Basin Street
Gateway To Storyville

Basin Street parallels Rampart Street one block inland from the boundary of the French Quarter, running from Canal Street down 5 blocks past Saint Louis Cemetery.

It then turns lakewards, flowing into Orleans Avenue. The name comes from the turning basin of the Carondolet Canal formerly located on the street, where it now turns on to Orleans by the Municipal Auditorium.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, railroad tracks paralleled the Canal and then turned on to Basin Street, running up the "neutral ground" (as street medians are called locally) to one of the city's main railroad depots on Canal Street.

From the 1890s, through World War I, the back side of Basin Street was the front of the Storyville red light district, with a line of high end saloons and mansions devoted to prostitution.


In 1892, Tom Anderson opened his first restaurant at No. 12 N. Rampart St. By 1900, this restaurant, advertised in the November, 1900, issue of The Southern Buck, was only one of a number saloons and restaurants owned or partially owned by Anderson in the infamous red light district. The Arlington Cafe (not to be confused with Anderson's Arlington Annex or with the brothel operated by madam Josie Arlington) was not a "house of ill repute," despite the suggestive images and language of the ad, but it was surely patronized by those who visited Storyville for something more than a good meal.

Entertainment offered a direct contrast to that provided in the cribs which were bare one-room affairs that abutted on the sidewalk, and contained nothing more than a bed, a table, and a chair. There were from twenty to thirty cribs in a single block ancient structures with a common roof and low-hanging eaves. The barest of them, however, brought a rental of at least seventy-five dollars a month. But whatever the crib sections lacked in quality and distinctiveness, they more than made up for in volume, boisterousness, and Joie De Vivre.

Establishments in Storyville ranged from cheap "cribs," rooms furnished with little more than a mattress where low-priced prostitutes turned tricks, through more expensive houses up to a row of elegant mansions along Basin Street for well-heeled customers. The District was adjacent to one of the main train stations where travelers arrived in the city and became a noted attraction for many visitors.

The women were not permitted to leave the house, so they solicited vocally from behind doorways and window blinds. Those who went to see caught glimpses of beckoning hands and chalk-white faces in the poorly illumined rooms along the row. Some cribs outshone others by the variety and arrangement of red light bulbs that glowed in their interiors, but for the most part they presented a striking uniformity in every respect. Eventually in some sections restrictions as to color disappeared, and whites and blacks and all the possible variations were to be found in the same block.

Basin Street — Customhouse (name changed to Iberville, 1904)
209-211 Basin Street
1895-1900 under management of Flo Meeker. 1900, passed to Hilma Burt. Building was property of Tom Anderson. 1911, Gertrude Dix managed until the District closed in 1917.

213-215 Basin Street
"French House" from pre-Storyville days to the closing of the District in 1917. Occupants were reputed to sit by windows miming the act of fellatio using their thumbs. Prior to 1897, the octoroon Florence Mantley was in charge; she was succeeded by Yvonne LeRoy, then by Marguerite Angell, followed by Bertha Golden who remained in charge until 1907; then Diana Ray & Norma moved in and kept the establishment running until Storyville closed. It is said the "window mimes" continued their performances for all incoming visitors.

217 Basin Street
Antonia Gonzales occupied this address from 1895 to 1900.She was followed by Gertie Sanford, Marie Denis, & Lizzie Smith respectively. Under Lizzie Smith it was known as the Little Annex which was the smallest house in the two blocks of Basin Street.

221 Basin Street
Nellie McDowell, 1894-1900; Ollie Nichols, 1900-1907; Minnie White, 1907-1917.

223 Basin Street
Until 1907, Grace Simpson (first president of Madam's Benevolent Society), followed by Jessie Brown's uninterupted occupancy for 17 years.

225 Basin Street
Tom Anderson had this building constructed in 1897, for his lady-love Josie (Lobrano) Arlington (nee Mary Deubler of New Orleans). She had previously operated for some years at 172 Customhouse Street. This rococo mansion was the talk of the District. Following her retirement in 1909, Anna Casey was landlady with Gertrude Dix as administrator.

227-229 Basin Street
Pearl Knight's house was located here until 1900. Gabrielle Michinard was madam until (about 1904), followed by Martha Clark until 1917.

235 Basin Street
Mahogany Hall belonged to Lulu White, as well as the saloon next door. She operated her establishment until Storyville closed. This was the last Storyville landmark to be demolished in 1949.

