Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Way to Save LSU Footprint Houses?

Has anyone started a project here to raise funding to move houses?

Will VA retain Pershing Place, a pocket park dedicated to World War I veterans?

I've discussed the pocket park - and its iconic World War I doughboy statue - before.

But here's some more information on the site at the confluence of Tulane Avenue, Banks, and S. Galvez, all from a friend of the blog.

The park was originally known as Tulane Park, but then became commonly known as "Billy Goat Park" or "Nanny Goat Park" after it was organized via a city ordinance in the late 1800s.  Following World War I, it was renamed Pershing Place in honor of General "Black Jack" Pershing, leader of U.S. Forces in Europe in World War I, as this snippet from the PRC's Preservation in Print magazine points out:

The statue in Pershing Place is clearly inspired by Ernest M. Viquesney’s 1920 copyrighted design “The Spirit of the American Doughboy” yet nobody seems to know the artist who executed our particular statue.

ADDED: I should note that the park is actually in the LSU Footprint, but I would hope that the VA, given its immediate proximity across the intersection, would intervene with LSU and the State of Louisiana to save the iconic space dedicated to veterans.

Rally/Meeting/Press Conference

Late on Friday, the Committee to Reopen Charity held an event at the venerable Outer Banks Bar at the corner of Palmyra and S. Tonti, pictured above.

A number of folks showed up to see what all the fuss was about.

Fox8 - the channel that has provided the best continuing television coverage of the LSU/VA Footprint story - interviewed Ms. Deborah Brown-Cassine in front of her fully renovated house, a hybrid camelback, where she still lives.  Her children, along with a friend, watched from the screen door as she gave a powerful, eloquent account of her status as someone who "had tried to comply in every way," but who felt that her civil rights were being violated as utility shut-offs threatened her legal right to remain.

She noted that she was one of the plaintiffs in a federal suit filed two weeks ago which seemingly played a role in keeping utilities on in the VA Footprint.

Back at Outer Banks, Mr. Guth, the owner of the structure (former owner?) noted that he plans to fight the eviction notice for the bar down at the CDC on Thursday, November 4 at 10 a.m.  Here, he talks with Nicole, the manager, as patrons trickled in after work.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Roofs Return

Down along Bienville, roofs continue to reappear on the cluster of moved VA Footprint houses.

From what I hear, a volunteer group from Capital One Bank even helped with the effort at this site in the past week.

Big Time

Major demolition was underway yesterday on the former JOBS center, which operated on the site at S. Tonti and Canal until recently.  While it was not a historic building, it's easily the largest single demolition project within the VA Footprint to date.

Inside and Out

A spiral staircase was visible through the open front door of the home at 213 S. Tonti Street yesterday.  The top half of the house (and extra large and prominent camelback) has been removed, and the bottom half is being prepped for moving.


Part of the simple blue home at 2314 Palmyra was moved off-site in the past week.  Unfortunately, like many of the homes in the area, it had a small rear camelback portion that extend out beyond the 60-foot maximum.

Utilities Shut Off Update

As this WDSU story from Thursday indicates, the utilities were not actually shut off for residents in the VA Footprint on October 28 as planned.

Temporary utility poles did begin to spring up at various places in the VA Footprint, however.  Supposedly eleven residential poles were installed, as well as three for businesses.

From everything I could discern from folks on-site, it seems the state has backed away from its plan to cut utilities before everyone is out of the site (due in part, no doubt, to recent legal action).

A news reporter on the scene last evening also said that Entergy put out a press release yesterday saying that it cannot cut power to residents who continue to pay for electricity.

"Welcome Cuidado"

Five More

Only five structures remain to be removed from the city block bounded by S. Galvez, Palmyra, Cleveland, and S. Miro.  On Friday, crews began taking the roof off the lonely house at 328-30 S. Miro, which has stood alone for some time now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Positive Story

Ms. Doris Bahr made a slideshow featuring photos of the moving of her home - one of the "original VA moves" coordinated by the SHPO office, and one of the few homes to be moved thus far with its roof intact.

As you'll note at the bottom of the slideshow, a special thanks goes out to Mr. Phil Boggan at SHPO for his help in finding a better site to relocate the house than the one that was originally proposed.

Salvage Gets Underway

At 2406 Palmyra Street.

Like a number of homes in the VA Footprint, this home's contents indicate that its former inhabitants left when they fled Katrina...and never came back.

Slow Motion Move Out

Waste Unltd.

Remember the clay tiles I mentioned earlier this week?  The ones on the little Mediterranean Revival shotgun at 2320 Palmyra?

Well, they went to the dumpster today - instead of being salvaged for reuse.

UPDATE: A person working with one of the site contractors say an effort was made - for several weeks - to locate someone to salvage the tiles. The house was held off the list of houses to prep for an extra week, all to no avail in the end.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I've been away at a conference for work over the past few days, and I knew things would be different when I returned.

