NEW ORLEANS – Both the historic McDonogh School No. 7 and the Circle Food Store made the list of New Orleans’ most endangered sites.
Modeled on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s listing of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the New Orleans’ Nine was inaugurated by Louisiana Landmarks Society in 2005.
The list aims to save historic sites and facilities that may be threatened by demolition, neglect, or bureaucracy.
Through an annual announcement the Society seeks to gain publicity for endangered places, to advocate for sound preservation policies, and to educate the public that the loss of these resources would diminish the community.
“Our list this year is a selection of endangered sites that spans the history and geography of the city, from a Creole cottage in Tremé to the lifeblood of our city, the sewerage and water infrastructure. These and seven other sites beg for investment so that they can continue to serve the New Orleans community,” said Michael Duplantier, president of the Landmarks Society.
The naming of the New Orleans’ Nine follows a citywide call for nominations from individuals, neighborhood associations, and historic and architectural organizations.
The final choices are based upon selection criteria such as historic, architectural, civic and cultural value, the severity of the threat, and the degree of community commitment to save the property. The list is as follows:
2019 New Orleans Nine Descriptions:
Location:2532-26 St. Peter Street
Threat: Demolition by Neglect
Decades of negligence are willfully destroying “the most outstanding Art Deco building in New Orleans.” When the dazzling 1927 General Laundry was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the report stated, “It epitomizes [Art Deco], as does no other…building in New Orleans….” In 2014, the current owner requested demolition, but was denied by a deed restriction requiring State Historic Preservation Office approval. Today, water damaged and partially roofless, this landmark is allowed to deteriorate daily in plain sight of code enforcement; yet its brilliance shines to inspire anyone with eyes and heart.
Three-Bay Creole Cottage
Location: 1016 N. Roman Street
Threat: Demolition by Neglect
The New Orleans three-bay Creole cottage is a fairly rare vernacular type. It came into fashion about 1845, and was generally out by 1850. With its elongated rear slope accommodating a three-room deep plan, the three-bay Creole cottage represents an important evolutionary link between the floor plan and massing of the Creole cottage and that of the shotgun house. The example on North Roman was built by free man of color Lenoville Pascal, a local builder who began to assemble the land in 1849. Since 1968 the house has been in the hands of a local family and has passed into an estate with multiple owners. Today, the house sits deteriorating.
McDonogh No.7 School
Location: 1111 Milan Street
Threat: Demolition by Neglect
Designed by renowned architect William A. Freret, this stately brick edifice is one of the oldest remaining McDonogh Schools in New Orleans. The building, which currently houses Audubon Charter School, has endured years of deferred maintenance. Citing the cost of renovation, the Orleans Parish School Board recently classified it as surplus property. The Board is currently reported to be negotiating a property swap with the Housing Authority of New Orleans with no concrete plans for the school’s continued use of redevelopment. Reported Housing Authority plans to demolish the building in favor of dense apartments are a real threat.
Circle Food Store
Neighborhood: 7th Ward
Location: 1532 St. Bernard Ave.
THREAT: Repetitive Flooding
The iconic 1931 Circle Food Store, a beloved, black-owned community hub that offered fresh food, goods and services to the Treme and 7th Ward neighborhoods, faces peril because of repetitive flooding and development pressure. Designed by architect Sam Stone, Jr., the store was named for the St. Bernard Ave. traffic circle destroyed by the construction of Interstate 10. The grocery, acquired from the city in 1938 by an African-American vendor, replaced the St. Bernard Market, one of 36 markets. Following Hurricane Katrina, the building underwent an $8 mil. renovation. It reopened in 2014 but was inundated again by the infamous August 5, 2017 flood and another 8 months later. Financial woes forced an auction of the Mission Revival building in 2019, and now tensions rise as the neighborhood waits to see if the new owner will redevelop the store in a way that serves the nearby community.
Belgian Paving Stones
Neighborhood: Lafayette Square Historic District
Location: 600-800 Blocks of St. Joseph Street
Threat: Deterioration and Disrepair due to Neglect
With a rough, durable surface that became disfavored with the emergence of automobiles, the mid-nineteenth century paving stones covering city streets were mostly paved over with asphalt in the early twentieth century. Called Belgian blocks, the stones remained in place and served as foundational support for the new street surface. On only a handful of streets did the stones remain exposed, lending an undeniable charm and authenticity to the historic streetscape. St. Joseph Street from Baronne to Camp was among those few streets that managed to retain its exposed paving stone surface. Today the paving stones are threatened by chronic neglect and years of construction projects along St Joseph Street.
Sewerage and Water Infrastructure
Threat: Deteriorated Infrastructure, Pumping and Power Systems-along with lack of funding and political prioritization
With the innovation of the Albert Baldwin Wood’s Screw Pumps and drainage system, New Orleans was a world leader in urban water management–reducing disease conditions, making land available for modest homes and allowing the city’s economy to grow. Recent decades of neglect and political maneuvering, coupled with a lack of investment and prioritization of the infrastructure, have led to precarious storm and drinking water systems. Repeated episodes of flooding and boil-water advisories threaten our historic structures, resources, culture, and tourism dollars. We are at a critical juncture that requires heavy investment in our infrastructure.
425 Celeste Street
Neighborhood: Lower Garden District
Location: 425 Celeste Street
Threat: Demolition by Neglect/Full Demolition
This three-story Greek revival style store-house stands as a lonely reminder of the importance of the riverfront area of the Lower Garden District in the economic development of 19th Century New Orleans. Today this significant circa 1865 commercial remnant faces several threats, the most immediate of which is demolition by neglect. Architectural details such as cast-iron columns are weathering and falling off, and several column capitals are missing. While cited as a contributing element to the National Register’s Lower Garden District, it does not fall within the Historic Districts Landmark Commission’s jurisdiction local protection. A second threat to this building is that it will be consumed by the large-scale development planned in the immediate area.
Neighborhood: Holy Cross
Location: 5763 Dauphine Street
Threat: Demolition by Neglect and blight removal
City Agencies have three times cited owners of this circa 1880 Creole cottage in the Holy Cross Historic District for blight. Built in the rear of the former Charbonnet Plantation, the cottage was once part of a farming area. Owned by a single family for most of its existence, the cottage has little by little lost its family as generations died or moved away. The issue of joint or missing owners is a constant threat to houses of this type. Recent city liens have increased the likelihood of demolition.
THREAT: Demolition by neglect and deliberate demolition; failure to repurpose
Like the corner grocery, the neighborhood theater was once a familiar and welcoming sight throughout the city. Built before the development of television and the widespread use of the automobile, they were accessible on foot and by bicycle. These theaters were places where friends and families could meet and enjoy the latest Hollywood movies. Over time, changes in technology that allowed movie viewing at home or at multiplex theaters in area shopping malls, along with the migration of people from city to suburbs resulted in much reduced attendance. Consequently, most theaters were closed and the buildings sold, with some demolished or left to decay, leading to the disappearance of a much-loved institution.