Historic Dew Drop Dance Hall, Mandeville Louisiana

"New Orleans Jazz" did not first develop and thrive only within the city limits. In the early decades of the music's development, musicians (both individually and in bands) flowed both ways from the city to numerous small and medium sized towns in the surrounding area.
Mandeville Louisiana is a town on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, to the north of New Orleans. Regular ferry boat service connected the town with New Orleans. Bands played on the boats and in dancehalls in Mandeville and nearby towns.
The Dew Drop Dance Hall in Mandeville Louisiana is a rare historic surviving example of an old style dance hall of the late 1800s/early1900s in almost pristine condition. It was built in January of 1895 (by the Dew Drop Social Aid & Pleasure Society, founded a decade earlier). The structure held regular dances up til the early 1930s. For over half a century afterwards, it was used for nothing but storage and was not modified in any way.
Artists such as Bunk Johnson, Buddy Petit, Papa Celestin, George Lewis. Kid Ory, Edmond Hall, Chester Zardis and others played here.

Front of the Dew Drop, Mandeville

The Dew Drop Hall is a simple structure. It is raised on brick piers (common to protect from periodic floods in the era before better drainage and flood protection levees). It is a plain rectangular cypress wood building, without electricity or indoor plumbing. The front and back each have a doorway; the sides a row of windows. The windows have no glass nor screens, only simple wooden shutters that can be opened or closed.

Dew Drop from the side

The interior is a single-room, mostly an open floor for dancing, with plain benches along the sides of the walls. In the back is the typical old-style raised bandstand.

Interior view

These photographs were taken 18 April, 2000. The event was a special concert in honor of the re-opening of the dance hall as a protected historical landmark. The band consisted of (from left to right) Barry Martyn, drums; Wendell Eugene, trombone; Greg Stafford, trumpet; Dr. Micheal White, clarinet; Gerry Adams, string bass; Bill Huntington, banjo.
The band played in the old style, almost all ensemble. There was no electronic amplification since of course none is needed. Microphones were present, but only to record the music. Electricity for lights and cameras for filming the event was run in with long extention cords. Folding chairs were set up in most of the interior since unlike in the old days more people sit and listen than dance to the music.

Greg Stafford and Dr. Michael White

Notice intact details such as decorative painting, and pegs for the musicians to hang their hats.

City of Mandeville's Dew Drop Page

Jazzology sells a video of the fine performance pictured here, "Dance @ The Dew Drop", and a cd on the GHB label, BCD401.

Buddy Petit page
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Page date: 21 March 2001
Last modified: 7 June 2001
2001 froggy@neosoft.com