Rolling through the VA Footprint this evening, it's clear that several structures have been demolished, and a number of homes have been moved - including the two "original VA house moves" where the original owners will retain the homes during and after the moves.  In the triangle between Banks and Tulane, the building that housed Lee's restaurant until recently is gone.

Not everything was different, though.  The neon was still glowing purple and green at Outer Banks bar, which now stands alone in the dark.  Ms. Gaynell still sat out on her porch.  And Brick Man was still shuffling amidst his piles of bricks in front of the S.W. Green mansion under the streetlight.

Both my good camera and my old camera were out of battery as I returned from the trip, so I used PhotoBooth and shot directly with my laptop camera:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


This elaborate wrought iron fence rings the Orleans House, an Eastlake-style mansion at 1800 Canal Street.  The structure, one of the last Canal Street mansions, is the lone building that will ostensibly be saved in the LSU Footprint according to plans at present.

A Small Step Inside Dixie Brewery

A few weeks ago, I was invited to witness laborers working under the owners of Dixie Brewery (who still own the building, from what I know) as they removed some of the elements of the tasting room, including giant beer keg structures, to prevent theft.

The front door of the brewery was destroyed at least a month ago, although the large, distinctive, metal gates are still in place.  I didn't go any farther into the building than the threshold, where Mike explained the measures.

Some VA designs show the tower of the hulking 1907 brewery building incorporated into a research facility, but ensuring that the building - which suffered significant damage during and after Katrina - is preserved in some fashion will require continued vigilance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Clay Tiles at Risk - 2320 Palmyra

Submitted photo of 2320 Palmyra

If this Mediterranean Revival shotgun house in the VA Footprint is moved...and the roof must be taken off, as it has on the houses moved thus far...what will become of the hundreds of clay tiles?

It would be quite a waste to see them go to the landfill.

A friend pointed out this issue today.  Unfortunately, I don't believe tiles are listed under the salvage agreement, and I don't have any evidence that they will be re-used on the house as it's rehabilitated in a new location elsewhere in the city.  Thus, it seems important to find an outside party to remove the tiles at this point.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Good to See

I'm not saying it's because of the post I made over a week ago pointing out the potential hazard posed by the open state-owned properties on Palmyra near Priestly Charter School.

But some party, presumably the contractors working for the state/LSU, had boarded up the open properties by yesterday afternoon.  It's a positive step.  Now, to clip the weeds...

Several families still live in the white double shotgun with blue trim off at the end of the row.

In the 5th Ward, Border of the 6th Ward

There's a vacant lot that's been filled in Treme.  Once again, I stumbled across the familiar home as I walked back from the festivities leading up to the brass band blowout under the bridge.

The house formerly at 2213-15 Banks Street is now part of the streetscape at about 1712 St. Philip Street.

Even without a roof and with cinder block piers, it looks like a better fit for the neighborhood than the new construction next to it (not pictured), as a neighbor pointed out to me.

A Big Question

In August of this year, the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, or "CEA" that governs the VA Footprint site preparation expired:

The CEA was an agreement between the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana (and LSU) to prepare the site for the VA Hospital.  It provided the guidance framework for the entire undertaking, and, functionally, it provided the public and interested parties with notice of how the process would play out.

My question: what legal or contractual arrangement now governs the extensive site preparation undertaking in the VA Hospital Footprint?

Does anything regulate the site preparation?  Is the City of New Orleans still on the hook for potentially significant legal liabilities that may stem from the site preparation:

I sent in a public records request several weeks ago (which, admittedly, mentioned an Aug. 31, 2010 termination date instead of the precise Aug. 28, 2010 termination date), only to receive this response:

That seemed to indicate that there was no longer any Cooperative Endeavor Agreement in place.

I've sent in a new public records request (with what I believe are the proper dates) to find out if some new agreement has since been crafted to govern the site preparation.

Solitary Artist

An artist appeared on the landscape yesterday in the VA Footprint.

As he painted an old guesthouse and shed behind one home, I thought about artists and the site for a bit.

For a city that has such a burgeoning art scene, I've seen almost zero artistic response or reaction or challenge to the LSU/VA hospitals project.  Local artists, by and large, in my opinion, have really failed on this one.  Where have you been St. Claude?  The project is a glaring opportunity for creating highly relevant artwork that addresses a major, emotional, multi-faceted public issue.

A few exceptions do come to mind, however.  Professor Stephen Hilger has brought his photographic eye to bear on the site for quite some time now, and I know he's been building up a trove of moving photos.  I also saw Charles, who runs The Dark Room, leaving the site as a storm rolled in one day with photo equipment in hand.

Perhaps I've overlooked some artistic responses to the project.  If so, please feel free to send word along. But as it stands, I'm at a loss when it comes to explaining the failure.

Deutsches Haus

Tonight is the final night of Oktoberfest for the cultural cornerstone on S. Galvez Street.

Rally at Outer Banks Bar

The Committee to Re-Open Charity has announced an event set for next week Friday:

I think the cautionary point about "this can happen anywhere in New Orleans" is especially worth repeating.