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PRC REVITALIZES LAST STANDING BUILDING of New Orleans’ ORIGINAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN UNIVERSITY The Straight University Boarding House and Dining Hall building at 1423 N. Claiborne Ave. has been returned to its former grandeur thanks to PRC’s Operation Comeback department. BY: Becky Gipson | PHOTOS BY: Liz Jurey NO ONE COULD HAVE GUESSED the significance of the sagging, blighted Greek Revival-Italianate house facing the I-10 overpass on N. Claiborne Avenue as it faced impending demolition in the years following Hurricane Katrina. But it had clearly once been grand, and staff at the Preservation Resource Center saw its po- tential. Eager for the opportunity to restore it to its former splendor, PRC acquired the home in 2009; by then, its bowed front gal- lery faced the threat of collapse. As PRC staff scrambled to both stabilize the struc- ture and get the house removed from the City’s “to demolish” list, they also began to research the history of the structure.   What they found was astonishing: the two-story, three bay, and double-gallery home at 1423 N. Claiborne Ave. was the former Straight University Boarding House and Dining Hall, built between 1866 and 1871. It was the last remaining building as- sociated with Straight University, one of the first African-American universities in the state of Louisiana. In fact, it was the last re- maining building of any of the three first Af- rican-American universities in the state, all of which had been located in New Orleans.   Its significance to African-American her- itage helped the building attain a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Straight University was founded in 1869 to provide higher education and enfranchise- ment for African Americans after emanci- pation. It later joined with other institutions to become today’s Dillard University.   After spending years to raise the necessary funds, prepare designs, assemble the right crew and actually do the work needed to transform the building, PRC’s revitalization of 1423 N. Claiborne Ave. is finally nearing completion. The building which once housed college students will now be home for perma- nent tenants: it has been renovated as three residential units that will be sold as condos. ••• LEFT: The building as it looked before PRC be- gan its renovation (top) and its façade as it looks today (bottom) NOVEMBER 2017 • PRESERVATION IN PRINT   19