There was a house they called the Rising Sun

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The Independent Culture

Some mysteries are best left undisturbed lest, in solving them, you spoil, well, their mystery. So it might be with mixed feelings that music lovers greet the news that one of America's most loved music ballads, "The House of the Rising Sun", may have its origins beneath a crumbling garage in the town which features in its first line.

Some mysteries are best left undisturbed lest, in solving them, you spoil, well, their mystery. So it might be with mixed feelings that music lovers greet the news that one of America's most loved music ballads, "The House of the Rising Sun", may have its origins beneath a crumbling garage in the town which features in its first line.

An organisation committed to preserving the historical legacy of the French Quarter in New Orleans is raising eyebrows after making the intriguing claim that it has found the place that inspired the song: a whorehouse in the heart of the quarter, which, they say, burnt down in 1822. A century after the song was written, the house "in New Orleans" may finally have been located.

A full archaeological investigation will be launched tomorrow. Meanwhile, however, it is possible that the secrets of the song, which was recorded by artists including Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, the Animals and even Dolly Parton, are about to be unlocked.

So far there is plenty to suggest that the find in New Orleans may be the real deal. The lyrics, seem to tell a story of ruin brought to men and women by the temptations of carnal sin.

It happened after the charity, the Historic New Orleans Collection, decided to expand. It bought a ramshackle garage on Conti Street and knocked it down. The charity also hired archaeologists to sift through any artefacts that might turn up on the site before starting the new construction.

It was a happy decision. "Total luck," said Ryan Gray, one of the archaeologists, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. He added: "Normally somebody would just dig right through the ramparts of the first layout of New Orleans. There are no provisions to guard against that."

What they found was evidence of a hotel on the site before it was swallowed up in flames in 1822. And they know it was called The Rising Sun, because of an advertisement discovered in an old local newspaper placed by a firm that took it over in 1821. I

The advert boasted: "No pain or expence [sic] will be spared by the new proprietors to give general satisfaction, and maintain the character of giving the best entertainment." Then it added: "Gentlemen may here rely upon finding attentive Servants" - a reference that experts believe refers to the attention of servants of a particular kind.

Additionally, the first dig has found pottery fragments which seem to come from earthen pots that might have contained the rouge worn by the ladies employed there. "The archaeology is suggestive at this point," said Shannon Dawdy, also hired to look at the finds. "I'm certainly excited just for the possibility. But I don't want to add to the mythology of New Orleans unnecessarily until I know more. Everything needs a caveat for now."

It has been suggested the song was actually based on a house in England. Eric Burdon, lead singer of the Animals who recorded a version in 1964 which went to number one in America, said: "Nothing is what it seems. The more we know, the older things get." If Mr Burdon has his way, the mystery of the Rising Sun is likely to live, whatever else they find under the garage in New Orleans.

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