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The Storyville ordinance created a single red-light district in a city long famous for prostitution. Storyville, named somewhat mockingly after the author of the ordinance, Councilman Sidney Story, became internationally known as a haven for sex, vice, and the new music known as jazz. The 1897 law limited prostitution to the area bounded by N. Basin, Customhouse (now Iberville), N. Robertson, and St. Louis streets. Ostensibly in the “back o’ town” this mixed-race, working-class neighborhood bordered on both the French Quarter and the Central Business District, making Storyville much more central than, perhaps, its founders anticipated.
The original ordinance, 13032, was passed in January, 1897, and slated to go into effect that October. It did not include St. Louis Street or the three square blocks between Perdido, Franklin, Gravier, and Locust streets, known as the “uptown” or “black” Storyville. When the City Council amended the ordinance in July, 1897, (13485) resident and factory owner George L’Hote sued the city. He claimed that his neighborhood was then and always had been respectable. Whenever prostitutes set up shop, he claimed, L’Hote himself notified the authorities to have them removed. The lawsuit delayed the official opening of Storyville until 1898, but construction of new houses of prostitution began immediately. Wood from L’Hote’s lumber factory helped build some of Storyville’s most luxurious bordellos.
[Orleans Parish Civil District Court. L’Hote v. City of New Orleans, docket #54533]