Louisiana: The State We're In; 461
A. Production funding for Louisiana the state we're in is made possible in part by grants from Kaiser Aluminum and Southern Research Company Incorporated. There is an epidemic of preservation and restoration and a desire to go back to the old neighborhoods in New Orleans and that epidemic on the part of so many has raised the value of the properties in the older neighborhoods. These objects bring the past to life. There are physical manifestations of the talents and the people who lived in that time and it is very important to me that these things are last for another 500000 years. Welcome to this edition of Louisiana the state we're in. This week we have two reports entering on the
business of historic preservation and restoration. We'll be taking you to the French Quarter for an inside look at the renovation of two 19th century colleges. And we'll pay a visit with an art conservatory who's applying her talents to the altar in an old New Orleans Cathedral. And finally we'll take a look at the career of Emma Douglas Louisiana's NWC the president who died this week at the age of 54. But first to our main topic of the week historic preservation. It's a multimillion dollar a year business in Louisiana and it's one that's growing despite today's high interest rates that are set and other kinds of development. It's the subject of our report. Too many people in Louisiana. The mention of Historic Preservation conjures up images of magnificent old mansions filled with ornate decorations and tourists the tourists come by the bus and Carlo making the business of Historic Preservation profitable for those who cater to those in search of history for Louisiana's historic structures.
It's a great business and it gets better every year. In the last two years there have been seven old homes open up to take in guest. That brings a lot of people and in itself there's now a new restaurant that serves to groups as another one open in new attraction opens. We get more business and Mark could get his family have been running as Fidel plantation in restaurant since 1968 and they say that business has been getting better every year as public interest in historic preservation continues to grow. But to believe that historic rehabilitation is limited strictly to the plantation homes open for tourists is to see only a very small part of the picture. Indeed most of the historic rehabilitation work completed are now underway in Louisiana involves business and residential development. It is development not only encouraged by the desire to preserve something old. It is an investment encouraged by good old American tax incentives. That's one reason why so many old homes are turning up as offices
and why others are being made in the fancy high priced apartments in a reason why not all of the smart money today is just being invested in the modern towers of steel glass and concrete that dominate the skylines of our cities. There is an epidemic of preservation and restoration and a desire to go back to the old neighborhoods in New Orleans. And that epidemic on the part of so many has raised the value of the properties in the older neighborhoods so the price tag has gone up because the demand has gone up. And I hope it continues. Henry Lambert is a New Orleans developer who is taking advantage of a 1966 congressional tax law that allows generous investment write offs in depreciation of historic rehabilitations Lambert gets the write offs by participating in a government program aimed at preserving historically significant buildings 50 years old or older. In order to qualify however he must meet strict rehabilitation guidelines that are checked by the
state office of historic preservations field Representative Gordon McDowell. Henry once you got into building and started removing some of the bad stuff. Did you find any structural problems in this building that you had seen before last time I was down. Look I'm. Going to remember when we went through this building down. Serious structural problems are right this particular project the conversion of three shotgun houses in the French Quarter into 12 apartments represents a $260000 investment for the property and three hundred thousand more for the rehabilitation. But since the buildings are in a historic district the French Quarter Lambert and his partners can choose between tax options that allow them to write off the entire cost of renovation in five years or accelerate that appreciation on another schedule while taking a 10 percent credit against other taxable income. As far as investors on a long term basis I think their investment will be returned and they will show a profit and initially as far as tax consequences. Anyone who's got. A certain amount of cash available
it's to their great value that they take advantage of it. Of course it's to the great value of society that they do so too because as we were explaining these buildings were greatly deteriorated and they were one of the portions of it were in danger of collapse. They had been vandalized and vacant for years and so today you can see them as they might have been seen in 1870 or as the masonry building around 1830. Some might ask then is this merely a rich man's game only the rich can get into the historic preservation business. As far as. As the historic district is concerned as far as value exists today in the view a historic district. And as far as the financial market and the cost of money is concerned. Unless you find a very good deal it requires somebody who's got a great deal of investment to put down because the loan ratio is not
necessarily very favorable. Henry Lambert also wears another hat in the preservation picture. Not only is he a developer but he serves as the full time director of the commission a city agency that oversees French Quarter preservation and development. What we've shown here and what 12 other people in 1980 showed by donating their facades to the city of New Orleans in the view Caray commission is that it's in their interest as well as in the interest of government to preserve these structures. Today preservation is very popular. We don't know how popular it will be in the years to come. Taking advantage of the facade donation technique in the Tax Reform Act government can assure for all time that these buildings will be preserved and basically the state that these buildings are here given up forever. The right for this building not to have a shelter or to have
