Renovator Gladys Marigny isn’t afraid of paint colors. She’ll test several shades until she’s found the exact shade she wants. That’s exactly what she did for her current project – the renovation of Joe’s Cozy Corner, a former bar and music hotspot located at the corner of North Robertson and Ursulines streets in the Treme neighborhood. Patches of tans and creamy-colored beiges were tested on the wood weatherboards, which were revealed and repaired when the building’s brick veneer was removed.
One thing Marigny won’t do, however, is cover the original painted advertisements on the side of the building that also came to light as part of the renovation to convert Joe’s into two apartments.
The advertisements, one for Jax Beer and another for Ruth’s Cozy
Corner (the original name of the bar), help show the storied history of the 186-year-old, brick-between-post building as a cultural beacon in the
neighborhood. Many New Orleans musicians played there, including Kermit Ruffins, and it was known as a stop for second line parades that came
through the neighborhood.
But the musically significant building had its problems. Bar owner Joe
Glasper died in April 2005. Some Treme residents then attempted to convert the building into a community center and food bank – painting it a bright purple and yellow in the process – but the venture didn’t take off. It flooded during Hurricane Katrina, and then sat vacant.
Marigny, who lives near Joe’s on Ursulines Street, said she bought the building to help shape her surroundings. She took over the renovation
from a neighbor who started the project last year but was not able to com-
“Living this close, I did not want another bar,” she said, referring to how Joe’s had become a magnet for crime in the neighborhood. Marigny and other renovators working on projects in the Ursulines and North Robertson area are part of a larger effort to improve the quality of life in Treme that has evolved since Hurricane Katrina. This includes the founding of the Historic Faubourg Treme Association, whose main focus is fighting crime, blight and grime in the neighborhood while supporting its history, culture and architecture.
“We’re walking through history in Treme, and we all appreciate that,”
Naydja Bynum, founding president of the association, said of its members. “What drew us together is we felt we needed to have some say in what happened here. You can’t have a voice without a neighborhood association.”
The association chose to tackle problems in a 50 square block area stretching from North Claiborne Avenue to North Rampart and Basin streets and to St. Bernard Avenue. These boundaries were chosen because of the dense amount of challenges and because the Historic District Landmarks Commission has design review of the properties there.
“For me personally, I want the blighted houses to return to commerce,
I want to make the neighborhood beautiful and I want some neighbors,” said Meg Lousteau, who renovated her own home on North Robertson Street
in 2003 and is now working on a former corner store at St. Phillip and North Villere streets that had long sat vacant. Like at Joe’s Cozy Corner, she too found painted advertisements when she removed the building’s brick
Bynum, who’s also a former board president of the Preservation Resource
Center, said the association has a goal to be “transparent and diverse.” Its
nine-member board meets once a month and so far has been able to develop relationships with residents and other groups working in the area, the City Council and the New Orleans Police Department.
Since forming, the group also has held a Night Out Against Crime event
and a neighborhood clean-up day, as well as some small fundraisers. In January, its beautification committee, headed by Bynum’s husband, Adolph,
spent a Saturday planting trees donated by New Orleans Parkway Partners
along North Robertson Street near Joe’s Cozy Corner.
“There’s alot of history on that corner,” Bynum said, referring to the fact that Homer Plessy lived on Ursuline Street, as did African-American philanthropist Tommy Lafon. She and Adolph also are renovating properties there, including an eggplant-colored building diagonally across from Joe’s Cozy Corner that musician Alfonso Picou once owned.
Their plans are to create a two-bedroom residential space on the building’s second floor but keep the downstairs open to use as a community
gathering spot. They also want to reconstruct the balcony after finding historic maps showing that the building once had one. Their goal in purchasing and renovating properties and encouraging others to do the same is to improve the intersection and then work their way towards Orleans Avenue and St. Philip Street. “It takes a village to change a neighborhood as far as its quality of life,” Bynum said. “We’ve seen a marked improvement in Treme in the past 18 months.”