Ill-famed denizen of irrational behavior, a wide open, large area of pleasure places, cat houses, and honky-tonks, twenty-four hours round the clock–– all in the direct center of the commercial business district."
The Mysterious Monsieur Bellocq
Basin Street was the scarlet thread through New Orleans, the principal artery of the red-light district, for almost a half-century.
All illegal (but highly profitable) activities were moved into a restricted district along Basin Street, next door to the French Quarter. Quickly nicknamed Storyville, the district boasted fancy "sporting palaces" with elaborate decor, musical entertainment, and a wide variety of ladies of pleasure. Visitors and residents could purchase a directory (the Blue Book) that listed alphabetically the names, addresses, and races of more than 700 prostitutes, ranging from those in the "palaces" to the poorer inhabitants of wretched, decaying shacks (called "cribs") on the blocks behind Basin Street. Black musicians like Jelly Roll Morton played the earliest form of jazz in some of Basin Street's ornate bordellos. Although jazz predates Storyville, here it gained popularity before moving upriver and into record collections everywhere. When the secretary of the navy decreed in 1917 that armed forces should not be exposed to so much open vice, Storyville closed down and disappeared without a trace. None of the fancy sporting houses remain.
You ever been in New Orleans? If not you'd better go.
It's a nation of a queer place; day and night a show!
Frenchmen, Spaniards, West Indians, Creoles, Mustees,
Yankees, Kentuckians, Tennesseans, lawyers and trustees,
Ships, arks, steamboats, robbers, pirates, alligators,
Assassins, gamblers, drunkards, and cotton speculators;
Sailors, soldiers, pretty girls, and ugly fortune-tellers;
Pimps, imps, shrimps, and all sorts of dirty fellows;
A progeny of all colors and infernal motley crew;
Yellow fever in February — muddy streets all the year;
Many things to hope for, and a devilish sight to fear!
Gold and silver bullion, United States bank notes,
Horse-racers, cock-fighters, and beggars without coats,
Snapping-turtles, sugar, sugar-houses, water-snakes,
Molasses, flour, whiskey, tobacco, corn and johnny-cakes,
Beef, cattle, hogs, pork, turkeys, Kentucky rifles,
Lumber, boards, apples, cotton, and many other trifles.
Butter, cheese, onions, wild beasts in wooden cages,
Barbers, waiters, draymen, with the highest sort of wages.
This was written more than a hundred years ago, when New Orleans had already passed its first century mark, by one Colonel Creecy, a man of parts and of gusto.Early 1800's