November 22, 2005
Richard Moe, President of the National
Trust for Historic Preservation, spoke with RECORD
about saving historic structures in New Orleans during the
Louisiana Recovery and Rebuilding Conference [what date?]
ARCHITECTURAL RECORD: During
Katrina and Rita,many historic buildings were damaged. Where
are you focusing your preservation efforts?
Richard Moe: Were
trying to save buildings that are in National-registered Districts.
These contain 37,000 historic structures in New Orleans. Were
not going to neglect anything, but thats where were
focused. There are 20 National Historic Districts in New Orleans.
The French Quarter and Garden District are only two of these.
The majority of the rest are vernacular houses with Creole
cottages and Craftsman bungalows. These are the heart and
soul of New Orleans.
AR: What can you do to
make sure more historic buildings are saved?
RM: Were asking Congress
to appropriate $60 million for a grant program, to be administered
through state historic preservation offices, to help people
pay for rehabilitation. Theres a desperate need for
this, because many cant afford to rebuild. We will know
about that sometime in December. We would like to raise several
million dollars to do the same thing. We are also going to
undertake a demonstration program, rehabilitating a half dozen
homes across the city to show how it can be done. In the meantime
were trying to give people as much information on mold
remediation and other issues. We have guidelines posted on
our web site (www.nationaltrust.org).
It can work. A woman in South Lakeview saw our web site and
saved her house. Shes going to move back. The majority
of buildings can be cleaned out and saved. Drywall and insulation
needs to be ripped out and it has to be ventilated. It will
be mostly cleanup; not a lot of demolition. Still, 2,000 homes
have been red-tagged for demolition already, although I dont
know how many are historic.
RM: 2,000 homes have been
red-tagged so far, all over the city. I dont know how
many are historic.
AR: How do you protect
New Orleans buildings in the future?
RM: You have to build stronger
levees. No ones talking seriously about moving the bulk
of the city away from where it is now. Its not realistic.
AR: How do you convince
the government to spend more on preservation?
RM: New Orleans would not
be new Orleans without its architecture. This is why tourists
come to the city.
AR: But some say tourists
only go to the French Quarter and Garden District. Why not
just save those?
RM: I think that tourism
would not be the powerful economic force it is if the rest
of the city lost its character. Then the French Quarter and
Garden District would be like museums. Theyre living
communities now. Thats the worst thing that could happen