National Trust for Historic Preservation Joins State and Local Partners in Calling for Historic School’s Incorporation into Reconfigured Mid-City Hospital Plan
Posted February 18, 2011 | Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-588-6141
New Orleans, LA (February 15, 2011) - Today the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Preservation Resource Center, Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Smart Growth for Louisiana, Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents, and Associates (VCPORA), and SaveCharityHospital.com called on the State of Louisiana to incorporate the architecturally and historically significant McDonogh No. 11 School into a reconfigured University Medical Center (UMC) plan, rather than demolishing a vital piece of New Orleans’ history. The National Trust and its partners held a press conference urging the State to consider alternatives to demolishing the McDonough No 11 building.
The historic school located at 2009 Palmyra Street is within the 37-acre footprint for the proposed medical facility, a project which has already caused the demolition of 21 structures in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood, a majority of them historic. The loss of those buildings and the imminent threat to the McDonogh No. 11 School is especially egregious in light of the medical center’s $400 million financing shortfall that will almost certainly stall site development. This fact prompted a UMC Board consultant to warn of imprudent site preparation that is out of step with the project’s financial resources. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also raised concerns about the hospital project’s funding and design during the UMC Board’s application process for mortgage insurance.
“So much unwarranted demolition has already taken place in Mid-City, irrevocably severing the neighborhood’s tie to its past, and undermining homeowners’ commitment to rebuilding after Katrina,” said the National Trust’s Southern Regional Office Director, John Hildreth, “We’re sending a message to the State that here’s an excellent opportunity for them to salve the wound a bit, by stopping the demolition plans for the school, and instead making a rehabilitated McDonogh No. 11 School an integral part of the LSU/VA hospital plan.”
The McDonogh No. 11 School was built in 1879 and designed by William Freret, who later served as the Architect of the United States for the U.S. Treasury. The handsome powder blue Italianate/French Empire structure replaced the earlier Madison School, which burned down in 1878, taking the lives of two firefighters. Their sacrifice is memorialized by a stone plaque embedded above the main entryway.
The McDonogh No. 11 School served as the New Orleans Center for Health Careers, the only public school dedicated to prepare OPSB students for the Allied Health professions, until Katrina. Following the storm and subsequent flooding, the school was renovated at a cost of several million dollars and then served as a distinctive home for a public charter high school specializing in architecture and construction until December 2010 when students were abruptly forced to vacate in anticipation of demolition. These students are now learning in a group of modular buildings miles away from McDonogh No. 11, despite the uncertain timeframe for UMC site development. The Orleans Parish School Board retains ownership of the building and has retained counsel to protest an exceedingly low offer from the state in the face of expropriation.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.