a shelter a shelter has to be on this building forever and that the mill work as it is designed Now before you has to re be maintained like this even if it's been taken away and absent from the building for years at any point the owner of the facade namely the city of New Orleans can come back and say That door has to go back on like that design is so it is in the benefit to the benefit of society and the city and the governments that are involved in this that they urge everyone to take advantage of these particular tax incentives which are only going to be as a right now in existence for a few more years. But in a city like New Orleans government programs are by no means the only reason behind the historic rehabilitations movement. The landmarks movement the preservation movement started in New Orleans right after the First World War in a big and a big way saving the French Quarter. The French Quarter will say for us that was the main thing that later on there were there were projects to save
individual buildings. But in the last 10 to 15 years it's been really I say an explosion of residential need that has happened in the city most of the work is basically people buying an o house and fixing it up themselves. Henry crosser is a senior partner in the New Orleans architectural firm of coke and Wilson specialise in restoration since the 1920s. The firm has done well adapting old buildings for new uses in crosser and his associates approach each building like a doctor inspecting a new patient. Each one is different in clinical common since you needed to do the job right. There was no textbook for this kind of thing that can replace the field experience every building no matter how typical it is of its period has variations and unusual things and it would make it an individual case history. But if the challenges are enormous There doesn't seem to be any shortage of takers to the Restoration Task to train statewide not just to new audiences toward more restoration and more recognition of historic value. MC Now with the state preservation office says that
across the state there are 25 historic districts and about 300 buildings listed in the national register and qualified for tax benefits. And while half the districts are in New Orleans new districts are being evaluated for cities as diverse as St. Martinville Crowley Lake Charles and Sheree boy. Why are people doing the restorations is it all financial motive. Do they expect to make a profit or is there a loss involved. I run into a myriad of different reasons why people are doing this type of work. A lot of it is image building. A lot of commercial ventures it is very chic to rehabilitate a building now. It's basically the image a lot of instances. It is the financial gain that can be made from going in and spending a couple hundred thousand dollars to rehabilitate half a built half a dozen small shotguns down the Irish Channel and make 12 units out of there and people move into them and you can make some financial gain from them. Some of it probably originally where it came from is preservation minded
people that just have that civic interest to save what is from the past and make sure that future generations have that time with the past the state the developers and the investors all seem to be quite happy with the new boom in historic preservation. But for some the consequences are not always welcome. Historic designation of a neighborhood can triple property values and force out lower income residents who can no longer afford the cost of living in the neighborhood. My answer to that particular concern. Is that. You've got to progress wherever you can. If you can make progress in bringing a substandard house back into the market as a step standard house then you should do that and solve one of the ills of a city. If that deal is not to be solved because you're compound it confound it by the problem of what to do with the people in the neighborhood. Then you're going to end up with two whales. I think there are other steps that the city government and other governments are taking
to solve the housing problem. But I don't think keeping people in a substandard neighborhood in a substandard house is the solution to you know maintaining the housing market. Of course not all neighborhoods that become historic districts will necessarily see property values triple especially those districts in the smaller towns. And after all not all of the rewards of this business are financial. It's an enjoyable business it's an exciting business it's rewarding because you can see something change before your eyes and see something physical. You can work in an office even the buke or a commission office and work on issues and documents and policies and so forth but not until you get out into the streets and do something physically can you really have the kind of personal satisfaction that you can by doing one of these things. Preserving the past is also the topic of our next report but the focus is slightly different. It involves a profession that is highly specialized. A conservatory of
fine art. The person it was called in when a priceless painting is damaged or when a rare artifact is ravaged by time. The subject of this week's profile is such a person a Louisianian who is an expert in her field. A master conservatories at work on the high altar at St. Mary's assumption Church in New Orleans. It is a tedious and time consuming job stripping away the layers of time for more than a year and a half. Thirty year old Annette Brazil has been restoring the hand-car German altar back to its original beauty for a net practicing her art means maintaining and revealing the artistic work of the past. It's an enormous halter over 45 feet high. And the fact that they shipped this over and reassembled it in the church is quite incredible and it's such a.
