I used to see this place a lot. I was always headed some place else so I didn’t stop to make a picture. Then one day, I did. Then I stopped again. Twice in about a month.
I drove by about a week later and it was gone.
There was a dirt patch where it had been standing. That’s okay. Normally I mourn the passing of these old derelicts. Not this time. I saw this place fall apart over the course of about five years. It was in bad shape when I first saw it. Then it burned. That’s what the hole in the roof is about. There were rumors that the owner tried to torch it in order to collect the insurance. But, apparently the fire department did two things to foil his plan. They arrived early during the fire and were able to extinguish it, which allowed them to investigate it properly. I guess that’ll happen when you try to burn something that’s on a main street with a lot of traffic. I read of all of this in the newspaper. I may work on the streets a lot, but I’m not that connected.
The picture. Plenty of tinkering in post production. The original picture is sort of pretty. It would have conflicted with my intent way too much. So. I tinkered with it. Doctored it. Messed with it. And… this picture made its appearance.
They say you have to play a song about 500 times until it teaches you how to play it. Yeah. That. With photographs too.
They were built in 1940 as part of the Wagner Act, a Federal plan to subsidize housing for low-income families. They were low-rise, built of brick in the super block configurations that were considered attractive and modern in their time. By the 1970s most of them had deteriorated to the point where they were uninhabitable. But, families still lived there. I call the area Treme, but it is really located in the 4th Ward and is a sub-district of Mid-City. Treme is located in the 6th Ward.
They were closed after Hurricane Katrina, but were the first to re-open because they did not flood. They remained in terrible shape and spawned a large amount of crime. The 2000 Census said that there were about 2,450 people living there. In 2010, there was roughly half that number. The mayor at the time was Ray Nagin. He wanted to redevelop them as early as 2003. Hurricane Katrina pushed the process along. In May of 2009, he announced a plan to demolish all of the housing projects throughout city and redevelop them into mixed use housing. Demolition began in 2013. The former mayor is a guest of the Federal prison system. For ten years.
Another statistic. Prior to Hurricane Katrina there were 3,000 occupied housing project units throughout the city. As of the early 2015, there are 706 new replacement units.
In January 2015, the remaining housing units of the Iberville projects were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the residents who lived there never came back. I’ve been reading quite a bit about where they went. Well, housing project residents in general. They are scattered all over the country. Even when they returned, rental property was scarce. And, expensive. It’s only gotten more expensive. Many relocated somewhat locally. To Jefferson Parish, on both sides of the river. Some live in St. Bernard Parish. Some live further upriver. They might come back for second lines and Mardi Gras. There is a good, but very long piece at www.slate.com. about just this issue. I can’t seem to copy the direct link. If you are interested go to their history section and look at the story for August 25, 2015. It’s yet more Katrina coverage. But, this is worthy of your time. You’ll come to understand why my photographs of the ruined places and second line parades are very intertwined.
The pictures. I liked the gallery approach well enough that I repeated it. It should work a little better for you. Storyteller should upload faster. Anyway, the pictures:
You know what those are. Mardi Gras beads. They are hanging on a piece of fence that surrounds what used to be a small strip mall. There was food store, a drugstore and a doctor’s office there. The doctor made a big deal of accepting all kinds of payment vouchers. I don’t know what the plans for the little mall are, but it’s pretty well covered in graffiti.
Rising. Construction goes on. The brick building is one of the original remaining structures. One of the historic ones. It’s been cleaned up considerably.
Most of the entire project remains behind fences. Please open the picture. When you do, you’ll be able to see the old buildings on the left. The newly built structures are on the right. Wasn’t I clever? I composed the picture so the fence post would divide the old and new. Pat. Pat. Pat. Right on my back.
For those of you who have been around for a while, you might recognize this place.
It’s falling down at a very rapid pace.
If you look between the two windows, you’ll see a giant rusted metal sheet. I think it covers a window. There used to be a painted of Our Lady of Guadalupe attached to it. She’s gone. The window to the right of that metal sheet used to be boarded up. The boards are broken. The window glass is broken. It’s gone. There used to be a formal dining room chair out there on the sidewalk too. It’s gone.
This building was a store at one time. Likely, a neighborhood “food store.” The diagonal door was the entrance to the store. Plywood covered the old original doors. Most of it is gone. I can’t even begin to say what’s going on upstairs. I’m trying to decide if the places where the wood siding has fallen away is brick or that kind of asphalt fake brick siding that was popular once upon a time. If it’s brick — it might be because there are bits of broken brick in the street and sidewalk — somebody is going to get hurt someday when a piece falls out of the sky.
This place is a great example of demolition by neglect. I imagine that one time when I pass by, some of the top floor while be on the bottom floor. Yes. This place was hurt by the flood waters of Katrina. But, it was headed down the road to ruin many years before that.
The picture. Well, I just had to tinker with it. I had to make you feel what I felt when I saw it again. I may have gone a little too far. That’s okay. You get the point.
