When people come to New Orleans in search of landmarks that can be directly associated with Louis Armstrong, the former Colored Waifs’ Home is frequently one of the most sought after sites. The Home is where Armstrong was sent after he was arrested for the celebratory firing of a gun on New Year’s Eve. It was there that he received his first consistent instruction in the cornet and experienced the discipline of playing in their band. It was the first major transition that launched him on his music path.
Unfortunately, one can visit the location but the buildings and facilities have been gone since at least before 1974. The address of the Home was at 301 City Park Avenue – very near Holt Cemetery, the burial site of Buddy Bolden.
The Milne Home on Franklin Avenue in Gentilly is sometimes mistaken for the Colored Waif’s Home. The Colored Waifs’ home was merged with the Milne Home in 1932 and a new campus was built at the Franklin Avenue location. Armstrong was long gone by then and had no youthful association with the Gentilly site, although he was a financial supporter and occasional visitor.
The best opportunity for visitors to connect with Armstrong’s experience at the Waifs’ Home may be to view the cornet that he used there, on display in the exhibit at the Old U.S. Mint. He verified its authenticity when it was still part of the collection of the New Orleans Jazz Society.