We at PRC mourn the passing of Mary Louise Christovich, a preservation giant whose prolific work as an author, advocate and fundraiser has directly led to the preservation of much of New Orleans’ historic fabric.
It is impossible to overstate the impact that Mrs. Christovich’s lifelong work and passion had on the city of New Orleans. Her co-authorship (with Roulhac Toledano and others) of the “New Orleans Architecture” series, published by the Friends of the Cabildo beginning in 1971, provided information about threatened neighborhoods just as the threats were arriving. Their tactical timing prompted demolition moratoriums followed by historic-district protections. The 8-volume series helped thousands of people learn about, appreciate and fight to preserve many buildings in historic neighborhoods across the city.
She founded Save our Cemeteries, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of the New Orleans’ iconic and important historic cemeteries, in 1974. She supported important endeavors at institutions that continue to lead the important charge of shaping research, learning and culture in New Orleans, such as The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Tulane School of Architecture. And she was instrumental in the founding of the Preservation Resource Center.
An impressive array of other historical and preservation organizations benefitted from her active and strategic leadership, including The Historic New Orleans Collection, Felicity Redevelopment, the Louisiana State Museum, Friends of the Cabildo, the Louisiana Council for the Vieux Carré, the Central Business District Improvement Association, and others.
“Without Mary Lou’s smart and energetic work over the past half century,” said Jack Davis, interim executive director of the PRC, “New Orleans would have suffered the loss of landmarks, neighborhoods and culture that we take for granted today. She led so many noble crusades that it’s hard to decide where to start thanking her.”
According to the Louisiana Landmarks Society, Mrs. Christovich was recently working with the Society on a new book scheduled for June 2018 release on the architectural and cultural significance of the Bayou St. John area. In 2017 she partnered with Toledano once more to author “Garden Legacy,” a book that explored 300 years of the gardens and lands that supported and inspired New Orleans’ residents.
Mrs. Christovich was a New Orleans native and a graduate of Tulane University. Her civic engagement was prolific, and her impact was immeasurable. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family, and are forever grateful for her incredible work helping to found PRC and protect the city of New Orleans.
From left to right: Roulhac Toledano and Mary Louise Christovich, authors of the original “New Orleans Architecture” series books, and photographer Betsy Swanson, reunited in 1996, on the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first book, to reminisce on the incredible amount of work they accomplished in producing the series. Photo by Mary Fitzpatrick, originally published in June 1996 Preservation in Print.