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After the Storm: New Orleans Five Years Later

Posted on: August 27th, 2010 by Jason Clement 5 Comments

 

Five years ago today, predictions were all we had to go by.

Hour after hour, computer models plotted a shifting course for a cataclysmic Category 5 hurricane screaming across the Gulf of Mexico, while on-air personalities struggled to articulate the area at greatest risk. Would it be Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana? Where would Katrina make her second and most powerful landfall?

Fast forward to the morning of Saturday, August 28, and suddenly there was just one cone of possibility on the TV screen. In this game of meteorological mathematics, the percentages had become clear: New Orleans would soon take the full brunt of the storm it had always feared. Unfortunately, by the time the last-minute press conferences convened, it seemed as if the questions were far louder than the calls for mandatory evacuations. Was there enough time? Would the levees hold? Was the City Beneath the Sea – and America – ready?

The answer to all of those questions was no.

Katrina roared ashore early the next morning as a weakened Category 3 storm. Five years later Americans still remember watching heart-breaking scenes of one of the costliest and most deadly storms ever. From every perspective – including a cultural one – this was an unprecedented disaster.

On this, the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, both the news and the images we see are brighter. New Orleans, a city steeped in tradition and proud of its preservation, is rising. Historic streets are teeming with tourists, shotgun-house neighborhoods are humming with the sound of hammers, and residents have a Super Bowl win in their back pocket that is about so much more than football.

Just as it was in the days immediately following the storm, the National Trust for Historic Preservation remains committed to this resilient city. From rallying national support to saving places that matter to rebuilding what the storm literally washed away, the National Trust is focused on a vibrant future for New Orleans – and the entire Gulf Coast.

Rebuilding Homes: In the wake of the storm, it was obvious that New Orleans needed the nation’s undivided attention and support. National Trust members responded, with funds – and power tools. Concerned preservationists from around the country arrived in the Crescent City days after the flood waters receded. In 2008, the National Trust coordinated numerous week-long volunteer trips to support the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans’ Rebuilding Together program. Living in habitat camps around the city, participants poured sweat equity into the rebuilding of  homes desperately needed by handicapped, disabled, and elderly residents. Coupled with the efforts of the HOME AGAIN! project, 165 historic homes in the Holy Cross neighborhood received critical rebuilding assistance.

Reviving Communities: In the aftermath of Katrina, the question of whether to rebuild or demolish swirled around New Orleans like the storm clouds that had just passed. The National Trust resolved to invest promptly in preservation-based solutions for the city. Bringing a mix of dollars, development skills, and determination, National Trust community revitalization specialists joined with local leaders to promote the physical reconstruction of the city and its economic rebirth. The creation of an urban Main Street program in New Orleans in 2006 brought a proven revitalization strategy to six neighborhood business districts (including Oak Street pictured above), resulting in 439 jobs, 81 new businesses, and $48.6 million in public/private investment. The National Trust’s for-profit subsidiary, NTCIC, responded by investing $60 million in historic rehabilitation projects that created 2,000 jobs, $6 million in tax revenue, and $75 million in gross state product – in addition to creating apartments, offices, shops, hotels and a grocery store. The result was a significant boost to New Orleans’ economic recovery that in no way detracted from the very essence of its character.

Preserving Places that Matter: In 2008, American Express and the National Trust launched the Partners in Preservation program in New Orleans. While this successful program has gone on to distribute millions of dollars in preservation funding in two other major American cities, its flagship year focused specifically on historic sites in neighborhoods affected by Katrina. The end result was $400,000 in grants to jump start the restoration of places like the St. Augustine Church and Parish Hall, anchors in the city’s second-oldest African American parish since the mid-1800s.

Proving the Power of Main Street: In 2006, more than a thousand Main Street representatives convened in New Orleans for the National Main Streets Conference. Held just ten months after Katrina, the gathering was one of the first major conferences to take place in the city, and helped boost its economy after the disaster. Revitalization professionals from 45 states, Japan, and Canada came together to discuss the city’s quality of life and the importance Main Streets could play in New Orleans’ renaissance. Attendees also participated in work trips throughout the conference to clean out storm-damaged homes.

Advocating for What's Right: Sometimes aid comes in the form of a check. Other times in comes in the form of an indispensable national advocate. Since the storm, the National Trust has been on the ground – and in the courtroom – fighting for the future of New Orleans’ iconic Charity Hospital and the historic residential neighborhood that surrounds it. And the fight isn’t over. National Trust staff and supporters continue to advocate for the reuse of the landmark 1939 Art Deco hospital building, convinced this is the most expeditious way to provide local residents with desperately-needed health care facilities. Though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Louisiana State University have endorsed plans to sacrifice the historic Mid-City neighborhood around Charity to build new hospitals, preservationists won’t give up.

With five years and so many moving success stories behind us, it's hard not to think about what the future holds for this incredible place. New Orleans’ residents continue to come home to and reinvent their city, demonstrating the power of resilience, fighting the good preservation fight, and proving the all the naysayers wrong.

That's why the Crescent City still deserves our support. Please click here to see how you can get involved.

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.

This Treasure Matters: Celebrating the Art of Living at The Mount

Posted on: March 25th, 2010 by Jason Clement

 

“True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.”

Those are the words of Edith Wharton, and did she have vision.

The Mount before its five-year restoration.

Wharton’s name might ring a bell from your high school days when you studied staples like The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and The Age of Innocence – three of the 40 books she penned in 40 years. What you might not know about this extraordinary legend is that her resume also includes a Pulitzer Prize (the first for a woman), the French Legion of Honor (she was a front-lines hero in World War I), and bragging rights as the visionary who invented the profession of interior design (her best-selling Decoration of Houses is still consider a “bible” within the field).

