New Orleans U.S. Custom House

New Orleans, Louisiana

Award Type: Honor Award

The city of New Orleans knows plenty about weathering a storm – and so do its buildings. Its U.S. Custom House, one of the oldest and most significant works of federal architecture in the country, has been a New Orleans landmark since 1848. In August 2005, the Custom House withstood the winds of Hurricane Katrina, but succumbed to severe water damage resulting in a collapsed roof. For the first time in 150 years, the 300,000 square foot National Historic Landmark was completely empty.

The General Services Administration turned this disaster into an opportunity for a comprehensive rehabilitation and restoration. GSA’s determination was rewarded throughout the restoration process as they uncovered treasures such as vaulted ceilings, skylights, and original signage hidden beneath insensitive alterations. Energy efficient systems were added while the historic fabric of the building was maintained.

"While each is unique, this year’s outstanding Honor Award winners all reflect the importance of protecting what is special and irreplaceable,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “Whether it’s the restoration of an iconic post office in Philadelphia or the transformation of a Greyhound bus station into a Civil Rights museum in Montgomery, this year’s Honor Award winners demonstrate how saving places is bolstering local economies and creating jobs in communities across the country.”