's or listening to today from Richard Campanella who has written a book called suburban street history. And taking us through its origins. Mouth -- it's really a heyday. With the invention of the nightclub. Where the middle class and classy women could go. And and enjoyed a wonderful evening. And then you have World War II coming in and that brings in tens of thousands not hundreds of thousands of men soldiers who were training throughout the area. Bringing you know probably wonder to them and then and that that those were the days also and beyond. Where there was real burlesque. Corrects and so. What happened to that what why did that end well. I should say that before World War II -- street was locally known as late night club. Cluster but nationally almost utterly unknown. After World War II its national renown and it becomes locally infamous and many for the listeners there who were probably. Aware of the present day. Contentiousness going on emperor and street. So much of this present day. Current events discourse about noise ordinances and NPC pour and and and to what Michael suburbanites temper of the urban bar owners fighting it out in the civic arena. Is really traceable to. 1943444546. I can point -- to articles in the late forty's where. It's almost if they were torn from local headlines so and number one of the recurring themes that you hear. I'm quite literally. Is people saying. It's worse than ever it's it's getting even worse. You hear people in 190 boy it's worse than ever hear people say it's worse than Africa and what's their music is best it's really bid quite stable for. And it's also in this year in the 1940s were -- street starts to earn itself. Enemies and and local hatred. Armed the next twenty years or also viewed. And down so this is from the end of World War II into the -- early 1960s. It is a you know all wild and rambunctious place. A lot of people got hurt there. -- and one of the bad habits. That urban street indulged and arm was called beach drinking. And -- ranking was a scam where an eloquent she is knows where the name came from but essentially around the clubs would hire. Attractive young women again. A sometimes it would dancers sometimes they would just employees there and their job was to. -- kind of cozy up to a single visitor and convention there are a businessman. On sweet talk of strike up a conversation and eventually. Start getting him to purchase extremely overpriced drinks for both of armed to the point that he's getting drunk or drunk he's getting drained of all this money they would be like 200 dollar bottles of champagne in 1950 dollars and eventually he's completely drained. If there's any sort of resistance often times he would be beat up and thrown out in the back Alley was called rolling a mark was the term that that we use of this. And this was ubiquitous. There's also illegal armed. Gambling and slot machines and handbook lotteries. Going on you'll have you know young teenage boys running errands of these. Running the numbers literally from club to club there's in 1954. Investigation. That has told his primary sources where this has recorded. And so Burma she really starts to developed this this sort of nasty reputation you know we have a caller I think -- ending right to that time -- we take Jack from gentility. -- hi how are you. Bill and great value and good. I wanted to ask my question that I'm not mistaken. Didn't Jenn -- and closed down Bourbon Street and I think maybe repeat the ranking. That's perfect Segway because I was just gonna actually ahead of them and our history that we're laying out here. So early 1960s -- we have elected on district attorney garrison. Who I think. Many will agree whatever you think of garrison that he had something of a I'm a crusader persona that he wanted to Foster he want to appeal. To voters as something as a hero and cracking down on urban street was one of his early missions in mattress. And what garrison correctly surmised. Was that he realize that these opulent over the top huge -- last clubs. Could that with huge stats and all the stuff. Could not turn a profit unless there was something else going on. And indeed there was it was to be drinking it was the uncertainties that slot machine that illegal slots it was all list. And he figured out that if you closed down one half of that operation he calls the other. And so he cracked down on -- street -- between 1962 in 1964. And 21 by one they started closing. And so would replace them. Was really the opposite of what garrison was hoping to cleaner -- mystery -- -- accident inadvertently made it worse because what replace them. Were low and tawdry operations that was cheap enough to make a profit without the illegal stuff go and and it's in this era of late 1960s that you start to see the low grade retail and a really low and strip joints rather than I am -- last night clubs. End of the street really hits it's neither. I'm in the late 1960s early seventy's there's something else going on here. Called window hawking can describe that moment but I'll turn it back over to -- -- optical and injected that into your question. Glad you're wonderful to call I appreciate it very much. For Udall thank cute. I. So now we have what we have today. Based on the Jim Garrison decision not quite -- is a couple of other twists and turns here. So what happens after the end to the old burlesque scene in the garrison crackdowns. Is that -- American society's changing once again. Getting all dressed up for a night of burlesque goes out of silos that age of aquarius is it is. And besides that the clubs are closing down anyway. So the people around in the street they don't really wanna go into the few remaining months there so the bark at Barnes in the called tempest -- They're trying to get people outside to come inside to buy a drink. And one of them around 196768. Comes up with a clever idea. Instead of doing that why not take drinks inside and sell them outsized. And they come up with what became known as window hawking -- literally opening up a window and selling to go to X and this is where that with a -- Gold cup comes from. And Iran once starts at another others see it this is gold for them they don't have to pay for air conditioning they could cut down on the staff. The cut down and on just about everything and the pedestrians enjoyed because they don't have to go in and sit down for an over and over priced -- The drinks -- cheaper. And so what happens in this window hawking -- by the way they get legal rights to actually to sail to the windows and doors and alleyways. Is that the action transfers. From the this is the geography and I'm talking about here from the indoor space. Behind the curtains to the outdoor public space. And suburban street the nightly pedestrian Korea at this point such that now people go to Burma street mostly. Two suspected to be expected Tuesday as a suspect to look at the the crowd walking back and forth people watch the action is in the street it's no longer in the clubs. On and so on in the early seventies you have a litter everywhere that largest selling drinks they were selling. Corn dogs