A worthy resurrection: Mandeville is home to the oldest surviving jazz hall in the world

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MANDEVILLE, La. (WGNO) - Nestled away on the banks of Mandeville is a small, unassuming wooden structure that's included in the registry for National Historic Places.

The Dew Drop is the oldest surviving jazz hall in the world.

"It was a magnet place for the beginnings of jazz," says Jacqueline "Jinx" Vidrine, who bought the Dew Drop in 1993 and helped to bring the historic building back to life.

Every Friday during Black History Month, WGNO will be sharing stories from the past.

The Dew Drop opened in 1885 thanks to a group of black residents led by Olivia Eunio. The hall was opened as a place for social events that would benefit the community.

Dew Drop historic jazz hall

Dew Drop historic jazz hall

It just so happened that jazz was born in New Orleans the very same year.

Soon after, news spread that there was a hip new place across Lake Pontchartrain.

"The white people who came over on the ships could hear the music, and they all started coming up towards the road because it was such a new sound," Vidrine said.

The early giants of jazz all found a home on the stage of the Dew Drop Inn, including Buddie Petit, Kid Ory and the legendary Louis Armstrong, whose aunt and uncle lived down the street from the booming jazz venue.

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong

One sad day in the 1940s, the Dew Drop closed its doors.

Fast forward to 50 years later, and Vidrine, a local businesswoman, was considering purchasing the plot of land on which the Dew Drop stood.

"When he showed me this corner stone, I knew we had a treasure," she recalled.

In 1993, Vidrine purchased the Dew Drop in hopes that the city of Mandeville would want it restored to its original glory.

"They didn't want it," Vidrine explained.

So Vidrine took her offer to New Orleans and asked officials if they were interested in owning the oldest jazz hall in the world. They excitedly said yes, but when Mandeville found out that New Orleans was interested, the city of Mandeville had a change of heart.

Support for restoring the Dew Drop mounted, and in 2000, jazz music returned to the historic site.