Jackson Barracks dates to 1835, when it was established to house the Federal garrison at New Orleans. It saw service during the Mexican War, the Civil War, and both World Wars. Reflecting the time period of its initial approval by the United States War Department, the historic officers' and enlisted men's quarters around a central parade ground survive as a unique collection of Greek Revival buildings in one spot. It is now the home of the Louisiana National Guard.
Located as it is at the Orleans-St. Bernard Parish line at the downriver boundary of New Orleans, Jackson Barracks suffered considerable flooding and damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
The damage notwithstanding, the state has committed to rebuilding the installation. With those plans comes Section 106 historic preservation review, since FEMA funds will be used.
I have been participating in Section 106 consultation meetings about the proposed demolition of five National Register contributing houses at Jackson Barracks. Two are pictured here. This is a good example of how the Stafford Act, the rules governing FEMA's recovery activities, tends to discourage preservation. The determination was made by FEMA that the cost to rehabilitate these houses would exceed 50 percent of their pre-Katrina value. The 50-percent mark is the tipping point which, when exceeded, allows FEMA to OK demolition of a structure and fund new construction. Hence, in the case of these five buildings, FEMA will fund the demolition and rebuilding of officers' quarters of "similar function and capacity."
If the damage determination had come in as less than 50 percent, FEMA would have only provided the amount of money necessary to bring the structures to their pre-Katrina conditions. The buildings were not well-maintained before Katrina, were unsympathetically altered inside, and many have termite damage. This is their pre-Katrina condition. Thus, according to the rules, FEMA does not supply the entire amount of funding to repair the structures to meet modern codes, to improve them, or to save historic fabric. The owner of the buildings--in this case the State of Louisiana--would have to make up any difference if they wanted to save the buildings. But state officials told us they are not budgeting any money for these buildings.
So, new buildings will rise in place of the five buildings, some of which have sections dating to the 1890s, some dating to the 1930s. The cost will be entirely borne by FEMA.