d o c o m o m o l o u i s i a n a is a regional chapter of an international committee dedicated to the

documentation and conservation of the buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SAVE WHEATLEY SCHOOL! sign and share this petition

Wheatley listed on World Monuments Fund Watch 2010

Dear friends,

On behalf of DOCOMOMO US/ Louisiana I ask you to consider signing an online petition to save the historic modern Phillis Wheatley Elementary School which is threatened with demolition. This petition was started by Phyllis Montana-Leblanc. PML spoke passionately at Friday's hearing before the Historic District Landmarks Commission in defense of her alma mater, "If you tear down my school, a part of me dies with it."

Unfortunately we have learned that there will NOT be a review before the City Council and an RFP has been issued for the demolition. Apparently since this is a city-initiated (Orleans Parish School Board via Recovery School District) demolition of a city-owned building, the City Council is not required to review the demolition request. Still, we remain dedicated to the call to preserve the Wheatley School which was listed on the World Monuments Fund Watch in 2010

We hope to gather more than 2000 signatures and present the petition to Mayor Landrieu and the City Council.

I'm so very grateful to Phyllis for coming forward and reminding me that there is still Hope.
This is truly our midnight hour.


If you have already signed and shared the petition with your friends, I extend my heartfelt gratitude.  Please consider joining DOCOMOMO US to help support the documentation and conservation of the building, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement.

Sincerely yours,

Francine Stock

1 comment:

  1. Here's a copy of a letter I just sent using online comments form to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu that presents an 'architectural merit' perspective on why to fight for this wonderful building. (Website address is: http://www.nola.gov/HOME/Contact-Us/.aspx)

    Dear Mayor Landrieu:

    RE: Request to reuse, not demolish, Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School

    As a resident of Toronto, Canada who has regrettably watched as important, International-style buildings from the 1950s and 1960s in my city were destroyed and replaced by inferior modern structures, I urge to you to intervene and reverse the current plan to demolish, this coming August, Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School, located at 2300 Dumaine Street in New Orleans’ historical Tremé/Lafitte neighborhood.

    This glass-and-steel structure was a bold stylistic departure for New Orleans in its day. The school was designed in 1954 by architect Charles R. Colbert (1921-2007) – a notable faculty member (1947-49) at your city’s Tulane School of Architecture, and more importantly the Supervising Architect and Director of the Office of Planning and Construction for the Orleans Parish School Board (1949-1952).

    Immediately upon its completion, the building’s architectural merit was recognized with the Top Award from The School Executive “Better School Design Competition” in 1954. It was profiled by the U.S. State Department in exhibits in Berlin (1957) and Moscow (1958), while its bold elevated truss system – created by Colbert to provide an expansive shaded playground area and protect schoolchildren from the tropical climate – was featured in the prestigious journal Progressive Architecture in August 1958.

    Although the school was under three feet of water during Hurricane Katrina, its elevated form protected the building from floodwater damage. Yes, decay and vandalism have taken their toll, but the building is certainly not beyond saving.

    In January 2008, The School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish presented the results of citywide meetings, which showed that, for Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School:
    * Community use after hours and on weekends’ was rated as ‘very important’ at 84 percent
    * Ability to serve as catalyst for future repopulation was rated as ‘high’ at 60 percent
    * Potential for school building expansion on site was rated at ‘high’ at 62 percent
    * Historic or architectural significance of school building was rated as ‘high’ at 49 percent.

    With obvious need for community facilities in the neighborhood, plenty of space elsewhere at the site for a new school building, and the above-mentioned architectural merit of this tired but unique 1954 structure, I urge you to intervene immediately and champion the adaptive reuse the building as a community center.

    Please reflect on how the loss of this building would tarnish your personal and mayoral legacy as you continue to work hard in rebuilding and revitalizing the New Orleans you so obviously cherish.


    Tim Morawetz
    Author, Art Deco Architecture in Toronto