Notes from New Orleans: The Return of the 'Miracle Mile'

Posted on: March 24th, 2009 by Walter Gallas

 

In November 1952, Mid-City New Orleans pharmacist Nick Persich wrote the following letter to the editor of the New Orleans States in response to a slum clearance order in his neighborhood:

Let any honest-hearted and fair-minded citizen visit this section and then ask this question: Aren’t there hundreds of thousands of square feet of area lying almost unused in the business and industrial districts? Why not use them first and then, when our city’s growth is such that all other space has been used up, then, and only then, the argument that our area is needed for the progress of our city will be sensible, logical, honest, and acceptable to us.

This letter appeared as citizens learned that the City of New Orleans was clearing “slum” housing near Mid-City (from Tulane Avenue to Poydras Street, and from South Claiborne Avenue to South Broad Street) as a part of the "Miracle Mile" redevelopment of Tulane Avenue.

Today, the "Miracle Mile" vision has been replaced by a new vision called the "Greater New Orleans Biosciences Economic Development District." The LSU Medical School sits on some of this land, surrounded still by the area made vacant by that order. Yet even today, those lands aren’t sufficient for LSU’s vision for its new medical center, and so the latest city-engineered land grab continues across Tulane Avenue to Canal Street and up to South Rocheblave, threatening once again to displace more people and destroy more property.

M. L. Eichhorn, who grew up in the lower Mid-City neighborhood that is now ground-zero for the new hospitals, has been a tireless researcher of this area, digging up the names, personalities and professions of those who made this part of the city home over the last 100+ years. In a piece entitled “Sacrificial Land" that appears in the latest issue of Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Eichhorn weaves that research into a narrative that not only brings this area alive, but that very fittingly concludes with Mr. Persich's important observations above.

Read "Sacrificial Land" in Louisiana Cultural Vistas

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.

A Lobby Day Throwdown: Bring It On

Posted on: March 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Admit it: you’re getting just a teensy bit tired of hearing about this coffee-guzzlin’, sandals-with-socks-wearin’, software-lovin’ group from the other Washington being touted as the biggest, baddest team of preservation advocates to storm the halls of Congress since, well, who knows when.

Although we’ve worked hard to earn this claim to fame (and loved every minute of the limelight this year), we’ve decided that the time has come to relinquish our title, but it’s gonna cost you.

Team Way Outside the Beltwayers is throwing down the gauntlet and officially challenging other states to take us down by bringing a bigger, badder team to Lobby Day in D.C. next year. What’s on the line, you ask? Nothing short of bragging rights and a round of drinks on us at the Willard Hotel. And, let me tell you that nothing beats raising a toast with your teammates in the Nest at the end of that long, yet rewarding day of lobbying. If you don’t believe me, just ask our friends from Indiana.

In the spirit of leveling the playfield (all for the good of the movement, of course), we’re even willing to offer a few tips to assist you in your quest to unseat us:

Talk it up. If you’ve had the privilege of carrying the preservation mantle for your state on Lobby Day, tell everyone you meet what an amazing and worthwhile experience it is. Tell them how thrilling it is to become totally steeped in the national preservation agenda, to experience D.C. from the inside, and to know you are truly making a difference by joining preservationists from around the country to advocate on this important day. Oh, and in describing the experience, you might want to leave out adjectives like hectic and exhausting. Also, omit the part about how you seriously thought your feet were going to fall off at the end of the day.

Think outside the box. Diversity is the key to a strong, well-balanced Lobby Day team. Some of our most passionate and articulate voices for preservation aren’t preservation professionals at all; they are historic barn owners, county council members, former educators, developers and maritime heritage enthusiasts. The common thread? We all share a belief that historic preservation makes a difference in our landscapes and in our lives.

Start recruiting now. For the best results in recruiting a well-balanced cadre of seasoned lobbying veterans and enthusiastic first timers, don’t wait until a few weeks before the trip to begin cobbling together your team. Plant the Lobby Day seed now, and cultivate it throughout the year by sending legislative updates and keeping potential participants informed and excited about what is going on. Oh, and try to recruit at least one representative from each of your state’s congressional districts. This will send a strong message that preservation matters in every corner of your state.

Show them the money. Traveling to and staying in D.C. is expensive, so make it easier for folks to make the trip by offering travel stipends. Even if you can’t cover all of their travel expenses, often times offering even a few hundred dollars can make it more possible for someone to participate. Also, remember to cultivate the ongoing support of your Lobby Day scholarship donors by keeping them informed throughout the year.

The ball is in your court now. Show Preservation Action, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and most importantly, your congressional delegation how much preservation matters in your state by putting together your largest Lobby Day team yet.

Beat Team Way Outside the Beltwayers and our consistent, double-digit team numbers next year, and the glory (and the libations) will be yours to savor…for at least a year.

