This story appeared in the December/January 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!
This past year proved the power of historic preservation — and the power of you, our members and supporters, to lead positive change in our city.
Thanks directly to your support, during 2023, the PRC repaired homes and protected landmarks; advocated for policies that preserve our historic treasures; educated residents with classes, workshops, articles and videos; and explored architecture and culture around New Orleans and the world.
We began the year by launching a new lecture series titled, “Preserving New Orleans’ Future.” While acknowledging the real challenges faced by our city, the PRC was tired of the negativity surrounding New Orleans, and we decided to shine a light on positive developments and investments happening around our region. We showcased talks ranging in topics from the ways that Louisiana is leading the nation in adapting to living with water to the vastly improved education outcomes since Hurricane Katrina. We had hundreds of people join us for talks throughout the year, focusing on our city’s viability and sustainability.
This lecture series will continue into 2024, starting with New Orleans & Company Chief Executive Officer Walt Leger III on Jan. 19, who will discuss the region’s tourism economy. We hope you will join us.
Last summer, preservationists across the city were aghast by dramatic legislation introduced by New Orleans City Council member Freddie King III that threatened the historic architecture of the French Quarter. In response, the PRC sprang into action. King’s legislation sought to temporarily halt adjudication of French Quarter property owners who were not complying with historic regulations — a threat that could have had grievous and permanent implications for New Orleans’ most historic neighborhood. The ordinance was introduced mere days before a City Council vote, leaving concerned citizens scrambling to act.
The PRC quickly penned an opinion column in The Times-Picayune|NOLA.com with VCPORA, and days later, we hosted hundreds of concerned residents at a standing-room-only Monday night Town Hall meeting in the lobby of the PRC. At the meeting, Councilman King heard from residents whose messages of exasperation held a common theme: While life in the French Quarter is exceedingly difficult for a myriad of reasons, loosening restrictions on the way the buildings are maintained is not the way to solve them. King listened, and the ordinance was halted.
Photo 1: The PRC hosted hundreds of concerned residents at a standing-room-only Monday night Town Hall meeting in the lobby of the PRC to address Freddie King’s proposed legislation that threatened the historic architecture of the French Quarter. Photo 2: In 2024, PRC will be able to restore Perseverance Hall No. 4, an 1820s Masonic Hall built by Free People of Color in Armstrong Park that has been languishing for years.
Also last summer, PRC got some good news: we were awarded $750,000 by the state legislature to restore historic buildings in the Tremé and Seventh Ward neighborhoods. Thanks to the leadership of state Rep. Alonzo Knox, the PRC will be able to restore Perseverance Hall No. 4, an 1820s Masonic Hall built by Free People of Color in Armstrong Park that has been languishing for years, and also help rebuild Holy Aid and Comfort Church in the Seventh Ward, a site important to music history and previously known as the Perseverance Benevolent and Mutual Aid Society Hall. That jazz landmark almost completely blew over during Hurricane Ida in 2021, and PRC has championed the effort to save it, working closely with the church’s pastor.
Work on both projects will be complete by summer 2024. It is a true honor to be allowed to rebuild sites of such incredible, deep historic significance and return them to the community.
As we work hard to preserve our local architecture and culture, PRC also is inspired by preservation efforts around the globe. This year, we took 63 people on international explorations, with a trip to Bermuda in the spring and a trip to Cuba this fall. The excursions were huge successes, with both groups learning from the islands’ top experts and enjoying the delightful music, food and culture these places had to offer.
We will return to Cuba in April 2024, and there are still a few spots available on the trip. If you have ever dreamed of visiting Havana and other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Cuba, the PRC’s trip is the perfect way to safely do so. Who can imagine a better holiday gift for yourself or a loved one!
We also led thousands of people on explorations across New Orleans this year through tours and events. Our Spring Home Tour was a beautiful ramble through Bayou St. John; then hundreds of modernism fans braved the heat for our June Mid Century Modern Home Tour in Lake Vista; and of course, as is our beloved tradition, the Garden District and Lower Garden District will be on grand display during the upcoming Holiday Home Tour.
We also held six exciting Beams & Brews events this year that showcased some of the most compelling construction projects in our city, including the renovation of the historic Dew Drop Inn in Central City. These events were all wonderful reminders that our city’s built environment and unique neighborhoods are treasures that deserve to be saved and that hold limitless potential for the future.
As we close our organization’s 49th year, we look with excitement to our 50th anniversary. This milestone will be huge for our organization, as we have several exciting announcements that will lead to dramatic growth of the PRC’s impact and reach. I cannot wait to share them with you — stay tuned!
In closing, I wish to extend the utmost gratitude to our members and donors for continuing to support the PRC’s work for another year. Your generosity and engagement keep us going and allow us to continue to work year-round to protect the authenticity and economy of the City of New Orleans. We wish all of you a blessed holiday season and a very happy New Year!
See you for our 50th! In 2024, the PRC officially becomes “historic!”
Danielle Del Sol is the Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center.