Armstrong Park Municipal Auditorium and Jazz Complex buildings suffer damage from Hurricane Ida

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The four historic buildings in Armstrong Park, nearly 200 years old, as well as the Morris FX Jeff municipal auditorium suffered extensive damage in Hurricane Ida, according to the Save Our Soul (SOS) coalition. opposed to the transfer from the town hall to the auditorium.

“The damage Hurricane Ida inflicted on the municipal auditorium and adjacent buildings further intensifies the need to completely withdraw the proposed city hall move to Armstrong Park and act quickly to repair the damage,” said Ausettua Amor Amenkum, co-chair of SOS. .

Although Armstrong Park has been officially closed since the storm, SOS coalition member Leo Watermeier was able to access it and provided a first-hand account of the damage. “The winds from Hurricane Ida really made noise on the roof of the Auditorium. From the French Quarter side, it’s easy to see that more of the protective coating has peeled off, exposing the plywood underlayment, ”Watermeier said. The storm also brought considerable rain through dozens of shattered windows.

Watermeier also suffered extensive damage to the four historic buildings that make up what is known as the Jazz Complex. “At Perseverance Hall, the damage is mostly limited to the roof and blown windows,” he explained. But the adjoining structure known as the Kitchen Building, which housed WWOZ radio for nearly 25 years, may need to be rebuilt. The back wall of the second floor has disappeared as well as the large window of the old station studio. A tree has fallen on the Rabasso-de Pouilly house. The overall extent of the damage is not yet clear. The Reiman House probably suffered the least damage, but still needs roof repairs and new handrails.

Perseverance Hall was built in the 1820s and completely renovated decades ago. It was last used by the National Park Service as a classroom for a children’s music program. The kitchen building was completed as an annex to Perseverance Hall in the 1830s. The 1880s Reiman House was moved from Mid-City to Armstrong Park as part of architect Robin Reilly’s vision for the city ​​hired to design Armstrong Park. Reilly had the courtyard wall built to make Reiman House part of the compound. Reilly really cares about his job and never received the recognition he deserved.

The Rabasso-de Pouilly House was also built in the 1820s and named in part for the famous Paris-born pre-war architect Jacques Nicolas Bussière de Pouilly. He designed the St. Louis Exchange Hotel, St. Augustine Church, Colored Waif’s Home, and present-day St. Louis Cathedral. Additionally, de Pouilly was well known for his high-end grave designs for wealthy New Orleans families and charities. Most are located in St. Louis Cemetery # 2. De Pouilly resided in the Rabasso-de Pouilly house and died there in 1875.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell has always refused requests from SOS to visit the interior of the building, citing security reasons. “Hurricane Ida is another reason the Cantrell administration should not move to the municipal auditorium. The damage continues to pile up and City Hall doesn’t seem to care, ”said SOS Cheryl Austin of the Greater Treme Consortium.

Stakeholders at Treme are concerned that the Cantrell administration failed to conduct damage assessments of the auditorium and jazz complex buildings to initiate the necessary insurance claims that could provide funding for repairs. . They fear another storm could hit New Orleans this season and further damage structures. All of these buildings should be candidates for FEMA’s Blue Roof program.

“It is with increased dismay that we view the destruction Hurricane Ida brought to our historic Armstrong Park complex. The valuable park structures that remain are in immediate danger of further “negligent demolition”. It is the failure of many Administrations to protect these integral architectural gems which are an important part of the history and the foundation of our City. We must act now to prevent their further deterioration, ”said Glade Bilby II, member of SOS, president of French Quarter Citizens.

Stakeholders are expected to contact Mayor Cantrell and council with a further request for a property inspection as well as a review of any written damage assessment.

In the 1960s, Mayor Victor Schiro viewed the Treme neighborhood as junk and had much of it razed to the ground to create land for a cultural center. Although the concept of a cultural center was never completed as originally planned, Armstrong Park was built. “With all the demolition that took place in Tremed in the 1960s, it is astonishing that there is no concerted effort on the part of the City to preserve these four remaining buildings,” concluded Watermeier.

Mayor Cantrell has expressed interest in moving City Hall to Armstrong Park for several years now. FEMA provided $ 38 million in funding to repair the auditorium after Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. Since then, only temporary roof repairs have been carried out. Earlier this year, Cantrell issued a request for professional services with expected responses in early October.

She also offered SOS the opportunity to present her vision for the Municipal Auditorium, but insisted that a committed funding source be included in her presentation. The SOS proposal is also expected in early October. Cantrell said she had no funds or resources available to help SOS with its planning process. Yet other major parks in New Orleans are currently conducting federally funded joint planning exercises.

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