Step back in time at the New Orleans Athletic Club
Posted on the 12th Feb 2013 in the category travel

If you want the definition of a confused idiot then just watch me in a gym. I am a fish out of water, wandering around wondering what to do and how to do it, but when I got offered the chance to scope out America's second oldest health club I couldn't resist...


ENTERING the New Orleans Athletic Club is like entering a bygone age of moustachioed men in britches getting their head around Queensbury's new rules.

Grainy pictures of stiff backed bearded men stare back from the wooden paneled walls of America’s second oldest health club.

Established in 1872 the NOAC has a special place in the city’s and country’s heart with Olympians, champions and record breakers going through their doors over the years.

It began as a boxing and fencing club to improve the bodies of a select band of young New Orleans men but then mushroomed into centre for swimming, card playing, handball, gymnastics and countless other sports.

There are not many gyms can boast John L. Sullivan trained there for the first heavyweight championship fight, Johnny ‘Tarzan’ Weismuller swam in its pool and Kareem Abdul Jabaar gave regular basketball lessons to members. Not to mention Hollywood stars like Clark Gable, Tennessee Williams, Kevin Costner and Bob Hope regularly training or propping up the bar.

Situated on the edge of the French Quarter the present NOAC was built in 1929 and still exudes the high-minded elegance of when it was opened amid much fanfare all those years ago.

However, the Rampart Street building suffered in Hurricane Katrina but millions of pounds and a giant refurbishment later the place has the perfect blend of tradition and state-of-the-art equipment.

The boxing ring and gym on a mezzanine floor above an old swimming pool below a stained glass roof which creates a soothing atmosphere in natural light.

However, the work out NOAC’s trainers give members and guests on the kettlebells, in the ring, on the pads and the bags is anything but soothing.

Pick the right time when the boxing area is empty and it really feels somewhere special. Perhaps it is the countless worn down gold plaques venerating records for boxing disciplines when hundreds used to turn up for “boxing entertainment” in the interwar years or maybe it is the rising steam from the pool but old ghosts from the past seem to be round every corner of the NOAC.

Now, as the club looks into its third century there is so much more than boxing with all kind of classes on offer and the best oak style bar, Vaughn’s Pub, that I’ve ever seen in a health club. Guests can enjoy rooftop yoga, browse around the library, take up racquetball, relax in the sauna or spend sometime in the Icarian free weight room amongst other activities.

The NOAC is the perfect anecdote to the craziness of a night on the tiles in New Orleans, for more information visit www.neworleansathlecticclub.com.


  Records 1 to 1 of 1