When I write Storyteller, it’s usually late in the evening. I usually listen to music. It falls into what has become a sort of trendy genre. Americana. It’s all over the place. Most senior musicians say, after hearing that they now fall into this “new” genre, “Oh, I’ve been playing that for years. It just never had a name.” So. Tonight, I’m working to Neil Young’s “Greendale.” It’s a ten-year old concept album about a strange little fantasy town called… “Greendale.”
And… I’m still into “Grunge City.” This is a picture from Mid City. A lot of Mid City was torn down. After the storm. A lot of it flooded, But, that wasn’t why. The City, the Feds, FEMA and the VA decided to build a cutting edge medical corridor. Two new hospitals. A teaching hospital. Research facilities. It’s a mammoth 24 block area. Most of the existing housing stock was torn down or moved… see my posts about Hoffman Triangle. But, some original buildings remained. They may have flooded, but they were solid stock. However, the constant pile driving, hammering and work is tearing them down by accident. This is one of those buildings. Every time that I see it, it looks worse. Eventually, it’ll be torn down. Or, it will fall down on its own. By the way. It’s across the street from all of this work.
The picture. Mostly I let nature — or the construction crews — take its course. I added a little to it because, well, where would this series be without my adding stuff?
So. A friend of mine suggested I return to the scene of this crime and photograph the changes. I reckoned I could do this maybe once a week. The changes might be tiny, but at least I would know when they happened. So, last week I returned to “the place.” It’s across the street from most of the pictures I published yesterday.
What did I find?
A big change. The chain link had been curtained off so that you couldn’t see what is going on inside. Why they did this is a mystery to me. There is about a three or four-foot space from the houses to the fence. Nothing happens there. The houses haven’t been tagged. There is no way that any more damage could be done to these houses. Oddly, this is the only place where the fence has been draped with plastic. I guess someone at some level of some kind of control must have seen the picture I published about two weeks ago. Or, somebody complained. Or, or, or….
So. I made the picture anyway. Then I took a walk along the parameter of the fence. I found a hole. So I did what any five-year old boy would do. I looked through it. Yep. I was right. Nothing changed. So, I made the upper picture. I had no choice. This is documentary work. In case you are wondering, the bottom picture is new. It is not the same picture I posted a couple of weeks ago. It just looks like it. I like the quality of light just before dusk. Maybe I should go back during business hours and ask somebody why they needed to waste time and money hiding the view. Does it really matter whether somebody sees inside?
There is a place in New Orleans called Mid City. It actually includes bits of a lot of neighborhoods. It’s big. It’s also blue-collar and there is little or no tourists stuff there. It’s a real neighborhood. A lot of famous streets pass through it. Canal Street. Carrollton. Tulane Avenue which is the terminus of Highway 61. You know Highway 61. Bob Dylan wrote about it. At one point it passes through Clarksdale, Mississippi where Robert Johnson made his deal with the devil and learned how to play the blues. You know. That song. “Crossroads.” Well, a big area of the Mid City was flooded by the broken levees that followed Hurricane Katrina. Before I write further, do you see? That storm influenced everything and anything. It has. It will. For a long, long time. So. In the aftermath of the flood, the city started making plans. A lot of plans. We were going to have business hubs. Development hubs. A jazz core area. A gambling area. Most of that was just thrown up against the wall. Some of the planners hoped it would stick. Most of it didn’t Most of it was just the rants of former mayor C. Ray Nagin. Did I mention that he’s been indicted for all sorts of fraud? Did I mention that he rarely got much done? But, he did get to call out all just about every Federal group on television. That was something. Oh well…
The one plan that did stick was the proposed hospital and medical complex. There will be brand new a VA Hospital and a LSU hospital. The LSU hospital will replace the services that Charity Hospital used to provide. Meanwhile, even though Charity Hospital was damaged during the storm, it is in fine shape and sits empty. A plan has been proposed to move city hall and many city services there. Lots of plans. This one was proposed by current mayor, Mitch Landrieu. We’ll see. He gets stuff done. But, you know… In order to build this huge medical complex a huge swath of Mid City was demolished. Some of the more historical buildings were moved to other parts of the city. Mostly to Hoffman Triangle, which I told you about in early posts. There they sit, rotting and moldering away. Other buildings, sit on the far edges of the hospital development area. That’s what these house are. One more thing, the demolition caused all sorts of protests. Even though this section of Mid City was a ghost town at the time, the houses were repairable.
It sure took me a long time to get to this picture. I made this picture while having a lot around the neighborhood. This summer. At dusk. My favorite time to work. That little chain link fence in the foreground is the far northern border of the hospital zone. Those house on blocks were moved from somewhere in the zone. Those cranes are in the heart of things. They are building stuff.
The VA hospital is scheduled to be complete in February 2016. I assume that the LSU hospital will be completed around that time as well. The rest of the neighborhood? Well. Who knows? I can’t imagine the hospital planners care very much about these three houses or the ones in Hoffman Triangle.