- Jennifer Meisner

Way Outside the Beltwayer Jennifer Meisner is the executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

Mapping Neighborhood Perceptions: How do people perceive the urban spaces that comprise their neighborhoods? And can the culture and preferences of a specific group of people actually affect the physical layout of these spaces? A grad student at UC Berkeley has undertaken an impressive mapping study of neighborhoods in Oakland, California that seeks to answer these and many other questions. [San Francisco Chronicle]  [MappingOakland]

Say Hey to Mid Century Modernism: From the 1963 Ebony magazine article featuring Willie Mays' mod house. Very cool collection of styles going on here, and plenty of vintage photos. [MidCentury Architecture]

BLDGBLOG's Book Reports: One of our favorite blogs reviews a handful of books for the architecture nut. [BLDGBLOG]

UNCG Students Lobbying for Preservation: We've covered quite a bit of Lobby Day activity over the past two weeks. Preservodome met students from several different schools while attending the event, even some old classmates from the University of Maryland's HISP program. Here's a post on students from UNC-Greensboro who took part in the Lobby Day activities. [Greensboro's Treasured Places]

NYC Historic Churches in Danger: With money drying up everywhere these days, it's easy to understand that many congregations are deeply affected. Also affected are the historic churches they have called home for decades. [Bloomberg]

Rethinking the Restoration of New Orleans: Andres Duany looks at the city through the lens of the Caribbean, and reveals some very interesting ideas regarding New Orleans and its restoration. "I remember specifically when on a street in the Marigny I came upon a colorful little house framed by banana trees. I thought, "This is Cuba," (I am Cuban). I realized in that instant that New Orleans is not really an American city, but rather a Caribbean one." [newgeography]

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.

Top Ten Tips From a Lobby Day Vet

Posted on: March 23rd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

When Team Way Outside the Beltwayers first debuted on PreservationNation.org, I answered "too long ago to remember" to the bio question that asked how long ago I had been recruited to represent the State of Washington at Lobby Day.

It has, in fact, been a while, and I've picked up a tip here and there over the years. This morning, in anticipation of in-district lobby month (May is just around the corner, you know?), I want to share my top ten list with you.

1 - They work for us. Representative Norm Dicks told me this many years ago. Don’t be nervous about talking to your elected officials. They work for you and they respond to you.

2 - Know your stuff. There is no substitute for competence. If you are competent, you inspire confidence. If elected are confident in your information, then you’ve just won influence.

3 - Prioritize your asks. Each state should decide what they’re asking for. We can’t ask for everything or the message will be diluted. Determine what aspects of the national agenda are most important to you and your state.

4 - Tie your ask for a national priority back to the local district. For Washington, we give information on Preserve America grants, Save America's Treasures grants, etc. Let them know what those programs are doing back home.

5 - Try to have someone from the district in the meeting as a lead. If this can’t happen, the statewide or SHPO becomes the best person to lead the conversation.

6 - Get cards for follow-up. Staffers are extremely important, and relationships built with them pay dividends.

7 - Don’t dismiss staffers because they look like they’re 12. They often recycle into more senior-level positions with the elected official, or they go on to work with other elected officials or committees. Regardless, they can help you down the road, so ask where they’re from and try to make a connection with them.

8 - Schedule a meeting with your governor’s representative or chief of staff in Washington, D.C. They can provide invaluable advice about your delegation, and it’s good to have them up to speed.

9 - Value the time you’re given. Get to the point quickly. Make the ask. Try to get the member or the staffer talking. Ask them for feedback.

10 - Understand that lobbying is theater. The guts of advocacy happen at the district and state level. Get to know your local office staffers. Invite them to events. Take them on tours. Lobby Day is meant to convey the extent of the support for historic preservation, but it's not an end in itself. The real value of Lobby Day is building state advocacy networks, getting participants familiar with national issues, and building relationships with members and their staffers. The real work always happens back home.

- Mary Thompson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Mary Thompson is a preservation consultant and a member of the National Trust’s Board of Trustees. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Marin Cruger Coffin, First Female Landscape Architect

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

It was perfect timing for an important collaboration.

Marin Cruger Coffin, 1876-1957, one of the first female landscape architects to practice in the United States, was receiving her degree from MIT and learning from the father of America landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmstead.  Mr. & Mrs. H. Rodney Sharp had just taken over the Gibraltar (former Brinckle) estate in Wilmington, Delaware and were looking for someone to design their dream landscape, likely following a suggestion from Henry Francis DuPont.

Recalling images from their frequent European travels, the Sharps hired landscape architect Coffin to design Gibraltar's formal gardens. One of the most accomplished female landscape architects in the United States; she designed gardens and landscapes along the East Coast, including Winterthur's formal gardens and the University of Delaware's mall among others.

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

Gibralter Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware (Credit: Trent Margrif, Wisconsin Field Office)

When Coffin arrived at Gibraltar, she was presented with a "blank slate": a Brandywine Blue Granite blockhouse above a rolling open field. The topography of the site lent itself to the terraced garden she created between 1916 and 1923.  Gibraltar's garden consists of a series of garden "rooms," each with a unique character and purpose.  Hand-forged iron gates and railings and the Sharp's collection of statuary, urns, and fountains complete the design. I personally enjoy the Bald Cypress Allee that culminates in a simple teahouse structure for the greatest solitude and appreciation of Coffin’s work when visiting the gardens. Often called the “secret garden” in the city, with the accompanying mansion and outbuildings, this landscape is reflective of America's "Country Place Era," which spanned the time between the rise of the Beaux Arts in the late 1800s and the outbreak of World War II.

With threat of demolition, Preservation Delaware, Inc. purchased the Gibraltar site with the assistance of Open Space funding through the State of Delaware. An authentic restoration of the Gibraltar Gardens following Coffin’s design was the first priority and was accomplished. The garden continues to retain its design intent, including its forms and textures, free and open to the public and beautifully maintained by Preservation Delaware’s current Garden Manager Wendy Gentry.

Repairs to the sculptures within the formal Gardens have also benefited from the Save Outdoor Sculpture program and increased awareness through the Landslide program of the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Preservation Delaware is committed to preserving the legacy of Marian Cruger Coffin through its operation of Gibraltar Gardens.  For more information or to help in these efforts go to: http://www.preservationde.org/.

-Trent Margrif

Trent Margrif is director of the Wisconsin field office of National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.