In the new movie “Bolden,” there is a scene where Louis Armstrong performs at a place in New Orleans called Suburban Gardens. Since some of the movie is fictional, I wondered if that was a real place. If so where was it located?
Suburban Gardens opened in 1919 in the manor house of the former Whitehall sugar plantation at what now is River Road and Central Avenue in Old Jefferson. The roadhouse offered food, music and dancing as well as gambling and alcohol, which often got its owner Mark Boasberg, aka “Jack Sheehan,” into trouble with the law. In 1928, the club moved to Labarre Road and Jefferson Highway.
When Louis Armstrong played a three-month engagement at Suburban Gardens in the summer of 1931, it marked the first time he performed in his hometown since moving to Chicago in 1922. “I did not know whether they had forgotten about me in all the time I’d been away,” Armstrong wrote in his 1936 book “Swing That Music.” Instead, fans packed Canal Street to welcome him and his band when they arrived by train.
Sculptor Lin Emery created a statue of deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, which was dedicated in 1971 to honor the former mayor and statesman who died in a plane crash in 1964.
Since the Suburban Gardens club was segregated, an African-American crowd gathered along the levee, hoping to hear the music through the open windows. As depicted in “Bolden,” a radio announcer refused to announce Armstrong on the air during a live broadcast because of his race. Armstrong wrote that he did his own announcing the rest of the night. “That other announcer? They threw him out the same night. … Ain’t that something?”
While Lee Circle, named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, dates to 1877, Robert E. Lee Boulevard was a more recent change.
In 1945, the Suburban Gardens became the Beverly Country Club, a popular dinner club and casino whose owners included organized crime figures Frank Costello, “Dandy Phil” Kastel, Meyer Lansky and Carlos Marcello. Different owners reopened the club as The Beverly in 1967, operating it as a dinner theater until 1983, when a fire forced its closure.