The City's Original Auditorium
|The Atheneaum, between between 1896 and 1905
|The Young Men's Hebrew Association was formed in 1891 and, in 1896, the organization
constructed the first building known as the Athenaeum, on St. Charles Avenue at Clio
Street. It was the scene of many civic and cultural events, including Rex, Comus and
many other Carnival balls. The first Athenaeum was destroyed by fire in 1905; it was
rebuilt in 1907 and the second building remained until 1937, when it, also, burned. The
Atheneaum was such an important location in the cultural and social life of the city that
it has been referred to as the city's original auditorium.
|The day after the first Atheneaum was destroyed by fire, 1905
The Historic American Buildings Survey was conducted in the 1930's. Below is an excerpt
from the survey's description of the Atheneaum, ca. 1935:
"The Atheneaum has seen the parade of Carnival kings and queens, the celebrities of the
French Opera, philharmonic concerts, lectures and club conventions in the years since it was
constructed in 1907. The Atheneaum was the city's original auditorium, and there was no
better place in New Orleans for Carnival Balls to reign in a riot of color, a profusion of
masks and a depth of balloons.
"The new Municipal Auditorium has lured away the one time glory of the Atheneaum. Rex,
King of the Carnival, is the last monarch to spirit away his krewe and the ball of 1936 will
mark the beginning of courts held in a location other than the Atheneaum.
"When the French Opera House burned, the season was finished in the Atheneaum without
loss of prestige or enchantment. The operas were as charming in the Atheneaum as in the
French Opera House.
"The Atheneaum's auditorium is no longer rented out, compensation no longer being
commiserate with the expenses involved. The Y.M.H.A. and other Jewish organizations are
practically its exclusive users.
"The Atheneaum's gymnasium still hosts many athletic events. It has been the site of
the N. O. Amateur Athletic Union's championship meets, as well as, events of the N.O.
Athletic Club, the Knights of Columbus, Kingsley House, Loyola and the Y.M.C.A."
|This photo was taken on the day of the groundbreaking ceremonies for
the new Jerusalem Temple, in 1916, across Clio Street from the
Atheneaum. The Atheneaum can be seen in the background.
|The Atheneaum (Jerusalem Temple on right), 1920's