Notes from New Orleans: Salvage Remains an Afterthought

Posted on: April 17th, 2008 by Walter Gallas


The demolition of the Lafitte housing project.Last Thursday, I was among the dispirited onlookers watching the demolition of the Lafitte housing development get underway in earnest. Bulldozers with claws were chewing up two buildings, contents and all. In contrast to what has been done at St. Bernard, none of the appliances, furniture or other belongings remaining in the apartments had been removed prior to the demolition. Everything was in the mix of rubble, with the bulldozer operator doing a rough job of separating furniture from appliances. The porch ironwork was amidst the material; no apparent effort had been made to remove it prior to demolition.

The demolition of the Lafitte housing project.In the Times-Picayune, John Angelina, the head of D. H. Griffin, the Houston-based demolition contractor, said while some metals like windows and pipes might go to a scrap metal recycler, it wasn't possible to save the iron railings because of the "time crunch" the job is under.

The demolition of the Lafitte housing project.I called Rick Denhart of Mercy Corps, who had been working with the demolition contractor on a salvage plan for Lafitte. He said that while he was awaiting written confirmation from the contractor that salvage was going to happen, he was confident that it would happen at least to some degree on some of the buildings. I told him demolition was underway already. Again--as with the very modest effort at C.J. Peete--it appears that salvage at Lafitte is clearly an after-thought.

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.

Author Edith Wharton's Home Facing Foreclosure

Posted on: April 16th, 2008 by Sarah Heffern


The MountThe Mount, Edith Wharton's spectacular classical revival country house and its extensive Beatrix Farrand-designed formal gardens, were reborn following a 10-year, $13 million total restoration, for which it received a 2007 Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. One of few National Historic Landmarks dedicated to women, this western Massachusetts site is in imminent danger of foreclosure. A fund raising campaign is now underway to raise the funds necessary to stop the foreclosure. Learn more...

-- Wendy Nicholas, director of the Northeast Office, contributed to this story.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

Making Choices at Glass House

Posted on: April 11th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna


I just returned from 2 days at Phillip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT, one of our newest historic sites. The Glass House site is one of the world icons of midcentury modern heritage and its 47 acres and 14 buildings present an inspiring setting for the creative process.

InterfaceFlor,  a company that develops commercial floor covering, and is known for its commitment to building environmental considerations into its business decisions, sponsored a retreat for “thought leaders” in the sustainable design field entitled, “Making Choices: Designing our Relationship with Community and the Environment”. Given that the mission of the Philip Johnson Glass House is to become a center-point and catalyst for the preservation of modern architecture, landscape, and art, and a canvas for inspiration, experimentation and cultivation honoring the legacy of Philip Johnson (1906–2005) and David Whitney (1939–2005), programs such as this which provide artists with the chance to literally stop and breathe while thinking about design, are becoming the hallmark of the site. After weeks of unusual bleakness for an April in the Northeast, the day the retreat began, the sun brought out crocuses and daffodils on the site; eagles flew over the trees and geese wandered around the pool; the grounds dried up enough to allow 30 people to traipse around it and despite the tragedy of our national airlines falling apart, everyone who planned on it was able to make it to the Glass House.

A Local Dinner – The Responsibility of Pleasure
After an afternoon of guided tours for the attendees, we were shuttled to dinner at Blue Café at Stone Barns, an organic working farm, a sustainable restaurant, a way of life really – located at Pocantico Hills, affiliated with Kykuit, another one of our historic sites in the Hudson Valley. The Stone Barn center's historic buildings are a brilliant reinterpretation of the “barn” by architects Machado & Silvetti. An unexpected meeting of Blue Café’s chef and Interface’s Chairman Ray Anderson, was the highlight of the evening. Ray told us the story of his epiphany after reading Paul Hawken’s seminal The Ecology of Commerce 14 years ago which led him to transform his petroleum-intensive carpeting business into a company whose goal is “Mission Zero” - a promise to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by the year 2020. The Chef came out thrilled to learn that Ray Anderson was in the room, as Ray’s book had impacted the way he thinks and practices. He calls his creation of food, meals, the farm and restaurant “the responsibility of pleasure” - If you can find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands and the mouth – then your carbon footprint can be much, much less. Serendipity met synchronicity...

... Read More →

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.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at

Notes from New Orleans: Riverfront Redevelopment

Posted on: April 4th, 2008 by Walter Gallas


New Orleans RiverfrontI attended presentations about plans to redevelop six miles of the New Orleans riverfront. Under the direction of the mayor’s New Orleans Building Corporation, headed by Sean Cummings, an international team including Alex Krieger, George Hargreaves, and Enrique Norton along with local architect Allen Eskew has been working for about a year on this vision, dubbed “Reinventing the Crescent.” It’s a slick, sexy vision that aspires to assure New Orleans place “in the pantheon of the great cities of the world,” according to Cummings.

The presenters were careful to point out that their scope was only the area from the water’s edge to the floodwall. Nevertheless, I pointed out to them that they can’t ignore the impact of their plans on the adjoining neighborhoods—all of them listed in the National Register, from the Lower Garden District to Holy Cross and everything in between. In response to my question about Section 106 and NEPA review, Eskew stated “We expect to meet or exceed every requirement.” He cited the Louisville and Chattanooga riverfronts and Crissy Field in San Francisco as best practices they will emulate. See for more details.

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 New Orleans: Financing in Question

Posted on: March 31st, 2008 by Walter Gallas


On Friday, the Times-Picayune published a graphic showing housing construction projects around the city and indicating which had their financing in place. All four of the public housing developments were shown as not having closed on their financing. I submitted a letter to the editor Saturday calling attention to this, and questioning how the mayor could have released the demolition permits, given this information.

I delivered a public records request to the city attorney’s office on Friday. The same request will go to the mayor, the council president, the city council budget committee chair, and the clerk of council on Monday morning. We are seeking the documents which HUD, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, and the developers of the four public housing developments were to produce to enable the mayor to sign off on the release of the demolition permits for the four developments. The mayor signed off on Lafitte this week, saying he and the council were “comfortable” that HUD was complying with the conditions that were attached to the demolition approvals in December.

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 New Orleans: Revised Building Code Enforcement

Posted on: March 28th, 2008 by Walter Gallas


The City Council this week passed an ordinance which reorganized portions of the City Code dealing with the building code enforcement measures. Much of it seemed like merely rearranging existing pieces into new Chapters of the Code, but in come cases the definitions of blighted or public nuisance properties were reworked to incorporate the recent “imminent health threat” categories. Most of the authority remains no different than what the city had before—but the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Development Administration (ORDA) assured the Council that this time they would get serious about hauling people before hearing officers; assessing and recording fines; and placing liens in properties for the cost of any remediation the city would step in and undertake.

My testimony to the Council asked what assurances we have that this process will be carried out as conceived, given the City’s poor record of managing and overseeing demolitions. At the same council meeting, for example, an attorney appeared on behalf of his client who had acquired a house through the sheriff’s tax sale—yet this property was placed on the demolition list—AND the property owner only learned this from private advocates monitoring the process. Further—there still is no comprehensive updated demolition list on the city’s web site—as called for months ago by the Council and by a federal consent decree.

With the assurance of the ORDA staff that “Once you pass this, it’s up and running,” the Council unanimously passed the measure.

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.