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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Auditorium eligible for National Register to be demolished without public input

Auditorium shared by the George Washington Carver Junior- Senior High School and Helen Sylvania Edwards Elementary School. 3059 Higgins Boulevard, New Orleans, LA. (1958, Curtis and Davis, architects) photo © Emily Ardoin

The City of New Orleans has issued a
demolition permit for the George Washington Carver Junior-Senior High School designed by Curtis and Davis, architects. The Helen Sylvania Edwards Elementary School shared many campus facilities with Carver, but has already been demolished. The integration of three schools (elementary, junior and senior high) on a 65 acre campus in the upper ninth ward allowed the schools to share common facilities (cafeteria, kitchen, auditorium) and yet retain age-segregated classroom buildings. The auditorium was also available for community events. Curtis and Davis
' plan gained national recognition when Progressive Architecture awarded the First Design Award to the Carver School in 1957.

The Federal Emergency Management Association deemed the auditorium building eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The striking design of the auditorium with its soaring (40 ft high and 200 ft long) parabolic concrete vault and hinged buttresses is truly monumental.
DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana advocated for the auditorium structure to be retained and suggested that it be adaptively reused as an open air pavilion.

We still do not understand why FEMA never sought public comments for the Carver High School auditorium building. The Section 106 process in New Orleans does not appear to be functioning in the spirit of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 does not mandate preservation, but is supposed to encourage it. Yet too many buildings are being demolished. In fact, in the past 5 years, have any of the historic buildings under Section 106 review in New Orleans not ultimately met their demise?

In this situation, the Recovery School District is using public funds to demolish a public building without seeking input from the general public and with the support of a federal agency.

1 comment:

  1. This has happened for the most part in Mississippi too, and from the very beginning. FEMA simply does whatever the local or state agency wants to do, checking off the Section 106 process as a mere formality before the demolition begins. It's ridiculous how many historic buildings--both public and private--have been torn down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with our tax dollars.