Today in New Orleans History

May 30

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The Municipal Auditorium Dedication
May 30, 1930
Photo from the Louisiana Digital Library

From the New Orleans Public Library:

On November 30, 1926, property tax payers of New Orleans voted to approve the sale of $2,000,000 in public improvement bonds to fund the construction of a “Municipal Auditorium or Convention Hall.” A few months later, the Commission Council adopted ordinance 9472 CCS (January 12, 1927) establishing the Municipal Auditorium Commission, which was charged with identifying the site for the construction, architects and engineers to design and construct the building, furnishings. The commission was also to administer and oversee the operations of the auditorium, once it opened.

The Commission was comprised of 9 members (required to be qualified voters and property tax payers) appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the Commission Council. The membership was increased in 1950 to 11 members. The mayor himself also served ex-officio. The members served terms of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 years (10 and 11, after 1950) without compensation, with the Mayor designating the term of each member and naming the Chairman.

The Commission was authorized to appoint officers, create committees as necessary, and to establish whatever rules and regulations it needed in order to conduct its business. It was also authorized to “select and employ such necessary persons to carry out the purposes for which it [was] created.”

The Commission met quarterly, but meetings could be held at any time on the written request of any three members or on the call of the Chairman or mayor. It was also to make quarterly reports to the Mayor and Council concerning its activities and its future recommendations.

The Municipal Auditorium was formally turned over to the City of New Orleans on January 15, 1930 and was dedicated on May 30, 1930. The building hosted Mardi Gras balls and graduations for local schools and universities. as well as conferences, conventions, expositions, radio shows, and a wide range of sporting events including roller derby, ice skating shows, wrestling shows, circuses and gymnastic competitions.

The Municipal Auditorium Commission ceased to exist with the passage of the Home Rule Charter on May 1, 1954. Its functions were more or less continued by the Municpal Auditorium Advisory Board, which, after December 1955, became the Municipal Auditorium Advisory Committee. Over the next decade or so, the Advisory Committee's responsibilities and influence seems to have gradually diminished, and the Auditorium, for all practical purposes, came to be managed by the Department of Property Management through a Managing Director. It is not clear exactly when the Advisory Committee ceased to exist finally, but it may have been during the mid-late 1960's, when development of the Cultural Center began.

From Wiki:

The Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr. Municipal Auditorium is a 7,853-seat multi-purpose arena in New Orleans, Louisiana, and a component of the New Orleans Cultural Center, alongside the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts. It is located in the Tremé neighborhood in Louis Armstrong Park near Congo Square.

It was constructed by the contractor George A. Caldwell, who also designed nine buildings on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge and three parish courthouses. 

It hosted the New Orleans Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association in 1969 and 1970 and also hosted the New Orleans Jazz basketball team, during its inaugural 1974-1975 season, before the team moved to the Louisiana Superdome. The arena was also home ice to the minor-league hockey franchise, the New Orleans Brass, from 1997 to 1999, before they moved into the New Orleans Arena. It has also hosted boxing and professional wrestling matches.

The venue was a temporary casino before the new Harrah's New Orleans building on Canal Street was opened.

In August 2005 the auditorium suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina and associated flooding. Future usage of the arena is currently uncertain.

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Photo -- Two newly delivered 750 gallon per minute pumping engines from the FWD Corporation of Clintonville, Wisconsin, May 30, 1961.

Photo -- Moon Landrieu, New Orleans Pelican Manager Jimmy Brown, and Larry Lassalle at NORD’s city-wide baseball clinic, Pelican Stadium. A photograph very similar to this one appeared in the Times-Picayune on May 30, 1948, labeled “NORD ‘Graduates’ at Clinic.” Long before he was Mayor of New Orleans, Moon Landrieu was a star pitcher in the recreation program and for Jesuit High School. Larry Lasalle played for S. J. Peters and later spent five seasons with various minor league clubs. Both were on the Times-Picayune’s All-Prep Team in 1948. (NOPL)

According to Buddy Stall "Nine years before the Ballte of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson dueled with a pistol -- defending his wife Rachel’s good name. Charles Dickenson, a man of great distinction, slandered Rachel’s good name in public. He also had the reputation of being one of the best pistol shots in the entire country. This fact did not deter Jackson one iota. Upon learning of what Dickenson had said, he, with great conviction, demanded that Dickenson make a public apology. If he did not, he would have to meet Jackson on the field of honor. Dickenson gladly accepted Jackson’s challenge. Dickenson was somewhat perplexed when he learned Jackson selected pistols as his choice of weapons for the duel. The day prior to the event, Dickenson demonstrated his skill with a pistol by firing four rapid shots at a distance of 24 feet. All four shots landed in a space the size of a silver dollar.  When the two men met on the morning of May 30, 1806, Jackson seemed perfectly calm and confident. The arrangements agreed on by the seconds were that pistols were to be held pointed downward until the signal to fire was given. At that point, each man was to fire at his pleasure. As soon as the signal was given, Dickenson slowly raised his pistol, took careful aim and fired. Jackson’s second noticed a puff of dust flew from the breast of Jackson’s coat. As he gritted his teeth, he raised his left arm and pressed it tightly across his chest. The general stood firm, as if he were anchored to the ground. Dickenson cried out in astonishment, “Great God, have I missed him?” Jackson took careful aim and fired. Dickenson staggered and fell to the ground, mortally wounded. When Jackson’s second came closer to the general, he saw that Jackson had been struck in the chest. The bullet had broken two ribs and had gone completely through his body. His shoes were both filled with blood.  Jackson told his second, “I was determined to kill him. Had the bullet gone through my heart, I was still confident I would live long enough to fire and kill him.”  Years after the encounter, an authority on dueling who witnessed the event claimed something seemed peculiar when the two men arrived at the scene. Jackson was dressed in a loose-fitting gown or coat so that his antagonist could not really tell the exact location of his body within his coat.  Dickenson aimed right, and if Jackson’s body had been where Dickenson supposed it was, the bullet certainly would have passed through Jackson’s heart. Andrew Jackson outsmarted his adversary. He did the same thing at the Battle of New Orleans when he faced another enemy that had twice as many in its ranks and much more firepower."

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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