923 St. Maurice, before.

923 St. Maurice, before.

On Friday, September 5, the mayor, invoking his emergency powers, issued an executive order suspending demolition review by the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee (NCDC), the body designed to keep an eye on properties in National Register and older neighborhoods outside of the local historic districts. The committee's normally-scheduled meeting the previous Monday had been scuttled by the city's mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Gustav. The mayor's action triggered a flurry of activity within the Department of Safety and Permits, which began to write demolition permits at an accelerated pace for the next two weeks. By 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 19 (when the mayor's executive order was rescinded), about 200 permits had been written.

At least 18 properties under the jurisdiction of the NCDC were demolished this past week, including an especially tragic one at 923-25 St. Maurice Street, just outside the boundaries of the local Holy Cross historic district. The property had been cited as an imminent health threat and was on the agenda of the September meeting of the NCDC, which was canceled due to the mayor’s order. I went to City Hall Wednesday morning and talked to a staff member of Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis in whose district the house is located, urging the staff member to relay to the councilwoman that the house was not in imminent danger of collapse and could be saved.

923 St. Maurice, after.

923 St. Maurice, after.

Later that day, Willard-Lewis scolded the preservation community at the City Council recovery committee meeting, while commending the city inspectors for making their decisions "based on science, not on emotions." The house was demolished. It turns out that the city assessor’s office had not properly updated the ownership records for the St. Maurice house, so all attempts to reach the owner were too late to save the building. The wife of the couple owning the house had lost her job with the public school district after Katrina, we learned when the owner finally was reached — but most heart-breaking, was the fact that the couple had just received their Road Home money to repair the house. Had Willard-Lewis stepped in and stopped the demolition, the house — and the family — would have had a whole different story. Had there been a public hearing on the proposed demolition, the likelihood of the correct owner being identified would also have increased.

The incompetence of code enforcement throughout the city continued to be recorded by the local media this past week. In one story, a woman who had evacuated the city for hurricane Gustav returned to find her home in New Orleans East demolished. In another case, the city’s code enforcement department cited and fined the owner of an occupied commercial building in New Orleans East for blight and threatened demolition. See the two links below for details:

http://www.wdsu.com/news/17501325/detail.html

http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/wwl091808mlcrowder.8d14595f.html

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.

Tomb of the Unknowns Update: Sen. Akaka's Official Statement

Posted on: September 23rd, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is grateful to Senator Jim Webb and Senator Daniel K. Akaka for their continued strong support for preservation of the authentic Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

We are pleased to report that on September 16, 2008, Senator Akaka, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, issued a statement regarding the recent report by the Department of the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs entitled Report on Alternative Measures to Address Cracks in the Monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

In his statement, Senator Akaka observed: “While I understand the concerns about the cracks in the Tomb Monument, I along with many others believe that our national monuments are not diminished by signs of their age. Many of our most treasured American symbols, from the Liberty Bell to the Star-Spangled Banner, are physically worn and weathered. This does not diminish their value or significance. I would argue that the same is true for the Tomb of the Unknowns.”

Although Senator Akaka acknowledged that some may call for replacement of the historic monument in the future, he also stated: “It is our nation's tradition to preserve our historic national symbols. We must protect them from the notion that they can be easily discarded or replaced. … I urge the [Department of the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs], in their respective capacities, to pursue the best means of preserving the Tomb Monument for future generations of veterans and Americans.”

Click here for Senator Akaka’s full statement.

-– Robert Nieweg

Robert Nieweg is the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern 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.

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.

 

The Presidential Campaign of 1864: It's hard to escape the political ads and punditry of this election season, but what was it like for presidential campaigns of the nineteenth century? Lincoln's last summer spent at his presidential cottage in northwest DC was an election year, and he used his time there to rest as well as to mobilize his campaign. [President Lincoln's Cottage]

The Other Side of "Green Architecture": Wait, not everyone is excited over the green architecture trend? Cathleen McGuigan discusses the trendiness in constructing green buildings and how the hype often detracts from building truly sustainable structures. [Newsweek]

Are Historic Sites prepared for Disasters?: With the current hurricane season in full force, it's important to keep in mind that historic homes and sites are also affected by rising water, wind and debris. Max van Balgooy takes a look at disaster planning for historic sites. [National Trust Historic Sites Weblog]

Galveston Today: Confessions of a Preservationist collected a few images from the aftermath of hurricane Ike in the city of Galveston. [Confessions of a Preservationist]

Chinatown--The Next Lower East Side?: Development in New York's Chinatown has some crying "gentrification," and fearing an ensuing hipster invasion. Others see the neighborhood's potential for smart growth and new types of business as a way to cater to the next generation. [Time Out New York]

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.