307 Basin Street
Jeanette LeFebre, and afterwards Frances Gilbert. Expept for briefly (approx. 1915) when this location was operated by Rose Stein.

311 Basin Street
It is speculated that Lulu White occupied this location while awaiting the construction of Mahogany Hall. 1897 (when Lulu White moved into Mahogany Hall), Pauline Avery moved in. Ella Schwartz ran the establishment from (about) 1902-1914; followed by Bertha Weinthal until Storyville closed.

313 Basin Street
Dorothy Denning was madam here in the 1880s. (she also ran a house at 132 Burgundy Street.) Lottie fisher was in residence during pre-Storyville days until (about) 1904. Lillian Irwin operated the establishment for the following years of Storyville's existence.
315 Basin Street
Built approximately 1909 on property previously owned by Willie Piazza, May Spencer was the only occupant.

317 Basin Street
Willie V. Piazza occupied this address throughout Storyville's existence. It is believed the house was used as a bordello before 1897 under the leadership of Caretha Lopez, and briefly by Mamie Cristine.

319 Basin Street
Willie V. Piazza was here until 317 Basin Street was ready for occupancy. When she moved out, Paulette Brian (until 1905), followed by Camile Turner (1905-1917).

321 Basin Street
Occupants were Egypt Vanita (approx. 1903), Violet Caddie (1906), Olga Lodi until 1917.

325 Basin Street
Annie Ferris was in charge until 1906, then Vivian Bonnaville until Storyville closed.

327 Basin Street
Rose Stein was involved in several ventures during Storyville's heydey. She maintained this tiny house throughout that time.

331, 333, 335 Basin Street
This was a huge three-and-half-story, double building. In square footage, the largest in New Orleans' history up to that time. Most famously known as Emma Johnson's French Studio. The early days of Storyville found this establishment too large for one occupant to manage, so it was partitioned mid-way, with Ella Schwartz and Emma Johnson in No. 331. Marcel Nado was in No. 335. Emma Johnson was able to take over the whole building by 1905 (until 1917), thanks to her "sex circuses" and extreme bawdy activities.

341 Basin Street
Julia Dean operated this location until 1895. Tillie Thurman, until 1904, Eunice Deering, 1904-1910. Willie Barrera until 1917.

158 Customhouse (Iberville)
Hattie Hamilton
Street name changed to Iberville in 1904.
(Hattie also operated the 21 South Basin Street establishment, and 184 Customhouse late 1870s.)

166 Customhouse (Iberville)
Lulu White's first address of business in the District. Jessie Brown also was madam here.

1535 Customhouse (Iberville)
A huge four-story house, with multiple galleries on the corner of Villere. It's notorious history dated to 1863, when Kate Townsend was in residence, before she opened her house in 40 Basin Street. Notable madams were Antonia Gonzales and Gypsy Shaeffer (Gipsy Shafer).

171 Customhouse (1547 Iberville)
The Phoenix (from 1893) was owned by Fannie Lambert.This was a large double building, and May O'Brien (on the other side) was in charge of the whole following Fannie's death (1904).

172 Customhouse (1546 Iberville)
Original location of Josie Arlington.

Customhouse Street
104- L. Mansfield
117- Eleonora Baquie
126- Tillie Stephens
128- Dew Drop Inn
130- E. Smithy
137- Lou St. Claire
139- Nettie Garbright
141- Annie Lee
155- Bon Ton Saloon
157- Frankie Belmont
158- Hattie Hamilton
166- Lulu White
167- Millie Christian
  (Mamie Cristine)
168- Hattie Jacobs
169- Fannie Wright
  (and Eva Kelly)
171- Fannie Lambert
172- Josie Arlington
184- Hattie Hamilton
186- Madame Batiste
227- Nellie Haley
229- Marcelle Moreau
270- Kitty Reed
380- Mrs. Bagnetto
939- Julia Dean
940- Ollie Russell
1016- Carter's
1022- Grace Simpson
1025- Flo Meeker
1033- Josephine Claire
1208- Lou Lockwood
1310- Sabena Weinblat
1315- Emma Berger
1402- Miss Jennie
1405- Fanny Bloom
1407- Flossie Smith
1420- Maud Flower
1504- Bertha Golden
1506- Ida Bernstein
  Florence Romaine
1510- Ada Hayes
1511- Miss Martha
1517- Ray Owens
1535- Antonia Gonzales
  Gipsy Shafer
  Alice Heard
  Effie Dudley
  Julia Elliott
1537- Cora DeWitt
1538- Mary Smith
1539- Bessie Cummings
1542- Jessie Brown
  Miss Archie Clark
1545- Alice Williams
1547- Fanny Lambert
1549- Camille Lewis
  Nina Jackson
  Margaret Bradford
1561- Hattie White
1567- Sadie Plummer
Bienville Street

