St. Alphonsus Church has moved one step closer to being designated a local landmark. On April 3, the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission unanimously voted to nominate St. Alphonsus Church as a New Orleans landmark, a step that the PRC enthusiastically supports. Located at 2025 Constance St., the former church, which was deconsecrated in 1979, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only 53 designated National Historic Landmarks in Louisiana.

The Italianate-style building is architecturally notable for its sophisticated brickwork and refined symmetrical façade with two square towers. When the church was constructed in 1855, it catered to the Irish community and was one of three churches founded by the Redemptorists order of priests in the Irish Channel, along with St. Mary’s Assumption that served the German Community, and Notre Dame de Bon Secours that served to French residents but was demolished in 1925.

In the 1830s, Irish and German immigrants arrived in New Orleans in great numbers, with many settling along the riverfront upriver from the original city. From 1832 to 1838, the excavation of the New Basin Canal between Faubourg St. Mary and Lake Pontchartrain employed thousands of Irish laborers, many of whom died due to the dangerous conditions of the work, mosquito-borne diseases and cholera. As Irish immigrants continued to arrive in New Orleans during the 1840s and ’50s, more Catholic churches were established to serve this population, including St. Alphonsus. 

Also at the April 3 HDLC meeting, the commission unanimously approved proposed changes to the Design Guidelines regarding the use of solar panels on historic buildings. The updates streamline the review process while still protecting the quality and character of New Orleans’ neighborhoods by enabling the HDLC staff to increase the number and type of solar arrays it can approve. Next in the process, the updated guidelines will be sent to the New Orleans City Council for ratification before they go into effect.

In other business, an applicant for two projects requested that the commission appeal decisions made by the Architectural Review Committee: first for the renovation of the residential property at 2203 S. Carrollton Ave. in the Carrollton Avenue Historic District and second for the new construction project at 405 Red Allen Way and 820 Teche St. in the Algiers Point Historic District. The commission voted to deny both appeals, noting that the ARC process allows helpful input from design professionals and should not be viewed as a hurdle.

The commission went with staff recommendations on all of the demolition applications, approving demolition of only the dilapidated rear portion of 1428-1430 Clouet St. in the Bywater, demolition of more than half the roof structure for camelback additions at 933 Milan St. Uptown and 2812 Coliseum St. in the Garden District, and full demolition of 1335 Magazine St. in the Lower Garden District.

Fines of $10,000 each were issued for demolitions that occurred without a Certificate of Appropriateness at 940 Frenchmen St. in the Marigny and 1421 Thalia St. in the Lower Garden District. Although the staff recommended a higher Tier 3 fine for unpermitted work at 2001 St. Ann St. in Esplanade Ridge, the commission issued a lower Tier 1 fine of $2,500 because the illegal demolition had occurred under previous ownership.

MaryNell Nolan-Wheatley is PRC’s Advocacy Coordinator & Public Policy Research Director.