Visiting The 100 Men Hall On The Mississippi Blues Trail

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A uncommon gem of the Mississippi Blues Path sits proudly at 303 Union Avenue in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. 

About 58 miles from New Orleans by automobile, Bay St. Louis hosted among the most excellent blues performers as they traveled alongside the Mississippi Blues Path. The performers performed small venues often known as the “Chitlin Circuit” up and down the coast after World Conflict II. The Circuit was a community of African American golf equipment with acts booked out of New Orleans, and The 100 Men Hall was a type of locations.

It nearly didn’t survive when Hurricane Katrina, by then a class 3 storm, bore down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. The constructing sustained unbelievable harm and was scheduled to be razed. Fortunately, two civic-minded individuals, Kerry White and Jesse Loya, stepped in to buy the construction in 2006.

Word: I visited Bay St. Louis as a visitor of Coastal Mississippi; all opinions are my very own.

As you drive onto Union Avenue, you possibly can see the marker erected in 2011 proudly proclaiming its Mississippi Blues Trail standing. The plaque explains, “It was a very long time heart of African American social life in 1922.” Over time, the 100 Males Corridor held occasions for members. There have been weddings, child showers, dances, and funerals held contained in the historic partitions. Corridor leaders rented it out to music promoters, accumulating cash on the door for the acts and receiving some in return for the group. That’s when the greats stepped by way of the doorways. 

100 Men Hall in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Jeanine Consoli

It began as a fraternal group in 1894. Twelve males pooled their cash to assist one another and their households with illness, burials, and to “knit friendship.” In keeping with their constitution, they could host a celebration or a picnic to lift funds to replenish the treasury. There was no constructing, however when land by the railroad tracks got here up on the market in 1921, Joseph Curry bought the plot at 303 Union Avenue on behalf of the Corridor. At first, they put up a easy picnic pavilion, a roof to supply shade and safety from the climate. In 1922, with pooled assets and labor, the cornerstone was laid, and the constructing’s dedication occurred in 1923.

In 2018 Rachel Dangermond, alongside along with her son Constantin (Tin), purchased the Corridor from the Loyas. She was the proper subsequent guardian, and she or he named Tin the a hundred and first man. The award-winning journalist and group activist who writes about race and parenting labored with group leaders in New Orleans and the Obama White Home program on policing. She hosted writing workshops earlier than she stepped into the constructing. She purchased it, moved in, and instantly wrote a grant to collect data to create a history of the Corridor from native residents known as the “100 Males Corridor Individuals Challenge.” 

Constantin and Rachel Dangermond.
Dangermond and her son Constantin (Picture Credit score: Jeanine Consoli)

Her mission was to make the 100 Males Corridor a nonprofit group heart for everybody. She instantly threw her first occasion, “A Honky Tonkin Afternoon,” a celebration that included meals, music, and visible arts. Sadly, the pandemic stalled a lot of her different plans, and hurricane Zeta broken the Corridor and shed in October of 2020. However the group stepped in to assist. The constructing, steeped in American Blues historical past, is a can’t-miss. Listed here are some causes to take a look at the 100 Males Corridor.

Mural by Wendo and JoLean at the 100 Men Hall.
Jeanine Consoli

1. Go to A Mississippi Blues Path Shrine

The Blues Path marker by the entrance door of the 100 Men Hall and the colourful mural alongside the surface of the constructing inform the story. The musicians and singers who performed right here have been a part of the African American resilience on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Visual artists Wendo and JoLean created the visible storyboard with grants from the Puffin Basis and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Nationwide Heritage Space. The mural contains likenesses of native musician Harry Fairconnetue, Guitar Bo, Etta James, and others. 

It’s the Corridor’s historical past. One step inside, and you are feeling it. A blackboard lists all of the performers who graced the stage, together with BB King, Chuck Berry, Etta James, James Brown, Ray Charles, and extra. Regardless that the construction’s been restored since Katrina, the straightforward room appears lots prefer it did again when the Chitlin Circuit musicians performed. Posters of musicians adorn the partitions. There’s a prep kitchen within the again for events, a bar up entrance, and the straightforward stage is about up simply ready for Etta to belt out the enduring first two phrases of her well-known tune, “At Final.”

The stage Inside the 100 Men Hall.
Jeanine Consoli

2. Get pleasure from An Occasion In The Historic Venue

Throughout the pandemic, a couple of exhibits passed off open air on the huge garden that runs alongside the constructing. The occasions have been terrific and well-attended. Tables on the property and meals catered by native cooks provided nice eats to attendees. Ticket gross sales supported the Corridor and the performers, identical to the outdated days. Internet hosting gatherings for the general public was a part of the attraction for Rachel to buy the property within the first place. 

“I beloved the concept of fostering music or thought exchanges and needed to transform the shed on the property to make it a inexperienced room, an area for artists in residence,” she says. The concept of the Tin Shed Project was born. 

The shed was transformed into a cushty residing area the place a musician or speaker may chill out. After which give a chat or musical efficiency on the deck or head into the historic 4,500-square-foot corridor and carry out onstage. Indoor packages gained’t happen till the annual Labor Day Booker Fest this yr. (James Booker, often known as the piano wizard of New Orleans, lived along with his aunt in Bay St. Louis, the place he began to play piano early in his childhood.)

A number of events will kick off an unbelievable summer time outdoors, with extra to return. For the reason that mission is to help the group, there are at all times multi-cultural occasions across the holidays, writing workshops, and different festivals on the town, the place the Corridor will host gatherings. Rachel is collaborating with artists to have fun the Corridor’s a centesimal birthday.  

Photos of participants In the 100 Men People Project.
Jeanine Consoli

3. Lease A Piece Of Historical past For Your Particular Day

In the event you love blues or adore historic locations, you may wish to have a celebration or particular occasion on the 100 Males Corridor. Individuals have deliberate their weddings on the venue as a result of the sound system works with both a stay band or DJ, and 100 years of people that floated alongside the dance flooring’s boards. The garden is giant, and the Tin Shed is a superb place to prepare or have a ceremony on the deck or on the historic stage. Rachel Dangermond can also be an ordained minister who officiates weddings. The events on the 100 Males Corridor are legendary — actually. It’s simply the vibe of the place that makes it additional particular. Test the website for particulars. 

As I stood on the entrance porch this spring, I seen the Bay St. Louis Historic Train Depot two blocks away. I couldn’t assist considering {that a} practice hadn’t pulled in because the devastating hurricane in 2005. I additionally thought of all of the storms the constructing and the individuals of Bay St. Louis endured over time. However Amtrak plans to renew rail service from New Orleans to Cellular with a cease in Bay St. Louis (and different stops on the coast) beginning in 2022. With Rachel Dangermond as the brand new guardian of this treasured landmark, pleasure is rising as a result of group programming will proceed. 

The pandemic halted many occasions, however the future appears brilliant, as live shows are poised to renew. Everybody agrees the famed inside has been silent for too lengthy.

Professional Tip

Bay St. Louis is charming and value staying for a couple of days to discover. It will get scorching through the summer time, with July and August being the most well liked time of the yr. If you go, keep on the Pearl Hotel, a stunning boutique property proper on Seaside Boulevard. There are implausible outlets and great restaurants in town.

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