Another piece of New Orleans’ rich jazz history has collapsed.
The building where the great musician Louis Armstrong spent much of his childhood is no longer standing after Hurricane Ida hit the city. The name of 427 South Rampart Street was Karnofsky Shop, after the family who lived there.
The 1910s building was in disarray before the storm and collapsed to rubble as Ida pounded southern Louisiana, killing at least two people. The store was listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its disproportionate impact on Armstrong’s musical life.
The Karnofsky Tailor Shop, a historically significant site for the birth of jazz, collapsed during Hurricane Ida last night. The PRC has a preservation easement on the brick structure from around 1910 in the 400 block of South Rampart Street, and we were … https://t.co/lLxaMiCVJ8 pic.twitter.com/NFT9wHmHgH
– RPC New Orleans (@PRCNO) August 30, 2021
The building’s influence on jazz history is linked to the Jewish family who lived there and encouraged a young Armstrong to take up music. NPR’s Andrew Limbong has the story on Morning edition.
A working relationship that has become a lasting friendship
The building was owned by the Karnofsky family, who hired Armstrong at the age of 7 to help them with their scrap and coal business. During the day Armstrong helped pick up trash and at night he delivered coal to prostitutes around New Orleans. Between work hours, Armstrong had dinner with the family and later recalled how formative their connection had been for him.
The Karnofsky family encouraged him to pursue music, told him he was talented and would sing Russian lullabies with him.
Morris Karnofsky was a childhood friend of Armstrong, and one day the two saw a tarnished B Flat cone in a pawn shop window. Morris advanced him some money to help him buy the little cone – Armstrong’s first – and after cleaning it, Morris asked for a song.
“Although I couldn’t play a good tune, Morris still applauded me, which made me feel great,” Armstrong recalls in 1969.
While Armstrong found the warmth and comfort of family – he also saw through them how Jews were discriminated against in America.
“When I reached the age of eleven, I began to realize that it was the Jewish family that instilled in me the song of the heart. They encourage me to continue,” Armstrong wrote to the same. era.
Although the Karnofsky store did not last, the friendship between Armstrong and the family did.
Morris Karnofsky then opened Morris Music, the first jazz record store in New Orleans, and when in town Armstrong stopped by to see his childhood friend.
This story originally appeared on the Morning edition live blog.