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FEMA Section 106 Notices for Louisiana
Comment on "Public Notice Regarding Section 106 Review of State of Louisiana, LA Dept of Education/Recovery School District (RSD) Proposal to Demolish and Replace the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, 2300 Dumaine St, New Orleans, LA - Seeking Public Comment"
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Name: John P. Klingman
City: New Orleans, LA
Wheatley School, 2300 Dumaine St.
Comments: The Wheatley School building is of international importance, it is eligible for the National Register. Yet, in spite of letters indicating its importance (see below), the RSD has never seriously considered adaptive reuse of this building. They have not commissioned a structural analysis, and during the 106 process never presented any documentation of the building's suitability for renovation. This shocking inattention to history by an institution dedicated to education is highly unfortunate. RSD needs to start over with a sincere approach to the 106 process and to the fair assessment of this wonderful building.

From: John Klingman jklingm@tulane.edu>
Date: September 30, 2008 8:21:38 PM CDT
To: masterplan@rsdla.net
Subject: significant school buildings

Dear Sir/Madam,

These comments refer to the status of well designed buildings for which the school system apparently has no use. It is difficult for me to understand the criteria by which you are deciding which school buildings to retain for educational use, and I do not have the knowledge to critique your process. However, as an architect, an educator and the only ongoing critic of contemporary New Orleans architecture through over a decade of annual articles in New Orleans Magazine, I feel qualified to offer the following.

In the period following the Second World War, New Orleans underwent a renaissance in school design. This accompanied the forward thinking civic agenda that was also manifest in the fine public buildings of the period. But the school buildings were particularly significant. They were designed by the city's most talented architects in support of a contemporary architectural and educational agenda. These building won local acclaim, and they were featured in national publications as an indication of a new spirit in New Orleans.

There are at least a dozen outstanding buildings among the fifty-six you are considering for demolition. These buildings are simple, elegant and designed to be efficient. Most were designed to work with natural ventilation, taking advantage of the mild weather and breezes that occur throughout most of the school year. They interwove outdoor play space with the classrooms and featured covered outdoor circulation systems. Of course, over time without adequate maintenance, and with high programmatic demands, the buildings were compromised, sometimes severely. They have been closed up for air-conditioning; they leak, and they have had unsympathetic additions etc. But so have many of our most significant nineteenth century buildings.

We need to recognize that the well designed buildings of the twentieth century are just as much an important part of our heritage as the nineteenth century buildings.

It is imperative that the best of the midcentury school buildings be preserved. If the school system is unable to imagine reusing them, then sell them. Do not demolish them.

At absolute minimum the following buildings need to be preserved for future generations:

Phillis Wheatley Elementary
Thomy Lafon Elementary
Carver Junior-Senior High School
Avery Alexander Elementary


John P. Klingman
Favrot Professor of Architecture
Tulane University