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Blakeview: The Athenaeum



With Mardi Gras little more than a month away, this is prime time for Carnival balls. For more than 40 years, from 1896 until 1937, a landmark on St. Charles Avenue played host to many of the city's Carnival balls. The Athenaeum, located at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Clio Street, was built for the Young Men's Hebrew Association. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1905 and was replaced with a larger, more modern structure complete with a swimming pool, gym, library and auditorium with a seating capacity of 3,000. After the French Opera House burned in 1919, the Athenaeum became one of the city's more popular venues. In the 1920s, Enrico Caruso and Rudolph Valentino performed there. Rex was one of the many krewes that used the Athenaeum for its ball, and it did so from 1907 until 1936. By that time, the Municipal Auditorium had opened and was the preferred venue for most krewes. Another fire destroyed the Athenaeum in 1937, and the building was converted into a hotel and apartment complex. Today the building features both condominiums and retail space.

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