The birthplace of jazz icons Buddy Bolden and Professor Longhair and home to the world famous Dew Drop Inn and a bustling commercial corridor where Blacks were welcomed to shop, the neighborhood surrounding what was formerly known as Dryades Street was at the heart of the city’s Civil Rights movement. A main Central City thoroughfare, Dryades was once the hub of an ethnically diverse business district served by five streetcar lines.
Then, in the 1970s, like so many inner city neighborhoods, the commercial corridor suffered from disinvestment, poverty and a lack of economic opportunity.
In the 1980s, Dryades was renamed to honor Oretha Castle Haley, a leader in the local Civil Rights movement. As a founding member and one time president of the New Orleans CORE chapter, she challenged segregated facilities, fought for economic equity, promoted voter registration and, later in her career, advocated for better healthcare for Black New Orleanians.
With its new name, the street had quite a reputation to live up to. Thanks to a grassroots commitment to revitalization from private, public and numerous non-profit community stakeholders led by investor-anchors Cafe Reconcile and the Ashe Cultural Arts Center, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City is now a dining, shopping and cultural destination once again.
The boulevard is home to a slew of exciting ventures, including Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market.
The changes that have happened along Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in the last few years demonstrate revitalization at its best.