I am opening a restaurant in the West End Marina and want to find a name suitable for the location. Is there a Web site or reference books that chronicle the history of this area from its early days as a resort to what it has become today?
A great deal of information about West End is available in the Louisiana Collection of the New Orleans Public Library at 219 Loyola Ave. There you will find many smart, helpful librarians who really know about New Orleans and its history.
In addition, the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center has a cool Web site where you can find out lots of information about your neighborhood or anybody else's -- as well as every parish in a 10-parish area.
The area once belonged to the Capuchin priests who sold their holdings to the very wealthy Don Almonester y Roxas when the Spanish were in charge.
West End was first called New Lake End so as not to confuse it with Old Lake End, also known as Milneburg. It was first used as a port for vessels planning to travel on the New Basin Canal, built in the 1830s and in use for about 120 years. The most recognizable landmarks are the New Basin Lighthouse and the Southern Yacht Club, which built its first clubhouse in 1880.
The area grew into a popular resort where Louis Armstrong played and Joe Oliver was inspired to write "West End Blues."
West End is a wonderful place for a restaurant, and there have been many there we remember well and miss.
Do you have any information on the Athenaeum Hall in New Orleans where the National American Suffrage Association held its annual convention in 1903 hosted by the Era Club? Where was it located? What did it look like? How many people did it hold? What happened to it?
One of the handsomest buildings constructed in 1896 in New Orleans was the three-story Athenaeum Hall on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Clio Street. The Young Men's Hebrew Association spared no expense or pains in the construction of their magnificent new home.
The ground floor measured 78 feet on St. Charles Avenue and 128 feet on Clio Street. It was made of brick, finished in cement with terracotta and capped with a metal cornice. The architecture was Italian Renaissance.
The main entrance led through a marble vestibule into a large reception hall. On the ground floor were a parlor, a library, a chess and checkers room, a billiard room big enough for three billiard and three pool tables, a committee room, a smoking and lounging room, and a lodge room with a public entrance that could seat 150 people. There were also the usual store rooms, lavatories and bathing apartments.
At the top of the very wide stairway was a foyer, which adjoined a ballroom that was about 54 by 98 feet, exclusive of the stage, which was 26 feet across. Attached to the stage was a green room and separate dressing rooms for ladies and gentlemen.
There were many other rooms too numerous to mention, but on the third floor was a banquet hall that was about 30 by 50 feet and could seat 300 people. And, of course, there were kitchen and serving rooms.
It was in this fine building that the Era Club sponsored the convention in December 1903. Lecturing at the Athenaeum was the Rev. Anna Howard Shaw who spoke to an appreciative audience of mostly women -- as you might imagine -- about the need for equality for women. It was our own Kate Gordon, sister of Jean, who had founded the Era Club -- Era stood for "equal rights association" -- in 1896 to work for women's suffrage.
A little over a year later, in January 1905, there was a terrible fire. The beautiful Athenaeum burned to the ground. But the Young Men's Hebrew Association was not daunted, and another building replaced the first in 1907. For many years after, the new Athenaeum was used for Mardi Gras balls.