Monday, March 14, 2011
Inside McDonogh No. 11 School
A group of us visited the inside of the building with permission from the Orleans Parish School Board, the building's current owner. Charity Hospital's central massif is visible from one of the arched windows of the 1879 building. The school building is still slated for demolition, although a groundswell of public support is underway. In the foreground, the vacant lots left from the demolition of four historic buildings stretch out along Palmyra Street in the LSU Footprint.
A globe, split down the equator, sits alone amidst the shiny wooden floors of a well-lighted classroom on the third floor of McDonogh No. 11. The school was abandoned in December 2010 when students were forced to relocate to modular units out on Almonaster Avenue. The building, despite its age, is structurally sound.
Until today, I did not know that the building has multiple skylights that light the upper portions of the large interior stairwells.
The ground floor, a sort of raised basement space, was naturally cool even on this warm afternoon. One room in the rear had an eerie red cast to it - a "bordello" feel as one member of the group quipped. Remnants from the building's earlier use as a school were strewn here and there.
Backed by cast-iron piers, a series of original dividers also split some of the groundfloor spaces, but permitted expansion as needed.
Various snippets of student ephemera could still be seen on the boards - like the words above (the medical reference comes from the fact that prior to Katrina, McDonogh No. 11 served as the New Orleans Center for Health Careers).
Behind the building, adjoining the schoolyard, the old infirmary stood empty.
The visit only reinforced what I've believe all along - McDonogh No. 11 is worth saving. It can and should be incoporated into the proposed UMC hospital complex. The site consists of 37 acres - surely there's a way to work it in.