On a sleepy stretch at Loyola and Third in the heart of Central City amid a myriad of churches (some with an active congregation, some not so much), there sits a veritable historic housing preservationist’s dream, a 19th Century relic in what would otherwise appear to might have been a corner grocery or barroom. But not so fast, judges of book by covers! Look closer at the empirical data and ask some of the older area locals, and this hiding-in-plain-sight wood frame structure was by all accounts (or those willing to provide accounts) once upon a time a place unequivocally identified as the neighborhood brothel, dba The Dream Boat Inn.
But you won’t find these notations on any Jane’s Walk, the PRC or even a stitch of info into what was likely a widely known secret and operated like any other business, with business cards, inventory, policies and procedures et al. Just ask one of the building’s newest owners Jackson Flanagan. Jackson and her business partner Jeff Kerby are Kerby & Company and in recently taking over the space for storage and makeshift shop Jackson says the story began to tell itself.
After we had the building under contract, we had our plumber, Glen, over to check out the place. He pointed to the ceiling where you can see the outline of where the walls used to be and grinned as he said, “What do you think that’s all about?” Jeff looked at Glen and replied, “Well, I think we both know what a bunch of small rooms in the back of a bar room means.” So there was speculation. Then when we met Mr. Ripple, the previous owner, he confirmed our suspicions. We were told it had been in operation into the ’70′s when the owner died and Mr. Ripple acquired the property. Also, the little house, now referred to as the “loveshack”, was attached and consisted of several more rooms for rent. $5/hour. It only closed because the owner died when he fell off the roof while trying to work on the A/C. The churches were pleased.
What was your initial reaction?
Lots of termites, kind of a mess, and has the coolest urinal I’ve ever seen. So why not?
What drew you to the space?
Well, this is boring. Jeff saw it on realtor.com. It was pretty cheap and close to our house . . . and did I mention the crazy urinal?
Up until now how would you have defined dreamboat?
Up until recently, I don’t think I’d given much consideration to the term “dreamboat”. But I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have thought, dreamboat: termite inhabited, but otherwise abandoned brothel, in Central City. But now I guess I can’t imagine a dreamboat of any other sort.
In closing perhaps the HNOC can correct me here but to my knowledge there are no evident brothel historians, at least for New Orleans, yet we seem to archive almost everything else. So I would submit then that given the history of the city paired with the ragged title of the supposed oldest profession especially as examples portrayed in modern cultural reference in songs like The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby perhaps a proper documentation of all things Crescent City remains incomplete. Perhaps not. Goodness knows Jeannette Maier’s story, AKA the Canal Street Madame, proved interesting to most, and that all imploded not too long ago complete with a made for TV movie starring Annabella Sciorra as the madame.
The fabric of our neighborhoods regardless of era prove woven in the ways of our human condition. And The Dream Boat Inn was no different. Only no cinematic renderings any time soon. Dream on, I suppose.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.