Historic New Orleans Jazz Site The Karnofsky Shop Destroyed By Hurricane Ida
Hurricane Ida, billed as potentially the strongest hurricane to hit New Orleans since the 1850s, made landfall over the weekend, bringing destruction and at least one death in its wake. The storm also demolished an important building in the history of New Orleans jazz. As 4WWL reports, the former Karnofsky Shop, located at 427 S Rampart St., was reduced to rubble by the storm. The building was central to Louis Armstrong’s musical development and later became the city’s first jazz record shop. It was on the National Register of Historic Places and was on the same block as other historic jazz sites such as the Little Gem Saloon, the Iroquois Theater, and the Eagle Saloon.
According to A Closer Walk New Orleans, the building first opened as a tailor shop in 1913 with an apartment upstairs housing the the Karnofskys, a Jewish immigrant family who owned the building. The Karnofskys hired Armstrong to work on their junk and coal wagons and sometimes had him over for dinner. They also loaned him the money to buy his first cornet. “Louis said it was the Karnofskys who instilled the love of singing in his heart,” jazz historian John McCusker told 4WWL. “The family would feed him and they’d eat dinner together, and then they would sing to get the children to sleep.” McCusker speculates that the yiddish lullabies may have informed Armstrong’s approach to scat. The family’s son, Morris Karnofsky, later opened the instrument shop Morris Music down the street. The Karnofskys later turned their tailor shop into New Orleans’ first jazz record shop.
The building sat vacant when it was destroyed. According to the Times-Picayune, there have been various efforts to revive the property, most recently in 2019 when the Cleveland-based GBX Group went into contract to restore it, possibly as a nightclub.