A Preservation Newbie's Walk Through Mid-City New Orleans

Posted on: December 23rd, 2008 by Jason Clement

I have a confession to make: I'm a preservation newbie.

That's right; I'm not an architect, an archeologist, an urban planner or a historian. I don't totally understand tax credits (yet!) or Section 106 (workin' on it!). And unless time logged vegging out in front of HGTV counts, I've also never restored original moulding or weatherized a window.

I am, in all honesty, a twenty-six-year-old writer turned web geek who simply tends to follow his heart a lot. Three months ago, it led me to my first day at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and just one week ago, it led me to Palmyra Street in New Orleans.

A Louisiana native, I was home mainly to see family, though I knew I would have a few hours of downtime between eating and eating again (it's what us Cajuns do best). Now, if you've ever been to New Orleans, you know firsthand how a "few hours of downtime" can lead you in so many very interesting directions. I won't elaborate, but let me say that this trip was no exception: I found myself walking the streets of Mid-City, a place that's seemingly worlds away from the French Quarter and a neighborhood that I had previously never been to.

Since starting at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I had heard a lot about Charity Hospital and the surrounding area. I had read reports, looked at photos and worked on projects supporting our work. None of it, however, prepared me for what I felt on foot as my first-timer curiosity slowly turned into unabated anger. I saw Christmas lights, "I'm Home!" signs, toys in yards, fresh paint jobs, and new and ongoing restoration projects. And the more I looked around and saw these things, the more I realized what I was really witnessing: people making the most out of a life in which nonnegotiable decisions about what stays and what goes are ultimately being made in boardrooms.

As a newbie, I still don't completely understand the "how" or the "why" of the Mid-City story. I just know that my heart wants to go back and do more because the people I saw there might be ringing in the new year by watching their homes get torn down. To me, that chilling mental image is stronger than any talking point, any report and any study.

So, at a time when it seems like none of the decision makers are, I want to ask everyone here to please think with your heart. I invite you to follow me on my walking tour of Mid-City and then encourage you to tell a friend about our Mid-City website, send a letter or post a video on Facebook.

We don't have a lot of time, but even a newbie knows that there is still work that can be done - even if it is just with a mouse.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Trust News