Thursday, December 16, 2010

Built in 1879 - Slated for Demolition

New Orleans and the American South had barely emerged from Reconstruction when the McDonogh No. 11 School was constructed in an Italianate style in what is now the LSU Footprint.

Designed by prominent New Orleans architect William A. Freret (who later served as "Supervising Architect of the United States"), the building benefited from the philanthropy of John McDonogh, like so many schools in the city.  It replaced the earlier Madison School, which was destroyed by fire in 1878, a year earlier.

Two firefighters died in the line of duty when a wall fell during that fire:

One of the fire department tragedies which for many reasons produced a deeper impression than others was that in which Joseph W Hartnett Second Assistant of Columbia No 5 and Michael DeLehr a member of the same company lost their lives It occurred on July 15 1878 at a fire originating in a two story frame house at No 42 South Prieur Street and extending to several other dwelling houses and to the fine Madison School building at Prieur and Palmyra Streets. Owing to a scarcity of water at the time the firemen were comparatively helpless in their attempts to extinguish the fire and they had to resort principally to the device of tearing down buildings that might furnish fuel to the flames and extend the conflagration. After the Madison School building had been seriously involved in the fire the pipe of Mississippi No 2 in the hands of No 5's men was contrary to instructions of the Chief Engineer taken up towards the Palmyra Street side of the building and Hartnett and DeLehr mounted to the landing of the stairway some fifteen feet above the ground and attempted to tear away an iron railing in order to open space for the stream of the engine While they were thus engaged the tall and already tottering frame wall surged forward and to the horror of all who were looking on fell upon the men and buried them completely from sight under the debris The ready hands of their comrades were brought at once to the rescue and succeeded in uncovering them from beneath the burning and smouldering mass and bringing them out still living but crushed burned and dying They were taken at once to the Hotel Dieu where the physicians and Sisters of Charity did all that was possible for their relief though relief came only with death which ensued within a short time

Here is the link to the full story.  To this day, a stone memorial tablet graces the transom above one of the entrances on Palmyra Street.  It was dedicated in a formal ceremony as the present school building rose from the ashes of its predecessor.

Here's what the building looked like in the 1890s:

The building shows up on the Robinson Atlas of 1883, which depicts things as they were a few years prior at the very end of the 1870s:

Here's a shot of the graduating class of 1924.

Today, the school building continues to educate over 200 students who attend the Priestley Charter School.

Unfortunately, the exceptional building is slated for demolition to make way for the UMC hospital.  And the school children will be forced to move out over the coming holiday break in the middle of the school year.

Demolitions are ongoing in the block surrounding McDonogh No. 11.  The scene below shows machinery just one house away from the school:

I should also note that I am indebted to a kind friend for leads on many of these historical tidbits.

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