A year of challenges met

This story appeared in the December issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door nine times a year? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!

As 2021 draws to a close, I am reflecting with sincere gratitude on the work accomplished by the PRC’s staff, board and members in a year that included pandemic woes, a catastrophic hurricane and constant questioning of the stability of our economy, both as a city and as a nation.

It was a doozy of a year that required ultimate flexibility, and accordingly, PRC rolled with the punches. We had to be inventive in how we came together to protect New Orleans’ historic buildings and streetscapes, even when we couldn’t gather in person.

This year began with ensuring that our educational offerings for homeowners continued to be robust, especially as the New Orleans real estate market boomed during the pandemic. How could residents be sure they were taking the best possible care of their historic homes? When a cold snap brought arctic air through the floorboards or when a hurricane was churning in the Gulf, how could residents protect their houses and keep them comfortable for their families? To answer those questions and many more, we have offered virtual lectures and online tours to address a myriad of architectural topics. We also proudly debuted our Maintain Right program, which includes a video series made possible with the support of the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, Office of Cultural Development, and the Johanna Favrot Fund of the National Trust for Historic Places.

The Maintain Right program has filled the Resources section of our website, PRCNO.org, with original videos, articles and other information to help homeowners in New Orleans and across the nation answer questions about the materials in their homes, the problems they’re having, and who to call for assistance.

Through our Revival Grants program, we have continued to provide free home repairs for low- to moderate-income residents and to help these homeowners alleviate city fines. The program, which launched in November 2019 in the Treme neighborhood, has been so successful that we are now expanding it to all full-control city historic districts and partial-control districts where fines can be levied.

After the Category 4 winds of Hurricane Ida wrought destruction on many houses, we also jumped into action with repairs, bolstered by a generous $50,000 gift from the Suzanne Turner Preservation Services Fund for Louisiana of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and personal donations from people around the country. It is an honor to assist homeowners in times of crisis, and we do this work with gratitude and pride.

This year, the PRC also continued to protect the 133 buildings on which we hold Historic Façade Easements, the best legal tool available to protect historic structures. We sadly lost one building, the Karnofsky Tailor Shop, to Hurricane Ida’s incredible winds; however, we are working with the owner of this jazz landmark to determine what will happen next with the site. By the end of the year, our easement portfolio may grow even more robust; stay tuned for more to come.

Our informative and inspiring magazine Preservation in Print continued to prove its excellence with a year of beautiful issues. Our Communications staff won four impressive awards from the New Orleans Press Club for the magazine and our incredible social media presence. The awards are: First Place, Best Use of Instagram, Davis Allen; Second Place, Best Magazine, Liz Jurey, Susan Langenhennig and Nathan Lott; First Place, Community News, Susan Langenhennig; and Second Place, Community News, Susan Langenhennig.

We missed gathering in person this spring and summer for parties and tours, but we were still able to host two innovative and successful events: the Revival Gala-vant and the virtual Shotgun House Tour. We transformed our Julia Jump/Revival Gala into a self-guided walking tour to get people out into our historic neighborhoods at a time when many of us still felt trapped inside. We created podcasts to accompany the walkers/runners/bikers/kayakers exploring our routes, as well as maps and guides to lead the way. Later in the summer, we visited five beautiful shotgun homes virtually via Zoom, to once again highlight how our vernacular shotgun homes can be livable and modern in many forms. If you missed out on the tour, you can still explore the homes on PRC’s YouTube channel and through our innovative Digital Design Guide, which includes links to all the furnishings, fixtures, artwork and more in these gorgeous houses. Find it at PRCNO.org.

This fall, faced with the rising case numbers of the Covid 19 Delta variant and the destruction brought by Hurricane Ida, we innovated once more for our Holiday Home Tour. Knowing that we couldn’t get inside homes, we created an Art & Garden Holiday Home Tour that is sure to be a memorable, joyful and safe way to celebrate the season.

On the Advocacy front, we had major successes on the local, state and federal levels as we worked with neighborhoods, building owners, the City of New Orleans, state officials, federal representatives and more on issues related to saving individual buildings and neighborhoods. Advocacy Coordinator and Public Policy Director Nathan Lott has spoken at several national and international symposia this year on issues including climate change and historic preservation and has helped create policy papers, becoming a trusted national source on the subject. He also hosted a highly successful series in the spring called Building New Orleans Then and Now, featuring dialogues with prominent local architects that covered a wide range of topics on the theme of drawing inspiration from historic buildings, materials and context.

Our dynamic and tremendously talented Development team has secured many important gifts that have kept all of our mission work humming, and we are so grateful for the members, donors, foundations and organizations that support PRC financially — and who have continued that support even in these continued uncertain times. Thank you!

And finally, our engaged and passionate board has helped the PRC evolve and produce through committees and many volunteer hours, and we are so grateful for their leadership and support.

We at PRC have made the most of two trying and strange years, and I have such excitement for what 2022 will bring. Thank you for your continued support and for sticking with us as we innovate and grow to best serve our city and protect New Orleans’ irreplaceable history.

Danielle Del Sol is the Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center.