The architecturally acclaimed Pythian Temple building at 234 Loyola Avenue (formerly South Saratoga) is one of New Orleans' storied landmarks. From 1908 to 1941, members of the Knights of Pythias, under the leadership of Smith W. Green, served as a beacon of pride for African Americans during the segregation era of Jim Crow. In June of 1908, the Pythians laid their cornerstone at Gravier and Saratoga Streets. In August of 1909, Green opened the Pythian Temple at a cost of over $200,000. The dedication ceremonies featured orchestral music and selections by the St. James A. M. E. choir and glee club of the Dryades Street YMCA. Black lawyer, J. Madison Vance - a 1912 delegate to the Republican National Convention-engendered frequent applause as he spoke of the Power of Organization and its effects upon Civilization. The Times-Picayune described the Pythian Temple as the biggest business enterprise ever attempted by the colored race in the United States."(Continued on other side)(Continued from other side)Many of the masonic and social lodges held meetings in the Pythian Temple. The Temple's seven-story structure contained office suites, a combination theater and auditorium, and a rooftop garden for dancing. Architectural Art and its Allies recognized it in its March 1908 edition.
Musicians Louis Armstrong. Manuel Manetta, and Manuel Perez entertained there. Smith W. Green, became leader of the Grand Lodge, Colored Order of the Knights of Pythias of Louisiana. He was a former slave, who became wealthy as a grocer, and subsequently became president of the Liberty Independence Insurance company. He was also on the executive committee of the local NAACP in New Orleans and worked closely with famed New Orleans lawyer, A. P. Tureaud, as they lobbied for a new hospital for veterans. He was elected Supreme Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias of Louisiana in 1908. The Pythian Temple was Green's crowning achievement.