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This information is pre-Katrina.
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Tremé/ Lafitte Neighborhood Snapshot

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

In the 1800s, Tremé was a prosperous, ethnically diverse community. In the 1960s, the Tremé’s thriving African American business district along Claiborne Avenue was destroyed to make way for the new I-10 interstate loop. With many long-time residents, Tremé is still an incredibly rich community with tremendous cultural roots and an amazing ability to persevere.

Congo Square

New Orleans was one of the few places in the south where enslaved Africans were allowed to congregate. Congo Square, on the edge of the French Quarter in what is now the Tremé neighborhood, was where enslaved Africans gathered to drum, dance and exchange news.

© GNO Community Data Center

  Congo Square with Sidney Bechet's statue in foreground.

Initially known as the “Place de Negroes,” the first reference to gatherings here was in 1729. By the mid 18th century, many enslaved Africans as well as free people of color gathered here to engage in voodoo rites. They also transacted business, selling produce and other goods. With this business income, many enslaved people were able to buy their freedom. Significantly, the fact that people of color (whether enslaved or not) were able to congregate to celebrate African traditions of dancing and drumming meant that African culture was preserved and cultivated in New Orleans. Eventually, it was this culture that provided the foundation for the birth of one of the world’s most beloved musical forms – jazz.

When was the Tremé first developed?

In 1730, Fort St. Ferdinand and Fort St. John were constructed in what is now Tremé. Chevalier Charles de Morand established the city’s first brickyard in the area. The Morand Plantation was bounded roughly by North Rampart, Claiborne Avenue and Bayou Road (Governor Nicholls). By 1780, most of the Morand estate had been acquired by Claude Tremé, who built a plantation on Bayou Road.

The area became more accessible and, therefore, more attractive when the Spanish Governor of Louisiana in 1794 built a canal from the French Quarter to Bayou St. John right through Tremé’s land. By 1810, Tremé had sold off all but about one-third of his land and by 1812 the land was subdivided for development.


© GNO Community Data Center.

  Plaque outside of Saint Augustine Church.  

Ethnically diverse and prosperous

Free persons of color, Caucasian people, and Creoles recently arrived from Haiti purchased the subdivided lots in Tremé. The people of color who resided in Tremé were some of the city’s finest craftsmen, artisans and musicians. The Haitian descendants excelled as teachers, writers, and doctors.

Tremé expanded rapidly and by 1883 there were very few undeveloped lots in the neighborhood. Residents built many double shotgun houses and Creole cottages intermingled with grocery stores and bars. Many French Creoles built larger dwellings along Esplanade Avenue. Proof of the neighborhood’s diversity was the donor list for the construction of St. Augustine’s Church in 1841. This church, the city’s third oldest catholic church, was supported by people of Creole, French, and Spanish descent. The Tremé Market and the Rocheblave Market, two of several public farmers markets that were the backbone of the city’s economy, functioned in Tremé from 1841 to 1911.

Read more aboout Crescent City Farmers Markets

Jazz greats from Tremé

The Tremé neighborhood was home to several early jazz greats including George Lewis, Chris Kelly, Jimmy Noone and Henry Ragas.


Image from (
  Jimmie Noone took clarinet lessons from Lorenzo Tio, Jr. and Sidney Bechet.  

Read more about each of these fabulous musicians from Tremé

George Lewis

George Lewis and his Ragtime Band

Bio of George Lewis by Ice Berg Radio

Music of New Orleans Composers

Jazz, The First Thirty Years

Jimmie Noone

The 1920's - A Golden Age Of Jazz

Original Dixieland Jazz Band

History of Jazz Time Line: 1917

Earl Palmer, born in 1924 and raised in the Tremé, was a world-class drummer who began playing jazz with Dave Bartholomew (opening for Louis Armstrong) and later became one of the most versatile and prolific drummers in Rock N Roll, playing on hundreds of recordings with dozens of artists throughout the last half of the twentieth century.

