Historic Cabildo, Presbytère buildings crumbling, will undergo emergency repair

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File photo of the historic Cabildo

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) –  Two of the most historic buildings in Louisiana will undergo emergency repairs.

According to Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s office, the exteriors of the Cabildo and the Presbytère are crumbling due to moisture intrusion.

The repairs are needed to prevent the plaster and stucco on the buildings from breaking off, falling to the street and posing a danger to the public and the artifacts inside.

“The Cabildo and Presbytère are the ‘front door’ of Louisiana,” Nungesser said in a press release announcing the repairs. “Flanking St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, these three buildings are often shown in photographs to represent our state. Their exhibits tell our history – our founding, Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina.”

The state Interim Emergency Board, which oversees requests for emergency spending, unanimously agreed to allocate $945,862 for the project. Another $2.46 million will come from the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism’s annual budget for major repairs.

“Millions of tourists will come to New Orleans for the tri-centennial in 2018,” says Nungesser. “We need to protect the ‘front door of Louisiana’ for locals and our visitors to enjoy.”

File photo of the historic Cabildo

File photo of the historic Cabildo

The problems came to light during recent exterior renovations of the buildings, which included removal of an elastomeric coating applied in the 1990s.

Once a state-of-the-art technique to keep out moisture, the coating actually trapped moisture that seeped up through the ground and damaged the buildings. Removal of the coating exposed cracks and other problems that if left exposed to the elements, could lead to more serious damage.

The Cabildo and Presbytère will remain open to the public while the repairs are being made.

About the Cabildo and Presbytère

The Cabildo was built under Spanish rule between 1795 and 1799, following the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 that completely destroyed the structure that stood on the property. Designed by Gilberto Guillemard, who also designed the neighboring St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytère, the Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803, which finalized the United States’ acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and doubled the size of the fledgling nation.

The Cabildo served as the center of New Orleans government until 1853 when it became the headquarters of the Louisiana State Supreme Court. The building was transferred to the Louisiana State Museum in 1908.

The Presbytère was designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo, alongside St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter.

Originally called Casa Curial or “Ecclesiastical House,” the Presbytère, was built on the site of the residence, or presbytère, of the Capuchin monks and was used for commercial purposes until 1834 when it became a courthouse. In 1911, it became part of the Louisiana State Museum.

Both buildings are listed as National Historic Landmarks with the National Park Service.

For more information visit the Louisiana State Museum.