General

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: October 29th, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

This is the interior of St. Frances Cabrini Church, a modernist church demolished to make way for Holy Cross School in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. A loss for preservation.Holy Cross School marked the symbolic start of construction of its school on Paris Avenue in Gentilly with Archbishop Alfred Hughes mixing the soils of the former and future sites in a pot containing a magnolia tree. The fact that the school chose to utilize the FEMA funds which were reparations for damage at the school’s historic site for new construction at a new site triggered Section 106 review, a provision of the National Historic Preservation Act.

St. Frances Cabrini Church, during its demolition in June to make way for Holy Cross School.Unfortunately, Holy Cross School could not conceive of using the modernist St. Frances Cabrini Church (which stood on the new site) as part of its plans, and so after a difficult Section 106 consultation with many political overtones, the church was demolished to prepare the site for new construction. It is ironic that the style of the new school attempts to mimic the campus which the school is abandoning in the Holy Cross neighborhood after over a hundred and fifty years. At the new school’s symbolic ground-breaking, Bill Chauvin, chairman of the school’s governing board, said “Today is an example of how difficulties can be overcome when we work together for a common goal… We hope that our journey will serve as a model for how the private sector and government can work together to facilitate recovery.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation attempted to force the utilization of St. Frances Cabrini Church in the school’s plans, but was rebuffed. The church was demolished in early June. This is not a model we want to replicate.

Walter Gallas is director of the New Orleans Field Office.

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.

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: October 26th, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

The house on Moss Avenue in New Orleans.I spoke before a City Council committee on the subject of a house on Moss Street on Bayou St. John, which had recently been demolished, because it was determined to be in imminent danger of collapse. I said that the Department of Safety and Permits has way too much discretion in how it defines imminent danger of collapse, thereby side-stepping any other reviews.

We had inspected this house inside and out in early July. It had been placed on the “voluntary demolition” list by its owner, presumably to clear the lot courtesy of FEMA funds so that the land could be redeveloped. We challenged its listing, saying its condition was pre-Katrina blight, but FEMA did not remove it from the demolition list. It was definitely not in any danger of collapsing. Apparently the owner chose to fund the demolition himself, and somehow persuaded city inspectors to make the imminent danger determination.

There are serious problems with the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. The director of the city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) told me that just last week six houses within the local historic districts his agency oversees, were demolished without HDLC review—but with a demolition permit from the Department of Safety and Permits.

Walter Gallas is director of the New Orleans Field Office.

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.

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: October 23rd, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

The Dauphine Street house in Holy Cross looked like this past week.Last week, the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference came to New Orleans -- a couple of years later than its originally intended dates in October of 2005. The Preservation Resource Center, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s long-time local partner in New Orleans, and our base of operations, was in the spotlight this week through its Operation Comeback demonstration house at the corner of Dauphine and Jourdan in Holy Cross. The house was a centerpiece of the conference with tours delivering people to the Holy Cross neighborhood several times a day to see the work in progress.

The Dauphine Street house in Holy Cross in December 2005.During Hurricane Katrina, a 60-ton pecan tree fell on the house splitting the roof and nearly destroying the house. PRC’s Operation Comeback purchased the house and in in the final stages of its renovation as a single-family house near the Mississippi River levee. The house was also the site of the conference’s opening reception, which brought even more people to Holy Cross for a look at the neighborhood.

Walter Gallas is director of the New Orleans Field Office.

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.

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: October 19th, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

St. Thomas Housing Development, New OrleansThis past week, I saw for the first time the renovations to the five surviving buildings of the St. Thomas housing development in the Lower Garden District. These five had been set aside as a mitigation measure when the rest of the development was demolished and redeveloped beginning, I believe, about seven years ago. The buildings were mothballed, and talk was that they might be used for offices or some other community function -- but certainly not housing. Today, the five buildings are almost ready to go -- as housing units. It appears that there might be anywhere from 40 to 50 units of housing available in these late-1930s buildings.

This is all so remarkable because the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have insisted that none of the big four public housing developments remaining in New Orleans can be renovated for housing due to the high cost and the obsolete interior configurations of the units. If nothing changes, we are about to witness the demolition of hundreds of buildings like these in New Orleans, and will await their replacement with buildings fashioned from materials not nearly as resilient as these brick structures.

Walter Gallas is director of the New Orleans Field Office.

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.

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: October 15th, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

I traveled to Baton Rouge to accept a Historic Preservation Partnership Award presented by Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu to Dick Moe and the National Trust for Historic Preservation as part of the Governor’s Arts Awards. Pam Breaux, Louisiana State Historic Preservation Officer, was also recognized to highlight the very successful partnership between the Trust and the state to gain federal preservation funds for Louisiana and to get over $20 million into the hands of owners of historic houses. The ceremonies took place in Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, a Gothic Revival gem built in the mid-19th century.

The Lieutenant Governor has taken great pains to point out how quickly and transparently his offices have worked to make the grant awards -- drawing a sharp contrast to Governor Blanco’s lumbering Road Home program which is generally discredited and said to be the reason Blanco is not seeking a second term this fall. Elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and other statewide and local offices are Saturday, October 20.

Walter Gallas is director of the New Orleans Field Office.

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.