“We are now driving down DeSiard Street, the stroll in Monroe, Louisiana,” wrote chitlin’ circuit pioneer Walter Barnes in 1936. DeSiard buzzed back then, at least in Barnes’ infectious, up-tempo telling. “The Red Goose Barber Shop is the place where all the boys have their grooming done…Lovely Brown’s Beauty Shop is where all the ladies get their fancy waves for the dances…The Grog Cafe is the dining place of the profesh, and the Frog Pond Ballroom is the most beautiful and spacious dance palace here.”
The Stroll, hep vernacular for black Main Street, was the backbone of the chitlin’ circuit from the ’30s-’60s. While researching the circuit in Indianapolis, Houston, New Orleans, and Macon, I always checked out the stroll to see what was left, and found parking lots, on-ramps, or strip malls. I think the fact that these places were paved over is an important aspect of the circuit’s obscurity as it relates to American culture. If these places existed, we’d have a much better understanding of their history. Here’s what’s left of DeSiard Street, the Miller-Roy Building at 1001 DeSiard. I’m fairly sure this is where Barnes and his Kings of Swing played in December 1936. (Though he lists the address of the Frog Pond as 1003 DeSiard, this building has multiple entrances and it’s not unusual to find these larger buildings listed with a spread of address numbers in city directories.)
I thank Monroe photographer and historian Lee Estes for getting in touch and sharing his images of the Miller-Roy Building on DeSiard Street. He says that a venue called the Savoy Dance Club was upstairs at one time and that homeless have colonized the building. It is now condemned, and from the looks of google maps, there isn’t much else left of the Monroe stroll. Here’s another angle of the Miller-Roy.
I would love to publish images of your local stroll as it looks today, so please reach out if you can contribute something.