This story appeared in the October issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!
One Thursday evening back in June, I was struggling. It had been a stressful day at work, the baby had kept me up half the previous night, and another scary crime had been reported in the news. As I got ready to go to the PRC Beams and Brews event that night, I felt weary. I just wanted the day to end.
My husband and I drove over the bridge to Algiers Point towards the event. “Where are we going again?” he asked me.
“I’m not quite sure,” I replied. “Someone’s house renovation. The staff keeps talking about how beautiful it is.”
My mood lifted as we entered the neighborhood. Algiers Point is serene, with block after block of beautiful homes and tree-lined streets. I was already feeling better as we parked the car and walked towards Johnice Katz and Andrew Ryba’s home.
As we approached, I gasped. The Pelican Avenue house was gorgeous. It is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture on the West Bank, and Johnice and Andrew have been working for more than a year on its renovation. The gleaming house was teeming with PRC guests and neighbors. On the side yard, parents wrangled happy children who were splashing in a baby pool and eating snacks. Inside, dozens of people were sipping wine, admiring the original architectural details and chatting.
Katz is a gifted interior designer, and the home had benefitted from her discerning eye. Room after room, there was much to admire: original historic details that had been restored, fanciful paint colors or wallpaper and memorable furnishings. Simply put: the home was a delight.
As we wandered through the house, we ran into many friends. We talked with the owners about the project. And we spent an hour in a neighborhood that I adore, but rarely have reason to visit. I left the Beams and Brews feeling light and inspired.
Photos by Davis Allen
There are many evenings that I feel the need to recapture that lightness. New Orleans is facing serious civic, crime and economic issues right now, and the difficulties we face as residents can sometimes feel overwhelming. That night in June, Beams and Brews got me out of my routine and my worries — and reminded me to appreciate the beauty of the city in which we live.
If you, too, are in need of some inspiration these days, I hope you will join us this fall for one of PRC’s many events. We have two upcoming Beams & Brews. If you haven’t attended one of these fun happy hours yet, it’s a great way to view a renovation in progress, hear from the architects, owners and contractors, enjoy free drinks, and mix and mingle with friends and neighbors. On Oct. 12, Jackson Barracks opens its gates to visitors for a tour of the property, which is one of the largest collections of antebellum buildings in the state. It’s a rare opportunity to tour the historic site, which is part of our city but rarely accessed by the public.
On Nov. 17, we will visit a beautiful bayou-adjacent home on Grand Route St. John. When our friends Mike Bertel and Caroline Rogers of Inhab Group bought the property to be their new home, they thought it was a circa-1920s raised Craftsman double. As they began to peel back the layers of the home, however, they realized it actually dates to the early 19th century, and even more exciting, might be a dogtrot, a style rare to see in New Orleans at this point. It will be an exciting property to explore.
We will also have lots of educational activities available this fall. We have partnered with Louisiana Appleseed to host, on Oct. 18 at the PRC, a seminar on wills and inherited property. Our monthly Navigating the HDLC class will be held on Oct. 25.
On Nov. 2, Terry Dryer with NANO Architecture will explore resilience and New Orleans’ response to climate change in a presentation at the PRC that she also gave as part of the 2021 Venice Biennale. On Nov. 10, we welcome acclaimed Cuban-American architect, designer and author Hermes Mallea for a talk on his book Havana Living Today, with a reception and book signing to follow. And our Historic House Specialist class on Nov. 15 will give Realtors — or anyone interested — the opportunity to learn about New Orleans’ historic structure types, best practices when renovating, and more.
That’s just what’s going on at the PRC. There is no shortage of fall events to celebrate our wonderful neighborhoods as well. Gentilly Fest will bring music, food and fun to Pontchartrain Park on Oct. 8 and 9. The festival donates proceeds to agencies whose work makes Gentilly a great place to live. Closer to the river, the Tremé Fall Festival will be a party in the streets in front of St. Augustine Church on Oct. 22. That festival is always a blast, and it raises funds for the restoration of the church, one of the most significant historic houses of worship in the country.
There are many opportunities to get out and get inspired this fall. New Orleans is a place of close community, beautiful streetscapes, and residences made with artistry and skilled labor. A joyful place worth preserving — a city that has a bright future ahead.
Danielle Del Sol is the Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center.