Dew Drop Social & Benevolent Jazz Hall
A rural jazz hall in the early twentieth century, the Dew Drop Social & Benevolent Jazz Hall experienced a revival in the early twenty-first century.
Built in 1895 during the decade New Orleans cornet player Buddy Bolden set the foundation for jazz music, the Dew Drop Social & Benevolent Jazz Hall in Mandeville is believed to be the oldest rural jazz hall in its original condition. Started as a meeting place for the Dew Drop Social and Benevolent Association, the hall marked its 125th anniversary in 2020.
On May 5, 1885, the African American community in St. Tammany Parish founded the Dew Drop Social and Benevolent Association. During an era when Black people were denied insurance, the association assisted with funeral expenses and provided food, shelter, and medical care to those in need. A decade after the association’s founding, it built a small wooden structure on Lamarque Street to house meetings as well as community gatherings, parties, and other functions. The building soon became a Saturday night music venue featuring jazz music pioneers. In the early 1900s musicians traveled via steamboat from New Orleans to Mandeville, a burgeoning resort on Lake Ponchartrain. Louis Armstrong, the most famous jazz artist of the twentieth century, performed at the hall before his move to Chicago in 1922. Other performers included Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, Buddie Petit, Buddy Mandalay, Papa Celestin, Sam Morgan, and George Lewis.
After presenting jazz for decades, the Dew Drop Hall ended its first era as a music venue about 1940. The Dew Drop Social and Benevolent Association eventually disbanded, and the hall stayed vacant for decades.
In 2000 businesswoman Jacqueline Vidrine donated the Dew Drop Hall to Mandeville and sold the land it stands on to the city. That year the National Park Service New Orleans Jazz Commission and George Buck Foundation, in cooperation with the City of Mandeville, sponsored the first jazz performance at the Dew Drop Hall in about sixty years.
In 2006 some members of the Mandeville City Council formed the nonprofit Friends of the Dew Drop. The organization staged three jazz concerts at the Dew Drop Hall in late 2007, and now presents six concerts each spring and fall. The hall’s spring 2023 concert included blues artist Chris Thomas King and J. Monqué D and jazz groups the Shannon Powell All Star Band and New Orleans Jazz Vipers.
The hall accommodates one hundred people, and hundreds more can listen from the surrounding grounds.