Read more about Earl Palmer

Smithsonian Institute’s “Backbeat: Earl Palmer’s Story”

Drummer World’s short bio of Earl Palmer

Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs

Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs have been significant in the Tremé, just as they have been in several African American neighborhoods. According to Backstreet Cultural Museum founder Sylvester Francis, "The Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs are ... like a social safety net. That’s what the aid part means. A member pays dues each month, and could even borrow against it, with some clubs. If times were hard they were your social safety net. But unlike today's welfare, that net had a very real limit. It was important to get on your feet again as quickly as possible ... The S&P Clubs are also known as the keepers of the second line tradition. The second line is a unique dance performed to the beat of New Orleans’ traditional jazz. Like the Mardi Gras Indians, each year club members make a new suit and host their annual second line parade.” At Mr. Francis’ Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Tremé, one can find photos and regalia of jazz funerals, Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, and second lines. "I call it the Backstreet Cultural Museum because that where the culture comes from…the back streets of New Orleans," says Mr. Francis.

Read more about S&P Clubs

Social Aid and Pleasure Club Organizations in New Orleans


Image © Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club
Permission for use has been requested.

  Detail from the cover of the 2001 Zulu Official Souvenir book.  

Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Inc

One of the more famous S&P Clubs in New Orleans, the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s activities are focused on the Tremé neighborhood. The Zulu Krewe began parading and handing out their signature coconuts on Mardi Gras in 1910. Shortly after World War II, the Zulus were the first krewe to have a celebrity as king – the world famous jazz musician, Louis Armstrong. When Mr. Armstrong appeared in Time Magazine shortly thereafter, the nation’s attention was refocused on New Orleans and its Mardi Gras celebrations.

But until the mid-1950s, all African Americans were prohibited from participating in official Mardi Gras celebrations on St. Charles and Canal streets. So, the Krewe of Zulu, brass bands, and Mardi Gras Indians paraded along the beautiful tree-lined neutral ground on Claiborne Avenue through the heart of the Tremé. The Krewe of Zulu would stop at neighborhood bars, bringing along hundreds of patrons -- much to the delight of the establishments’ owners.

The Coconut bill

In 1987, due to liability, the Krewe of Zulu stopped throwing coconuts. But in 1988, the Louisiana state legislature passes “the coconut bill” which excludes the Zulu coconut from liability as long as it is handed and not thrown.

In 1968, the Zulu parade was finally allowed to roll on St. Charles and Canal (perhaps due to the city’s destruction of the Claiborne neutral ground). Today the Krewe of Zulu plays a major role in the annual Mardi Gras celebration. The Zulu King meets King of Rex on Lundi Gras, and on Mardi Gras Day Zulu is the first parade to roll with 30 floats and numerous bands. The Zulu coconut is now one of the most coveted “throws” of the season.

Unlike other Mardi Gras Krewes, the Zulu Club is open to all races and ethnicities, and many of New Orleans’ most prominent citizens are members. The Zulu Club remains a community-based service organization, raising funds and making charitable donations.

Read more about the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club

Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club from Mardi Gras New

Rebirth Brass Band and Joe's Cozy Corner


Photo by Donn Young Joe’s Cozy Corner. Permission for use has been requested.
  Joe 'Papa Joe' Glaspe" is the owner of Joe's Cozy Corner  

ReBirth, one of the most renowned brass bands in the city, considers Tremé and particularly Joe’s Cozy Corner its birthplace. According to ReBirth member Phil Frazier:

“ReBirth started off as a school project in 1983, when I was 17. Kermit Ruffins, my brother Keith Frazier, we were all in a marching band at Joseph S. Clark High School in the Sixth Ward [Tremé], and I was asked to get a little brass band or something together to come perform at a hotel. Rap was the new, hottest thing out, but I played the tuba and I was an instrument guy. We was hip to rap but at that time, brass band thing was the coolest thing. Everyday you hear about 'second line,' you see brass bands, you see the tuba, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band...and I was just goin wid it, you know, just comin' up off the music."

The Official Rebirth Brass Band web site

More destruction of property than in any other part of town

Image courtesy New Orleans Public Library ( Permission for reuse required

"The Tremé Market. Located on the neutral ground of Orleans Avenue between Marais and North Robertson Streets" [LA Division's Contact Print Collection.]  

