The personal side of historic preservation

This story first appeared in the November issue of the PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door each month? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!

Our work at the Preservation Resource Center keeps us active throughout the year, but one recent Saturday was especially busy for our staff and board.

At 9 a.m., a group of us — PRC staff, a board member, members of the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association and students from Tulane University — convened at Bethany United Methodist Church for a survey day as part of our work nominating Pontchartrain Park to the National Register of Historic Places. That morning, as the group traversed the community, snapping more than 500 photos, we were met with smiles and warm words from residents and incredible hospitality from Gretchen Bradford, Carrie Mingo Douglas and many other members of the neighborhood association.

Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we finished the photography portion of the nomination that day.

Members of the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association, PRC staff and Tulane University students take a lunch break while working to nominate the neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Two hours before we had even begun, the staff of PRC’s Rebuilding Together New Orleans program had arrived soon after daybreak at our warehouse on Marais Street to gather supplies before heading to their work sites. That morning — the start of day two of this year’s October Build — hundreds of volunteers from around the city came to the St. Roch neighborhood to work on nine residences of homeowners in need. These October Build teams significantly improved the lives of these elderly homeowners, helping them to age in place safely and affordably, an effort that is especially important in a rapidly changing neighborhood like St. Roch.

Later that same day, our Education and Outreach department led a regular PRC class called Buy Right, which helps prospective renovators learn how to make their dream project happen. Several building and banking experts came to teach a group of 19 renovators-in-training on how to get started. I can’t wait to see what buildings these inspired students save.

Finally, that night, PRC hosted an exhibit opening of “The Free People of Color Who Built Antebellum New Orleans” at our headquarters on Tchoupitoulas Street. Dr. Tara Dudley, a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, gave a riveting talk on two families in particular, the Dolliole and Souliés, whose kin built many structures still standing today across the city, including several in the French Quarter and Tremé.

The talk, which accompanied the debut of an exhibit on the same topic in our lobby, was fascinating, with new information that made the audience “ooh” and “ahh” on several occasions. But the room got truly electric when Dr. Dudley asked any descendants of the two families to stand — and half a dozen Dollioles rose. It was an exciting night, and one that PRC was proud to host as we continue to lead the effort to tell the full story of who built this incredible city.

Members of the Dolliole family chatted with Dr. Tara Dudley after her presentation at the PRC. Pictured, from left, are Kevin Dolliole, his wife, Janice Flint Dolliole, Tara Dudley, Lynette Dolliole Johnson and Syble Dolliole.

 

As executive director of such a dynamic organization, I have so much to be grateful for in this month of giving thanks. We have an incredibly passionate and talented staff and board who dream up, and then beautifully execute, programming that is helping residents throughout the city. Neighbors across New Orleans come to us to save places that matter to them, and they welcome us into their homes with open arms. And the public is paying attention, engaging with the PRC to take a class, be inspired by an exhibit or to volunteer to fix a home. Our work makes New Orleans a better place.

And that leads me to my last note of gratitude, which is dedicated to those who make our diverse efforts possible. To our donors, our members and our supporters of many years — thank you. We are forever grateful to your generosity and for believing in us.

Now, please stay tuned. We have a big announcement about an exciting new initiative debuting in coming weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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