810- Fanny Gold
811- Lola Roig
814- Midget Ashley
824- Dora Green
829- Rosie Blanchard
830- (unsure)
832- Lena Friedman
833- Laura Miller
912- Helen Mitchell
916- Mannie Smith
920- Annie Miller
928- (unsure)
930- Bessie Montgomery
1002- Anna Cahn
1018- Rosie Delaire
1210- Annie Martinez
1308- Alice Mitchell
1318- Harriet Holland
1404- Alice Gold
1410- Annie West
1412- Mattie Soner
1418- Anna Howard
1545- Cora Young
1551- Lou Prout
1632- Maud David
Conti Street

50- Mrs. Kronower
1304- Edna Hamilton
1306- Ray Owens
  Gipsy Shafer
1310- Louise Dreyfus
1320- Annie Blessing
  Mrs. Barton
  May Evans
  Frances Morris
1405- Lillie O'Deall
1414- Gipsy Shafer
1418- Nina Jackson
1548- Garne Runiart
1550- Maud Livingston
1554- Clara Henderson
1558- Alice Thompson
1571- Sophie Shields
Names are known Madams (listed in Blue Book advertisements). No "resident working girls" are listed. These establishments were prior to the 1897 Ordinance establishing the Storyville District. Following 1897, most were divided into double occupancy. The Blue Book then included "special ladies" of the establishments. The side buildings and slave quarters were converted into 'cribs'. The 1910 census showed the sixty addresses on Iberville had become beyond 160. (No additional structures having been erected.)

Prior to Storyville Ordinance of 1897

South Basin St.

Mary Brooks
Minnie and Emma Griffen
Leila Barton
Hattie Strauss
Fannie Wright
Kittie Reed
Clara's House
121-Kate Townsend
     Elk's Lodge
     See:    Mansions
Mollie Johnson
Lou Prout
Minnie Ha Ha
Josephine Lileen
Annie Reed
Kitty Johnson
Fannie Sweet

North Franklin St.

May Redmond
May Evans
Snooks Randella
Evelyn Carroll
Jean Carlton

South Franklin St.

Bessie LeMothe
McCarty's Ranch
Mathilda Smith

North Liberty St.

Margie White
Josie Friedman

Marais St.

Annie Ross
Lizzie Springer
Estelle Holander
Annie Merritt

Villere St.

Florence Leslie

North Robertson St.

Cora Issacs

Burgundy St.

Abbie Reed
Mattie Smith
Eva Brown
Gertie Livingston

Dauphine St.

Blanche DuMurrier
Nellie Gaspar

St. Louis St.

E. Smith
Nettie Dean
May Tuckerman
Lou Jackson

North Rampart St.

Mary Seibel
Alice Edwards
Irene Gaston
Please forgive typos-misspellings on my part; this information is from old Blue Books, Maps.


From dance halls and saloons came the jangling of pianos and the shuffling sounds of dancers. Dice games were always in progress. Gruff voices of men and high-pitched tones of women intermingled in argument or laughter. Drunks who had spent or lost all their money were shoved away from one place after another until a policeman took them into custody. Finally, in the small hours of the morning, the last visitor made his rounds of the houses; the rent collector, who would listen to no excuse and whose business methods were ruthless.

On the heels of much persistent vice-crusading by Miss Jean Gordon and other civic leaders for the suppression of the restricted district, came a request from Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson, urging, as a war measure, the large cities of the nation to curb all forms of vice. A local ordinance therefore closed the district officially on October 10, 1917. The red-light district never regained its pre-war legal status.

After Storyville's closure, Basin Street was temporarily renamed North Saratoga (although the historic name was returned some 20 years later).

Basin Street formerly continued on the other side of Canal Street to Commons Street, today known as Elk's Place, which after 2 blocks becomes Loyola Avenue on the upper side of Commons. The equivalent street paralleling Rampart one block back on the other side of Louis Armstrong Park in the Treme neighborhood is Saint Claude.

Basin Street was commemorated in the Basin Street Blues composed by Spencer Williams in 1926 and recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1929.


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Storyville New Orleans Red-Light District

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