and hot dogs and you don't see anymore it was kind of a carnival -- In an environment in in the bad sense of the word. And it hits it's real nadir. Such that. The new mayor Moon Landrieu eventually has to intervene and that's the next chapter. Richard Campanella our guest talking about urban streets a -- has just completed. Called urban street history. And now we have -- -- Who -- looking at the situation saying we need to rectify some stuff right this is 19761977. Everyone knows something has to be done to. Get -- mystery out of the freefall. And so he does with lots of politicians do -- fully formed a task force but he funded it well he got the right people on it most importantly he got. Every conceivable stakeholder involved suburban -- Newton there were no bad guys who have held outside. The bar owners the entertainers the tourists were into needed that this cutting edge. You know surveys to actually processed on a micro computers they called him at the time sophisticated stuff. And the -- street task force came up with a bunch of policy. Interventions including new zoning that allowed all their specific recommendations to go into effect. They dealt with issues of signing -- how to control signage coordinating garbage pick up. And a number of other things. That com that kind of stabilized for urban street it benefited from the 1980s. When there was I'm not even though. This particular area fell into. On oil and gas. Bust the rest of the nation was booming. And so there was new Taurus and coming down here. And there's a new phenomenon among young people of the spring break culture. If you were called it really wasn't such a thing as spring break in the sixties and seventies. And suburban street reinvented itself having been stabilized but the task force interventions. With what I call of a book of BT tropic ability. Theme. An error Earl Bernhardt was one of the founders of this that it it made it in and aligned with the spring break notion of going to the beach -- Fort Lauderdale. On and sober street stabilizes. Whatever you think of urban street today. It's better bottom almost all accounts and what it was in the late sixties and seventies. To the degree that a walked number of mystery today with the exception of -- you know actual venues. Is remarkably similar to what you would have experienced twenty years ago and 25 years ago you have a great quote -- -- -- several times last night and I'm just gonna I don't read -- and I'm going to do it now. You say. Americans on either side of the culture wars hate Bergen street but they hated for entirely different reasons. The right seats at sports commercialization and sent. The left for its commercialization. Of culture. The right hates it because it's dangerous pretending to be safe. The left because it's safe pretending to be dangerous. To write because it's funky and honky -- the left because it's neither. I thought oh my gosh I had fun writing that check back I can tell you today. But it but it is interesting it goes back to how we started this program if the slow -- we had with the street and it. Both reflects this society and the city. And also generates perspectives about have a section in the book called the diffusion of Bergen street. And what I mean by this well I went in I mapped out and identified a 160 places throughout the US and Canada. Restaurants bars that have Bergen street in its name. You don't see this for royal street you don't see this so it's it's the use of free public domain Bryant. That is dispersant itself all over the world to have them in Germany -- Adams -- Japan. That for better or worse. This brand is out there generating curiosity and stigma about the city worldwide. You also say that urban street is authentic. Vs something like Jazz Fest. -- while on I won't beat up on Jazz Fest -- -- -- -- -- -- but I would say you know X essentials philosophers think of authenticity. As the measure the narrowness of the gap between your true innermost self. And what is external Lee produced for external consumption. And what fascinates me about -- street is that GAAP as an animal what you see is what you -- I think give him a Las Vegas has been been called the country's most on the street because of -- on disguised pursuit of profit. And you could think of suburban street as our most on the streets. Because of this the clarity of its deal. Accessible pleasures offered to the public for a price there and it's. And as I walked down yesterday. And actually Saturday night to. You still have the dirty T shirts. With the words -- -- -- you still have the section option still have. Various things the loud music is your right it is what it is. Vs something even though we do love jazz that's and that brings a special element as well. But that is more contrived six well it's more controls its it was invented -- By a single individual man from Massachusetts as opposed to Burgos street which has no inventor. It has you know on the board of directors they. They police in control everything. Every craft vendor has to go through a series of all book reviews every food vendor has to go through you know and what I would call kind of an authenticity -- It's -- it's top down cultural control urban street is bottom up. It is it for me it's okay for -- culture sentences here. The dizzying deafening artifact we -- today originated organically without an inventor or vision or a legislative act. There is no Bergen street logo -- headquarters on board of directors. No visitor center and -- -- not even an official website the nightlife that made the street famous after 200 years of utter normalcy. Was created spontaneously by cast of local characters who -- -- on a coordinated attempt to make a living individually. Succeeded collectively. You a whole wonderful hour on Bourbon Street that's what we've spent with Richard Campanella who is the author of a new book called Bergen street. History and we've talked about the 300 years of that street and the absolute evolution. Of it. So now I'm going to say askew. For the next hundred what can we look for in 400 years when you write that next. I'll be in my seventh he hit a well you know predicting the future in this particular city is is a huge question mark because of this great issue that we all know about of eroding coasts and sinking -- -- rising seas. And so one thing I hope we write about -- is that we would have stabilize that terrible situation. What I think will also write about culturally is that we will view this early twentieth cent 21 century year as something of a golden age. Of a yum. A cultural and economic. Flourishing. But also you know a contentious time -- of where much transformed. In terms of urban street. My bet is that it's going to be from -- -- -- and -- rambunctious as the places. It will -- are remarkably stable. Pattern. Is there's so much turmoil optimal all around. I thank you Richard Campanella again his book by LSU press can -- I found -- Octavia books and probably Barnes & Noble. Thank you again for the delightful hour you're welcome and thank you stay with us everyone we're going to be talking about the Affordable Care Act next.