Dallas Hotel Sparks Community Conversation

Posted on: September 19th, 2008 by Dolores McDonagh

 

Every morning we get an email called "Preservation in the News" that includes links to news stories that mention the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since by some act of God my schedule today is actually bereft of meetings, I actually took a few minutes to read the "feed" and came across this story in Unfair Park, the online blog of the Dallas Observer about the Statler Hilton Hotel, listed on this year's 11 Most Endangered list. The story talks about the city's dilemma with the abandoned hotel but what really struck me were the comments made on the story by Dallas residents (Dallas-ians? Dallans? Dallasites?). Reading the comments was a fascinating experience. At first, I felt like an eavesdropper, listening in on a married couple's argument at the next dinner table.  Then, I felt like an urban planning grad student, getting into the past and possible future of a city I'd never visited.

As a preservationist, I wanted to only love the comments from people advocating to save and reuse the Statler and find nothing but buffoonery in those giving other opinions. But I couldn't -- because in almost every comment I found a love of Dallas and a common desire for finding the best future for their downtown and city. And I took encouragement from the fact that even those who weren't advocating preservation weren't accusing preservationists of "blocking progress" -- which I think shows how we're having some success convincing Americans that preservation isn't JUST about preserving the past, but also about helping to define our future.

I will share my favorite comment, even though I'm not sure john's a preservationist:

john k. says:

I only wish downtown were like it was in the 50's. Before the $4.00 mixed drinks. Before the old library closed. Before the Dalls Police Department quit enforcing the traffic laws and let the Constables do it. Before the Internet. Before the tunnel which put most of the daily pedestrians under neath the city. Before the hotels quet having named entertainment in their big rooms. Before, Jack Ruby and Oswald put Dallas on the map as a bad place. Before, when Dalls women needed some time before going to bed with a stranger. We all got to know each other better and loved being here as one of the best places in the United States to live.

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.

James Madison's Montpelier: Restoration Celebration

Posted on: September 18th, 2008 by Matt Ringelstetter

 

"If you're looking for Madison's memorial, look around. Look around at a free country, governed by the rule of law." With these words, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts presided over the opening of the newly restored physical memorial to the life of our nation's fourth president.

In addition to being the home of the Madison family for nearly 80 years, and the building where, in the mid-1780's, James Madison crafted the Virginia Plan--a major influence at the Constitutional Convention of 1787--Montpelier can now lay claim to be what National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe calls, "the biggest, most complex, most ambitious research and restoration project in the history of the National Trust and probably in the history of the nation." On Wednesday, September 17 (Constitution Day) with several thousand in attendance, the ribbon was cut, signaling the completion of Montpelier's five year architectural restoration.

Built around 1764 by James Madison's father, the house went through several additions by the family before

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

the President's death in 1836 and the selling of the estate by his wife Dolley in 1844. The history of the estate does not end there, as later families who called Montpelier home added their own unique touches to the property. Most notable amongst these was the duPont family whose purchase in 1901 by Delaware native William was soon followed by the eventual transformation of Montpelier into a luxurious country home. The duPonts expanded the house from 26 rooms to a total of 55. The family also added a second story to each of the Madison-era wings and rooms to the rear of the building--additions that doubled the square-footage of the home.

In 1928, William duPont’s daughter Marion duPont Scott inherited the estate and continued to add her own personal flavor to Montpelier. Known around the world for her equestrian interests, the duPont heiress added a race track and other facilities on the grounds. Her exquisite Art Deco “Red Room” displayed trophies and the photos of winning thoroughbreds. Marion, however, was also interested in history, and understood the significance of the home in the context of the American nation. This led to her wish to have Montpelier restored to its Madison-era appearance in her will.... 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.