A week after a 200-year-old building on Royal Street came crashing to the ground, the director of the Vieux Carre Commission said Tuesday that what led to the collapse likely will remain a mystery.
Lary Hesdorffer said several factors probably contributed to the collapse of 808-810 Royal St., including termites, wood rot, poor mortar, water intrusion and old, soft bricks.
“I don’t think there’s a way of forensically saying absolutely what was the cause,” he said at the end of Tuesday’s VCC Architectural Committee meeting. “If one thing gives, a domino effect occurs.”
People who lived next to the building, constructed circa 1801, said it showed obvious signs of neglect, and the commission cited it in 2011 for “demolition by neglect.”
While the city can penalize owners for exterior defects, it cannot go into private residences to inspect them.
A portion of the three-story building’s facade and a balcony fell on the afternoon of Oct. 21. City crews and the New Orleans Fire Department responded to the scene and tried to stabilize the building.
Early the next afternoon, though, the remainder of the facade gave way and fell to the street below, tugging the pitched roof down with it.
At that point, the city decided the only option was a total demolition.
Work to remove the debris continued Tuesday.
City Hall spokesman Hayne Rainey said there was no immediate timeline for when that process would be finished but that it was being done as quickly as possible.
One reason it has taken longer than first expected is that the trucks hauling away the remnants of the building are not being loaded as full as they might at other work sites.
That is being done in an attempt to limit vibrations from the trucks that might damage other structures, Hesdorffer said.
“That’s actually an additional reason so much care is being placed on the debris removal, so that the trucks move slowly when they’re heavily loaded,” he said.
The building is owned by Elaine Petrie, according to Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office records and neighbors. Attempts to contact her have been unsuccessful.
Rainey said she will be responsible for repaying the city for expenses associated with the demolition and cleanup. A cost has not yet been calculated, he said.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.