The city has visited upon the Tremé neighborhood a number of demolition and construction projects – supposedly in the name of benefiting the larger community. Although some of these projects have had some benefit, they have wreaked havoc on what was once a very prosperous New Orleans neighborhood.

By the 1930s, the Tremé Market (the fourth largest public market in the city) was demolished and the Municipal Auditorium was built.

In 1941, the Lafitte 896-unit housing development was completed. Lafitte was to house African American tenants while the nearby Iberville development accommodated Caucasian tenants.

The cumulative effect of these changes made the Tremé neighborhood less attractive and by 1949, many of the large homes along Esplanade Avenue had been sold and converted to multi-family rental units. What was originally a prosperous neighborhood had become a predominantly low-rent neighborhood. Some houses could not be rented at all, and property was abandoned and became blighted.

A little history of Armstrong Park

When the idea of developing a cultural center for the City of New Orleans was conceived, Tremé, which was by then considered a somewhat blighted area, was targeted for rehabilitation. In the 1960s, nine square blocks of historic houses were leveled to make way for The Theatre of the Performing Arts and eventually Louis Armstrong Park. Two historic jazz sites, Economy Hall and the Gypsy Tea Room, were leveled as well.

Letters to the Editor at the Times Picayune re: the history of Armstrong Park:

Former mayor corrects Armstrong Park history a letter by former mayor Moon Landrieu.

Another recollection of Armstrong Park history James Hayes of the Greater Treme Consortium responds to Mr. Landrieu's letter


Image courtesy New Orleans Public Library ( Permission for reuse required

  "The oaks on North Claiborne Avenue, August 1966, before they were destroyed to make way for Interstate 10 and the surrounding neighborhood was irrevocably changed." [LA Photograph Collection. Municipal Government Collection; Department of Streets Series]

The final blow to the neighborhood was the clearing of the quadruple rows of live oak trees from the neutral ground of Claiborne Avenue to make way for the Interstate-10 Expressway in the late 1960s.

A May 2002 article in the Times-Picayune quotes a resident who recalls the days before I-10:

Of the changes along the Treme end of the avenue since the 19th century, none has been more devastating than the cutting down of the oaks on the neutral ground in the mid-1960s to erect the interstate ramp, resident and community activist Jerome Smith said. "It took something out of the spirit" of the neighborhood, he said.

The shady promenade ran for blocks down the center of the avenue and was a place where "people embraced each other in the daily rituals of life," Smith, 63, said. "The old ladies would come out here and stretch their curtains. . . . When Joe Lewis was fighting, the men would be out here on the backs of their trucks, and our Mardi Gras was here."

Pillar murals portray vibrant Treme of past: Project splashes color onto bruised avenue Overpass cast shadow over N.O. community

I-10, of course, further diminished the desirability of the neighborhood, generating even more abandoned properties. More important, perhaps, was the fact that Claiborne Avenue had been considered one of the most prosperous African American business districts in the country. The irony of destroying this area in order to facilitate access to the suburbs is not lost on residents.

Tremé community organizes

In the 1970s, the community realized they must organize to combat the problems the city had rained on them. The Tremé Community Improvement Association was formed in 1969 and its members physically cleaned up the neighborhood and were instrumental in getting the city to build the Tremé Community Center. The Tamborine and Fan Social Club formed in 1980 to encourage people to return to the Tremé to celebrate Mardi Gras. The Greater Tremé Consortium was founded in 1993 to renovate abandoned and blighted properties, assist residents who want to become homeowners, and increase economic development in the community.

Read more about these organizations:

Ronald Chisom was Co-founder and Associate Director of the Tremé Community Improvement Association

Greater Tremé Consortium

Civil Rights Connection – A day in New Orleans

Dooky Chase Restaurant

Image © Permission for use has been requested.
  Leah Chase.  

