The United States established a federal mint here at 400 Esplanade Avenue on March 3, 1835, and its location holds a prominent place in New Orleans history. The New Orleans Mint operated from 1838 until January 26, 1861, when Louisiana seceded from the United States. The mint briefly was used to coin confederate coins and later used by the federal government as an assay office and prison.
Since 1966, the mint has been operated by the Louisiana State Museum as the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The collection housed here is considered the most extensive assortment of instruments played by jazz stars in the world. The New Orleans Jazz Museum’s mission is to preserve and celebrate the history of jazz. Through its interactive exhibits, educational programs, research facilities, and performance space, the world can appreciate and experience the musical art form that draws them to New Orleans.
Bordering the New Orleans Jazz Museum, across from the French Market stalls, lies the street French Market Place. With such a torrid past preceding it, the name changed from its former name, Gallatin Street. The infamous Gallatin Street District helped inspire the creation of Storyville as a way to contain the vice and disreputable activities that festered here. The Port of Missing Men, one of many unflattering nicknames of Gallatin Street, flourished as a red-light district from about 1840 to 1875. In New Orleans and other cities, wherever one found prostitution and vice, there was music. Pre jazz dance music served as the backdrop in this two-block area known for its gambling rooms, cockfighting pits, brothels, dancehalls, saloons, narcotics trafficking, and sometimes violent crime. Gallatin Street District will forever be immortal through clarinetist Johnny Wiggs’ composition, Gallatin Street Grind.
On the opposite side of the New Orleans Jazz Museum lies the beginning of Frenchman Street, known to locals as a live music haven for its diverse cluster of clubs featuring jazz, blues, Latin, and funk. Live jazz on Frenchman Street and other clubs throughout New Orleans emphasize how the music is a living and breathing art form that continues to evolve.