NEW ORLEANS – A storied New Orleans jazz site where a young Louis Armstrong once worked toppled when Ida blew through Louisiana as one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the U.S.
The Karnofsky Tailor Shop, where a Jewish family employed Armstrong, collapsed Sunday during the storm. Armstrong would play a small tin horn as he worked on the coal and junk wagons, according to the National Park Service.
The business opened downtown in 1913 and had a residence above it where the late jazz legend would often eat meals. The family, who provided Armstrong a “second home,” lent him money to buy his first cornet.
“Louis said it was the Karnofskys that instilled the love of singing in his heart,” jazz historian and retired photojournalist John McCusker said, according to WWL-TV.
Morris Karnofsky, the family’s son and Armstrong’s childhood friend, opened the city’s first jazz record shop on that same street, according to the park service. Armstrong would visit Morris Music when he returned to New Orleans after moving away.
A cluster of other sites that were integral to jazz’s early history in the city were also situated on South Rampart Street.
In 2019, a real estate firm that specializes in historic preservation was under contract to restore a part of the block that included the Karnofsky shop, The Times Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. The company’s CEO floated the idea of repurposing the building as a nightclub or jazz lounge.
But when daylight came Monday morning, all that was left was a pile of bricks and other remnants of the historic site.