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.

Permit for Feedlot Near Minidoka Denied

Posted on: October 25th, 2007 by Margaret Foster

 

MinidokaAn Idaho internment camp where Japanese Americans were confined during World War II won a victory this month when local county commissioners denied a permit for a feedlot operation nearby.

Minidoka Internment National Monument, overseen by the National Park Service, was threatened with a concentrated animal feeding operation a mile away.

Because the applicant, Big Sky Farms, can appeal within 28 days of the Oct. 9 decision, preservationists say the fight isn't over. ... 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.

No Buyers for Mid-Century Modern House Prompts Group to Think Outside the Box

Posted on: October 24th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

paschal.jpgNo buyers have stepped forward to purchase the Paschal House in Raleigh, N.C. Now the nonprofit Preservation North Carolina may hold a design contest to spur interest in developing the three-acre property appropriately, while preserving the mid-century modern structure.

"It's the greatest modern house in North Carolina," says architect Frank Harmon. "It's such an exemplary house, built with respect to site and climate. It bonds with the landscape, using all natural materials and few finishes."

Designed in 1950 by architect James Fitzgibbon, the Paschal House was out of the ordinary for North Carolina, built with a combination of modernist, specifically Wrightian, principles and all-natural materials. ... 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.

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.

Another Vinyl Tirade

Posted on: October 23rd, 2007 by Barbara Campagna 2 Comments

 

I have been mulling over Patrice’s vinyl sadness since last week which probably explains the violence with which I responded to a Building & Grounds Manager from one of our 29 historic sites today when he called to ask if I would approve “vinyl replacement” windows in one of our rental houses (I am the Director of Architecture for the National Trust’s 29 historic sites). “No vinyl” I said. “But vinyl lasts longer and doesn’t need any maintenance,” he responded. Why does this misperception continue in the general public and bleed over into those of us who should know better? As Mike Jackson (Chief Architect of the Illinois SHPO’s office) says, “No Maintenance required” really means “can’t be repaired” - so they end up in the landfill much sooner than say a wood window which can be repaired and repaired and repaired, or recycled. Vinyl can’t be repaired, and it can’t be recycled. So, maybe you don’t need to repaint it every 10 years, but within 20 years you will need to buy new windows yet again, and the heavy imprint on the environment starts all over.

To quote my colleague Patrice’s recent "White Paper on Sustainability": There is a common perception that windows are a major source of heat loss and gain. Yet retaining historic windows is often more environmentally friendly than replacement with new thermally resistant windows. Government data suggests that windows are responsible for only 10% of air infiltration in the average home. Furthermore, a 1996 study finds that the performance of updated historic windows is in fact comparable to new windows. Window retention also preserves embodied energy, and reduces demand for environmentally costly new windows, typically constructed of vinyl or aluminum… There is the widespread perception that air leakage through windows is responsible for the majority of heat gain or loss in historic buildings. Yet information from the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that windows are responsible for only 10% of air escape in the average American home. Floors, ceiling and walls are responsible for 31% of heat loss and gain, while ducts and fireplaces are each responsible for about 15% of heat loss and gain.

Now this assumption is only true for traditional windows, typically in buildings built before 1920. All the tables are turned when looking at buildings built after World War II, or even earlier International Style or mid-century modern buildings. Many of these windows and/or curtain wall systems were experimental, and most of the energy loss in these buildings is attributed to the curtain wall system.

So, what sage advice did I give our Building and Grounds Manager after I stopped hyperventilating? First, absolutely no vinyl. It doesn’t matter that this building is not the National Historic Landmark that the site is known for. It’s the vinyl in all the good sound background buildings that are contributing to the problems in our environment. Second, maybe the perceived energy loss is not from the windows (or the windows alone), so let’s get an energy audit first before we jump to conclusions. And third, get me options for repairing the windows or replacing with new wood. Yes, they will probably be more expensive than the vinyl, in the short term. But as stewards for the site we need to always be looking at the long term and the big picture. And so that means, NO VINYL!!

UPDATE, November 15th, 2007: The Building and Grounds Manager from the offending site called me yesterday to tell me he got prices for new wood windows that match the badly deteriorated ones, as well as prices for vinyl and clad windows. Guess what, the difference was pretty minimal, so he thanked me for the recommendation and now we'll be staying away from the vinyl!!

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 bcampagna@bcampagna.com.