However, Edith didn’t just have vision when it came to her amazing career; her home in Lenox, MA is a three-dimensional expression of her creative genius. Wharton built The Mount in 1902 based on the principles outlined in her influential guide to interior design. Balance, symmetry, suitability – that’s what she valued, and that is what is reflected in the estate’s classic architecture and lush formal gardens.

Edith’s vision realized.

After Edith’s death in 1937, her legacy lived strong in the fields of writing and design, but her home suffered through the years and over the course of several changes in ownership. By 1998, when First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was making her first-ever tour of Save America’s Treasures historic sites, the situation at Wharton’s estate was dire.

Luckily, the newly-established Save America’s Treasures program had a vision for The Mount. The site was awarded a $2.8 million Save America’s Treasures federal challenge grant in 1999, which was met with over $240,000 in private contributions. The property was also selected from hundreds of Save America’s Treasures projects for Restore America – a national media partnership with HGTV. When all was said and done, this Save America’s Treasures project employed over 100 local contractors, with the total economic impact over the course of the five-year restoration equaling a staggering $14 million.

Today, creative programming at the immaculately-restored estate reflects Wharton's pioneering interests in literary arts, interior design, landscaping, and the art of living.

Edith’s vision – and this amazing cultural treasure – are alive and well.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

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.

 

Thanks to Save America's Treasures, the Homestead is where visitors today can go inside Emily Dickinson's world.

It is easy to think of poets as simply professional people-watchers – incredibly articulate talents who can capture a moment – a feeling – out of thin air and immortalize it on paper in such a way that it can be relived by complete strangers.

However, for one of America’s greatest and most prolific in the craft, understanding and explaining the profound complexity of human emotion did not come from being a tortured lover or an all-around astute observer; it came from a life lived in loneliness and isolation.

Poems without titles; unconventional style and punctuation; recurring themes of death and immortality – this is Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson was born in 1830 at a home in Amherst, Massachusetts known as the Homestead. Introverted and reclusive even in her early years, it is here where she would spend the majority of her life – and where her creativity would flourish. Many of those who study her believe that her quarantine gave her an opportunity to step back and understand the human experience like none before her had. She passed away in 1886, leaving behind 1,800 poems that continue to push the poetic envelope today.

Quite simply, Emily’s story could not be told without her home. Save America’s Treasures realized this, granting $200,000 in 2004 towards the creation of a master plan that would link and preserve the Homestead and the Evergreens (a neighboring home where members of the Dickson family also lived). The federal grant was matched by more than $500,000 in private funds, which ultimately addressed critical exterior restorations and mechanical systems upgrades.

In 2009, some 13,000 tourists and Dickinson enthusiasts visited the homes, known collectively as the Emily Dickinson Museum. According to the site’s executive director, the rising visitation numbers have had a multiplying effect on the local economy of Amherst, drawing thousands of curious visitors into the town where Emily was once known only as an eccentric woman of mystery.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

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.

Welcome to Make-a-Difference Mondays

Posted on: March 15th, 2010 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

Welcome to your week.

It’s a simple fact of life – bad Mondays happen to good people. Just ask the Bangles. Remember "Manic Monday?"

Unlike Sunday, which may or may not be your funday, Monday is definitely a you-have-to-run day. Alarm clocks fail, wallets/keys/glasses/purses/shoes disappear, umbrellas implode, traffic crawls, and coffee spills. Buses and trains traveling in your desired direction are simply nonexistent, and wardrobe malfunctions are 99.9% more likely to occur. And, if you manage to make it out the house with two socks that match, it’s a given that one will have a big-toe size hole that will taunt you all day long.

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot we can do to shield ourselves from Mondays and the onslaught of frustrations, setbacks, embarrassments, inconveniences, technical difficulties, and all out disappointments that they bring. However, there is something you can do right now to soften the blow of that coffee stain on your shirt.

You may have already heard, but the National Trust for Historic Preservation is one of 49 non-profits vying for a $200,000 prize through American Express’ latest Members Project, TakePart. At the end of a three-month cycle that is already underway, a grant will be awarded to the charity that garners the most votes in its category. We think this money could go a long way in helping us save places that matter, but we need your help to make it happen.

Supporters can vote once a week, and you don’t have to have an American Express card in your wallet to do so. Honestly, what could be better on a manic Monday than the simple satisfaction of taking a few seconds to make a real difference? It’s not a cure all, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Like the places we preserve, your vote matters. We hope you’ll take a few moments out of your Monday (today and the eleven that follow through the month of May) to support the National Trust. If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, we'll give you both a reminder and a good reason to cast your vote each week.

Oh, and remember – you can blame it on the train, but the boss is already there. Sigh.

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.

This Treasure Matters: Taking a Walk With “Little Women”

Posted on: March 10th, 2010 by Jason Clement

 

Summer at Orchard House.

You’d be hard pressed to find a young girl who does not know Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

Don’t worry; we’re not talking about some new pop phenomenon or even Dancing with the Stars; we’re talking about four sisters – four little women – that seem to have a permanent place in the lives of American adolescents.

It’s true – whether on screen or on paper, Little Women lives on today. And, thanks to Save America’s Treasures, so does Orchard House – the historic home in Concord, MA where Louisa May Alcott, the author of the beloved series, lived and wrote this story that transcends generations.

In 2000, Alcott’s Orchard House received a $400,000 federal Save America’s Treasures challenge grant, which was met with an additional $150,000 in private contributions. This much-needed funding addressed a variety of structural damages and abnormalities that had come to plague the iconic home where Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy came to life. And the restoration didn’t just save a place that our country simply couldn’t stand to lose – it created 31 local and regional jobs for individuals within 14 different trades and professions.

Today, the proof is in the eyes of the thousands of visitors who come to walk through the home where Little Women came to be – this treasure matters, and this program works.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

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.