Another prominent New Orleans activist is Leah Chase, proprietor of the Dooky Chase restaurant in Tremé. Mrs. Chase cooked for civil rights workers when they weren’t allowed into other restaurants in the 50s and 60s. More recently she has served on the boards of directors of many local nonprofit organizations.

Among other awards, she has received a series of honors from the NAACP, the Outstanding Woman Award from the National Council of Negro Women, and she was pictured among 75 women, including Oprah Winfrey and Lena Horne in the traveling exhibit for "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America." She is also an award-winning chef and has published several cookbooks.

Short interview with Ms. Chase from Global Gourmet

A sampling of Tremé today


© GNO Community Data Center
  Armstrong Park.  

Faubourg Tremé is now part of the National Register of Historic Places. The African American Museum of Art, Culture and History is located in Tremé and is dedicated to preserving the lives, history, and communities of New Orleans. The Museum initiated the "Restore the Oaks Project" painting murals on the columns under I-10.

The St. Augustine Church is host to the annual Tremé Fest. The Tremé Voice is a newspaper published to serve neighborhood residents. The New Orleans Job Initiative is a particularly innovative work force development organization located in Tremé. Perseverance Hall, the oldest Masonic Temple in Louisiana (circa 1820) – at one time a neighborhood civic center and popular dance hall where many jazz bands flourished – today is restored and part of Armstrong Park.

The headquarters of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation is located here. Mahalia Jackson Performing Arts Center (formerly The Theatre of the Performing Arts) is the site of many cultural events including plays, operas, concerts and ballets. The resident council of the Lafitte development has opened the Sojourner Truth Community Center to provide a place for senior citizens’ activities, and the Lafitte development itself is slated for substantial revitalization. The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) plans to spend $30,000 per unit to upgrade kitchens, bathrooms and balconies throughout the development.

Read more about these Tremé institutions

African American Museum of Art, Culture and History

Tremé Fest

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation Headquarters

New Orleans Job Initiative at Annie E.Casey's web site (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Lafitte housing development at HANO

Claiborne Avenue today

Perhaps in commemoration of this once beautiful strip of New Orleans, the Mardi Gras Indians still gather on Claiborne Avenue beneath the I-10 overpass on Mardi Gras day. And throughout the year second lines from the Tremé and the 7th Ward commit a portion of their parading to the resonant cement surroundings of the Claiborne street overpass.

Community organizations are actively planting trees throughout the Tremé neighborhood and artists are painting the cold cement pilings that support the roaring interstate overhead. Some cement pilings are being painted with trees, and other murals that "will depict people, places and events that have defined the area's soul." Project organizer and artist Richard Thomas was quoted in the Time-Picayune as saying:

"We are hoping that the project is creating awareness and keeping hope alive that something will happen" to help restore the economy in Treme, Thomas said. "When the trees were taken away, there were studies done that the city paid for . . . but those things never happened. This project is bringing attention to the neglect and the disenfranchisement of people. . . . Artists have a responsibility to be the shaman, the healers, the bearers of consciousness."

Additional sources:

New Orleans Jazz National Historic Parks

Evil Wind: Hurricanes in South Louisiana

New Orleans Mardi Gras History & Timeline

Brief bio of Master Chef Leah Chase

1999 Land Use Plan New Orleans City Planning Commission

Greater Tremé Consortium. (n.d.). Retrieved 04/23/02, from

Neighborhood Profiles Project Document prepared by the City of New Orleans Office of Policy Planning and the City Planning Commission. Published December 1980. Study available at the Williams Research Center (non-circulating collection).

Babcock, Jay. "Read to Blow." Rap Pages. July 1999.

Dawson, Faith. “Neighborhood Watching.” New Orleans Magazine. Jan 1996, pp.80-83.

Carll, Angela. “Tremé: full of housing bargains.” The Times-Picayune.

For more information:

The stories that history tells us: Afro-Créole literature from 19th Century Louisiana

New Orleans Public Library’s exhibit on People of Color in history

Relocate New Orleans description of Tremé

Preservation Resource Center’s description of Esplanade Ridge covers the Tremé

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

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Last modified: April 27, 2005