The New Orleans Historic District Landmark Commission Design Guidelines, approved by the City Council, specifically prohibit rooftop additions to buildings rated “Significant.” The owners of the almost 200-year-old building at 502 Frenchmen St. have appealed for an exception in order to build a penthouse and roof deck. The Preservation Resource Center and the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association oppose the appeal and urge the council to uphold the determination of the Historic District Landmarks Commission. (Read PRC’s letter to the New Orleans City Council here)
Not only does the proposed addition require the complete demolition of historic roof framing, the penthouse and roof deck will be visible from multiple angles. Both the HDLC and its Architectural Review Committee voted unanimously to deny the proposal. Nearby building and business owners spoke in favor of denial at the HDLC meeting.
The building at 502 Frenchmen was constructed for Julien Adolphe Lacroix, a free man of color who was a successful entrepreneur in pre-Civil War New Orleans. The oldest portion of the structure dates to the 1830s, and its exemplary Creole Greek Revival facade has overlooked the junction of Frenchmen and Decatur since at least 1868. The ground floor housed Lacroix’s grocery, while he and his family lived above the store.
Only a small number of buildings in local historic districts receive a “Significant” rating for their architectural and historic importance. The prohibition on rooftop additions to these structures is aligned with guidance from the National Park Service that states, “Rooftop additions are almost never appropriate for buildings that are less than four stories high.”
Nathan Lott is PRC’s Policy Research Director and Advocacy Coordinator.