The annual list of endangered historic sites in New Orleans put out by the Louisiana Landmarks Society is often a pretty low-temperature document. This year’s list is different, charging headlong into some of the thornier debates to have come up in New Orleans recently.
First, the society has placed on its list of nine endangered sites the four monuments the city is seeking to remove from public view because of their association with the Confederacy and white supremacy.
That’s not actually a surprise. The group joined a lawsuit earlier this year trying to block City Hall from taking down the monuments.
In its announcement Thursday, the society called the city’s process for deciding on the removal “flawed” and accused officials of trying to “pass judgment on history through a contemporary lens.”
In another jab, the group also included the broad category of “parks and open spaces,” singling out the golf course under construction in City Park and the recent debate over a section of Audubon Park known as “The Fly.”
In March, the proponents of building a soccer complex on the riverfront site scrapped the idea after it incited a backlash from neighbors who wanted to see the area left untouched.
The landmarks society said the dispute highlighted official attempts to create “single-use limited-admission facilities” out of public spaces.
“These facilities infringe on people’s interactions with nature in unscripted ways, the primary purpose of urban parks,” the group said. “Furthermore, because limited-admission and commercial facilities are available only to those who can afford the price of admission, they harken back to the days when access to public places was denied to many.”
Another hot-button property on the list is a 19th-century camelback shotgun house at 2501 St. Claude Ave. It’s been the subject of a legal fight between the building’s owner, local businessman Troy Henry, and its neighbors. Henry wants to tear it down and replace it with a convenience store; the neighbors say he has let the historic structure fall apart.
The landmarks society argues it ought to be preserved. “Behind the graffiti and boarded-up windows, there is still a renovation opportunity for the historic St. Claude community,” it said.
The Bywater neighborhood is also threatened by change, the group said, because of what it referred to as “proposed out-of-scale development” and “exploitative tourism,” reinforced by the city’s goal of doubling the number of visitors it hosts each year by 2018.
Other endangered landmarks on the society’s list have been less in the news — historic sites and structures threatened by decay and neglect.
They include the state-owned Fort Macomb at Chef Menteur Pass in New Orleans East, built after the War of 1812, and an Enrique Alférez sculpture called the Fountain of the Four Winds, which was installed at Lakefront Airport in 1936.
The rest are private homes, including the long-neglected Pedesclaux-Lemonnier House, the city’s “first skyscraper,” built during the Spanish colonial period at Royal and St. Peter streets.
The house at 1505 St. Bernard Ave., built in 1927, is deteriorating and in danger of being demolished by its owner.
And a “once elegant Greek Revival townhouse” built in 1846 at 468 St. Joseph St. in the Warehouse District has been undergoing “demolition by neglect” for more than 20 years.