Making a Difference

Difference:
Mr. and Mrs. Washington

Credit: ?Chris Granger

John Washington and his wife, Angela, were the first residents to return to their neighborhood in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. Having persuaded the power company to restore service to their c. 1880 shotgun house, they moved back in. Theirs was "the only light on in the Lower Ninth" for almost a year, but Washington was confident that his presence would inspire others to return.

"I just assured them that I was going to be there," says the New Orleans native. "If there's activity in one block, it helps people and encourages them to do something with their property."

Washington restored his own house and is rehabbing another badly damaged shotgun down the street. When it's fully restored, he hopes another family—maybe even one that cares about historic preservation as much as he does—will move back to the neighborhood. Washington plans to continue fixing up properties throughout New Orleans: "I'm renovating the city one house at a time." 

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.