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June 24, 2022

18 Amazing Vintage Photographs of Bourbon Street, New Orleans in 1957

Whether or not you’ve been to New Orleans, the party and food capital of Louisiana and perhaps the U.S., you’ve probably heard of Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is a historic street in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans. Extending thirteen blocks from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue, Bourbon Street is famous for its many bars and strip clubs.

The French claimed Louisiana in the 1690s, and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville was appointed Director General in charge of developing a colony in the territory. He founded New Orleans in 1718. In 1721, the royal engineer Adrien de Pauger designed the city’s street layout. He named the streets after French royal houses and Catholic saints. He paid homage to France’s ruling family, the House of Bourbon, with the naming of Bourbon Street.

The French Quarter was central to this image of cultural legacy and became the best-known part of the city. Recent arrivals in New Orleans criticized the perceived loose morals of the Creoles, a perception that drew many travelers to New Orleans to drink, gamble and visit the city’s brothels, beginning in the 1880s.

Bourbon Street was a premier residential area prior to 1900. This changed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the Storyville red-light district was constructed on Basin Street adjacent to the French Quarter. The area became known for prostitution, gambling and vaudeville acts. Jazz is said to have developed here, with artists such as King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton providing musical entertainment at the brothels.

Before World War II, the French Quarter was emerging as a major asset to the city’s economy. While there was an interest in historic districts at the time, developers pressured to modernize the city. Simultaneously, with the wartime influx of people, property owners opened adult-centered nightclubs to capitalize on the city’s risqué image. Wartime Bourbon Street was memorably depicted in Erle Stanley Gardner’s detective novel “Owls Don’t Blink”. After the war, Bourbon Street became the new Storyville in terms of reputation. By the 1940s and 1950s, nightclubs lined Bourbon Street. Over 50 different burlesque shows, striptease acts and exotic dancers could be found.



















(Photos by Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)




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