06 June 2006

Another Reason to be Angry in New Orleans: Architectural Theft In Our Historic Neighborhoods

There are many things to be very angry about as vast portions of the City of New Orleans continue to languish in ruin now for over nine months. For instance, many in the rest of the country don't understand or prefer not to understand that the majority of damage inflicted upon the City of New Orleans was not via a natural disaster--instead it was a MANMADE disaster because of an inadequate flood protection system. And although birdbrain hacks such as Chris Matthews can infer the so-called legendary catch-all Louisiana political corruption is to blame for the storm surge failure of levees and floodwalls surrounding New Orleans, the reality--something Tweety knows nothing or bothers to care about--is that the single federal agency responsible for the MANMADE disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has finally after nine months admitted their responsibility for the devastation of New Orleans and it's people. This should have been page one news with a 72 point font headline in every newspaper in the United States, but it wasn't. More on the Corps--and why the feds are involved in New Orleans and South Louisiana's flood protection anyway, etc. to come in a near future post . . .

The reason for this post is to mention another reason we as New Orleanians have to be angry: architectural theft. Want to get angry, Orleanians? Read this article in today's Times-Picayune concerning the ongoing pillaging of fixtures, doors, spindles, wrought iron, shutters, stained glass, and other elements of New Orleans' unique architectural heritage. Can New Orleans be brought to her knees anymore?

This isn't Houston or Atlanta or Chicago. We renovate and keep old houses intact (including and especially the detail elements) regardless of their condition, not demolish them. I recall the story the week after the storm when some Chicago firefighters in New Orleans to "help out" decided to show off some new demolition equipment upon an exterior brick wall of a wind-damaged 100+ year old building in the CBD. They weren't rescuing or saving anyone. No, no. They were just showing off their new toy to the other gathered fireman from other city departments. When they were questioned on this later in the day by an irate preservation advocate, the firefighters didn't understand what all the fuss was about. One replied (paraphrased): "In Chicago, we'd take down a building in this condition." Exactly. Here we save them, everywhere else they're torn down. Thus the reason New Orleans has managed to look the way it does and most other major cities have the charm of a K-Mart.

Apparently, stolen statues and artifacts from our historic cemeteries aren't enough. Sewerage and Waterboard water meter covers stolen from our sidewalks and yards aren't enough. Some of the things that help make our soul in New Orleans are viewed by the vultures as a commodity to sell to the soulless. The 35-mile from the city (I sound like James Kunstler) McMansion outside Houston or Dallas or Atlanta or St. Louis is still a McMansion even dressed up with authentic looted Victorian-era architectural details.

Man, this really pisses me off. I knew a large section of our historic structures in and out of the MANMANDE flooding were in trouble the day after the storm due to: "beyond repair" flooding, fires, over-zealous developers and over-accommodating "pro-business" politicians, etc. But architectural looting???? Jesus Christ.

Like Randy Newman says in Louisiana 1927: "They're trying to wash us away." And by more than the floodwaters . . . .

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Architecture, Looting, Flooding


1 Comments:

At June 07, 2006 11:35 AM, Anonymous kudzukid said...

I read the story yesterday and was just as mad as you. NOLA is unique in this country because it retains its heritage...Houston (where I live) has no heritage. This city tears down buildings and old homes faster than a blink. It's terrible.

But New Orleans has always held onto its heritage, its old things. And now neighbor is robbing neighbor, destroying what is left of grand old homes...and the owners may not ever be able to afford replacement pieces.

As my boss says, Katrina is the gift that keeps on giving.

I hope these people get caught. I'd vouch for public flogging as punishment for these pathetic thieves.

In Texas, you can shoot to kill if you believe that someone outside your home is a threat to your life. If you fear for your safety, you can shoot to kill, even if the person is outside. Maybe that is the level of punishment these thieves deserve!

 

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