Good Hope Hall

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300 Stewart

Prominent among the standing Freetown-Port Rico resources linked to local African American experience and having obvious connections to Good Hope Sanitarium is Good Hope Hall (300 Stewart Street). Originally constructed in 1902, at its current location on the corner of Gordon and Stewart, it is located on lot 361 of the Mouton Addition, on property inherited by Mathilde Mouton directly from the succession of Alexandre Mouton.14 This hall was built by the True Friends Mutual Benevolent Association, formed during the 1880s. Such organizations attempted to provide medical and funeral benefits, and other forms of mutual assistance before the days of insurance and welfare programs. In Freetown and Lafayette, the Good Hope Association carried forth the benevolent goals of the True Friends. The Good Hope Hall was also very much known as a dance venue where popular bands would perform. The argument has been made that benevolent organizations did not merely provide venues for jazz, but were indeed greatly responsible for the growth of this influential African American art.15 Such halls were also typically sites of Civil Rights organizing and activities in Louisiana. The 1912 Sanborn map shows this as a two-story establishment offering gambling and a saloon on the first floor with a dance hall on the second floor. By 1921, billiards and pool occupied the first floor with the hall and stage on the second. From 1928 after, it was identified simply as “Lodge Hall (Colored)”. The building may have been replaced between 1940 and 1949 


EN Good Hope Hall

Formerly part of the “Île Copal” plantation belonging to Jean Mouton, the subdivision registered as the Mouton Addition became known as Freetown, and had a heterogeneous mixture of lower- and middle-class Free Men of Color and Caucasians before the Civil War and the 1860’s.

This building housed the True Friends Society which was formed after the Civil War to band against the terror of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Riders of the White Camellia. Later the Society was no longer needed for safety of the local population and the group shifted from a goal of mutual defense to one of public welfare, attending to the sick, planning celebrations and tending to the social agendas of the African-American community. The True Friends Society built the Good Hope Hall as a Community center for their neighborhood.

In the 1920s and during the Great Depression of the 30s, the Good Hope Hall became one of the great jazz halls of America where outstanding but mostly unknown traveling musicians of the time would play: Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Ethel Waters, and many others.  Week after week, they graced the stage of the hall week after week to entertain the thriving community.

After World War II, the building sat dormant for a time before being used as a Catholic Church in the 50’s, a barber shop  and it became a wedding hall then was purchased and resold many times to area businessmen before becoming the law office of Glenn Armentor in 1981.


Good Hope Hall 1880

The intersection of Stewart and Gordon Streets where Good Hope Hall is located served as an important nexus for the African American Community of the Freetown-Port Rico Historic District. It was surrounded by African American businesses and the homes of prominent African American residents and was a public venue for gathering. Principal investigators for the historic resources survey of the neighborhood were told that a weekly public street supper, open to all people and races, was sponsored by African American leaders at the corner of Stewart and Gordon. This supper continued into the 21st Century, though it has now discontinued.16 This intersection also served as the start of the parade of Lafayette’s first official organized African-American Mardi Gras krewe. In 1956, the Daily Advertiser reported the “the Negro Carnival Association” would have a parade beginning at the corner of Stewart and Gordon and proceeding on Gordon to Oak (now Jefferson) and on from there. Significantly, the organization chose for the assumed identities of its monarchs, Toussaint L’Ouverture, infamous leader of the eighteenth slave revolt in Saint Dominique (Haiti), and his wife Suzanne Simonné.


Hotter Than Me, from Louis Armstrong