On May 5, 1885 a group of civic-minded African American residents of the village of Mandeville, led by the late Olivia Eunio, created the Dew Drop Social and Benevolent Association.
A decade later the organization laid a cornerstone and in 1895 constructed a small wooden building on Lamarque Street in what is now called Old Mandevillee, 3 1/2 blocks north of the north shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain.
The Association, like many created among African American residents following the end of the Civil War, had chiefly benevolent goals — to care for the sick with food and attention; to provide help in funeral arrangements; to provide food for needy and temporary housing — all during a period of time when black residents could not obtain various types of insurance.
The hall on Lamarque Street, unpainted and nestled in a grove of ancient live oaks and elegant in its remarkable endurance and legacy, is now considered the world’s oldest virtually unaltered rural jazz dance hall. If only old buildings and old live oak trees could talk. While that may border on cliche, it is certainly true for the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall built in 1895, the same year that historians agree that traditional American jazz was being invented across Lake Pontchartrain in New Oerleans.
By the turn of the century inventive young musicians who are now considered icons in the historic development of this unique New Orleans musical gift to the world, were making their way by steamer boat to Mandeville to play on the small stage of the Dew Drop.
If the old walls of the building and the old stage could speak, along with the graceful ancient live oaks around the building, they all would likely tell of the times that Kid Ory, Bunk Johson, Buddy Petit, Louis Armstrong and so many others made beautiful music well into the long and starry nights in Mandeville and the faithful gathered to listen and to dance the night away.
Many who attend now attest to feeling spirits of former jazz greats who played in the building at the turn of the century and, with the large shutters thrown open and fans sitting on ancient church pew like wooden benches with a spirited jazz band crammed onto the small stage, it is easy to let oneself be transported in time back to the early years of America’s most enduring cultural gift to the world — traditional New Orleans jazz.
Saturday, 10/23 Tuba Skinny 3-4, Big Daddy O' New Revue 4-6
Saturday, 11/20 Amp'D 3-4, Anais St. John 4-6
Saturday, 12/18 Tijonne Reyes 3-4, Smooth Family 4-6
The Dew Drop Jazz Hall is located in the middle of the 400 block of Lamarque Street in Old Mandeville, 3 1/2 blocks from the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.