In 1938, the Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton sat down at the Library of Congress with folklorist Alan Lomax to record his memories and experiences in Jazz and old New Orleans. He matter-of-factly noted that “everybody in the city of New Orleans was always organization-minded,” referring to the scores of social and benevolent societies which existed in the city. These organizations, often formed around a common religious, occupational, neighborhood, or social bond, and offered both tangible and intangible benefits, such as medical care and prescriptions.
Among the more popular of these societies in the first two or three decades of the last century were the Bulls, Lions, Autocrat, and San Jacinto Clubs. The San Jacinto Social and Pleasure Club was organized on 16 August 1903 and incorporated on 7 November 1905. On that day, twenty-eight men appeared before attorney and notary Robert Legier to have the articles of incorporation drawn up for their new organization. The first officers were Walter R. Dubuclet, President; Edward Bringier, First Vice-President; Charles Stanbery; Second Vice-President; George DeGruy, Recording Secretary; Michel R. Roudez, Financial Secretary; and A. B. Caillioux, Treasurer.
The new club took its name from a legendary and decisive 1836 victory for the Texian Army in the Texas War of Independence.
The men first gathered at 925 North Villere Street, before acquiring the property at 1422 Dumaine Street, where San Jacinto Hall would exist until 1957. In April 1922, a major remodeling project at a projected cost of $5,000.00 was announced by club president Warren Edwards. A growing club with over one thousand members, larger and more comfortable quarters were needed. Work on the remodeled two-story clubhouse was overseen by architect Frank P. Farrell and led by builder Paul Broyard. Both of these men hailed from the very community which surrounded the San Jacinto Club. The refurbished clubhouse was dedicated with much fanfare on 3 September 1922.
The San Jacinto Club was always in use. The clubrooms were used by members for general relaxation and discussion, for . The club was the sight of many very popular prize fights during those years when pugilistic exhibitions were commonplace. Perhaps the San Jacinto Club was and is best known as the site of countless dances and socials. Many of the early Jazz greats played for these affairs. In the 1940s and 1950s, several legendary recording sessions were held in the San Jacinto Hall. Among the greats to play there were Sidney Desvignes, Bunk Johnson, George Lewis, Peter Bocage, Louis Nelson, Earl Fouche, Don Albert, and Baby Dodds.
San Jacinto Hall was destroyed in a fire on 9 January 1967. Two conscientious firemen saved the cornerstones of the building, which were donated to the New Orleans Jazz Club.
Sources: (New Orleans) Item 6 April 1922, p. 18; Item 9 April 1922, p. 16; Chicago Defender 4 Nov. 1922: 13, col. 1; Pittsburgh Courier Jul 21, 1928 p. A3; photo of San Jacinto Club, courtesy of Amistad Research Center.
Jari C. Honora