Saturday's benefit concert to raise money and awareness for the movement to save Charity Hospital was pure New Orleans.
Held at the Howlin' Wolf in the Warehouse District (just steps away from the Preservation Resource Center's headquarters), the concert attracted special out-of-town guests, plus many of the city's top-flight talents, who offered rhythm and blues, funk, rock, jazz, old school, and Mardi Gras Indian chants. Hundreds packed the hall.
It was Dr. John with "Right Place, Wrong Time," Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, the Lowrider Band (which includes four of the five original members of WAR) with "Slippin' into Darkness" and "Cisco Kid," along with many more: Tony Hall, Raymond Weber, Ivan and Ian Neville, and Nick Daniels of Dumpstaphunk; Sunpie Barnes; DJ Captain Charles; and several sparkling, befeathered Mardi Gras Indian chiefs.
Building on the momentum from the highly successful Charity Hospital second line parade last month, the concert seemed to take things to the next level for our undaunted movement to open up the planning process for returning health care facilities to New Orleans' downtown.
Last week, in a letter to the editor of the Times-Picayune, Downtown Development Director Kurt Weigle trotted out his usual arguments against the reuse of the Charity Hospital building as a 21st century medical facility saying, "It does not work for this use, and those who claim it does need to stop."
In response, George Skarmeas, principal director of preservation architecture for RMJM, the authors of the Charity Hospital building assessment commissioned by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, wrote in Sunday's paper: "The RMJM study resulted in a clear and compelling vision for the reuse of Charity, integrating the most stringent contemporary health care design principles with sound preservation techniques and sustainable technology."
We await the moment when the light will dawn on the cheerleaders of the misbegotten plans for the new LSU and VA medical facilities, allowing them to finally see the error of their ways. In the meantime, we return from our night of celebration and friendship and go back to work.
Walter W. Gallas, AICP, is the director of the New Orleans Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Learn more about our ongoing efforts to save Charity Hospital and Mid-City New Orleans.