Quality craftsmanship of so fine and it's wonderful that we've been able to find the work of the original German craftsman still there and safe under these layers of overpaying in this particular niche behind the statue. We found I have these numbered number for war is the way the panel was when I first began it was painted gray solidly underneath this layer we found a layer of gold leaf and lacquer design in red and gold. But underneath that we found the original which is a much finer layer of red lacquer and gold leaf. And this is what was done by the German craftsman Munich. Here this is one of the angels that would have gone in one of the larger niches. When we started the altar it was painted gold all of the faces were and as were caught cleaning it we found a beautiful painted face in perfect condition this is had no retouching. And it's really charming it has much more life than
and it's very very fine craftsmanship again done by the Germans in Munich. Annette's work at St. Mary's requires not only patience and skill but a background and experience shared by only a handful of conservatories across the country like the medical profession each conservatory may have a specialty a niche or studio and workspace with a fellow professional whose specialty is painting and manuscripts while Anette specialty is in wood and sculpture. We are sort of the caretakers of fine works of art in a sense we try to take. A piece of art or an art object and. Return it to as close to its original condition as possible without ADD without adding. Too much for almost nothing and then conserve it or hope it stabilize it in a good condition for. The future. What sort of training do. What was your training like to become. Well I haven't been an undergraduate degree in painting. And then I went to
Europe and got a degree in conservation from London and then I worked for two years in Venice in a museum or museum in Venice conservatory in this country. Not too many Actually there are several graduate programs in this country for conservation and the programs are expanding and turning out very very good people. Are you finding it. There is more of an interest now that the profession is growing that people are more sensitive towards. Absolutely and the standards are finally being established before anyone can set up a shop and call themselves a conservatory restore. And now there are the techniques of the profession have been very highly refined and the research into the. Techniques have been highly developed and so it's a much more professional. Atmosphere.
Does it take a lot of scientific training you're dealing with different materials it is a combination of scientific training common sense and it is it's very there are three basic aspects of the profession you have to have in our history training to know what you're dealing with to understand what the original artist was trying to visually. You have to have a scientific background to understand the materials and the chemical makeup of the piece and you have to have the. Experience of the quaffs person you have to know how to handle to carve to mold to claim. So you have to have those three scales. There has been a great deal of publicity about the restoration of churches after the earthquakes in Italy and artworks after the floods in Florence. But. I would imagine restoring works in Louisiana is something new to a lot of people. Why did you come to Louisiana. Well I'm from Louisiana. It's my home and my roots are here but there are so many beautiful things here. Fabulous
collections of not only artwork but also collections from all over the world China South America. Russian Icons and of course museums here have such fabulous things and all these things need to be made examples of the work that you've been dealing with there recently. Well I've done some work on capitals of columns of the Herman a greenhouse in the French Quarter. I've worked on a very Chinese wooden statue. I have 18th century English clocks an 18th century American celestial globe. The variety is incredible from many many different types of thing. How important is your work. Do you have a sense of. Preserving. A heritage for future generations a sense of retrieving that which might be irretrievable Well I think there really is it's been
fascinating to work with objects that are so beautiful and so when you have a feeling of of. How these objects bring the past to life. There are physical manifestations of the talents and the people who lived in that time. And it is very important to me that these things are last for another five hundred thousand years. And it's. Fascinating to be able to handle pieces of that day. Does it trouble you when you see something that's perhaps irretrievable Are there things that we're losing here and sometimes it's heartbreaking it's absolutely heartbreaking you see works of art that have been mistreated often people don't know what they have and they don't know who to turn to for help. And it can be just a devastating experience to see some fine piece of craftsmanship or artwork that has been either abused or just simply neglected. But in Louisiana an increasing number of precious artworks are being preserved. The
high altar at St. Mary's Church first viewed in 1874 will now be restored to its original beauty. But the process is not only time consuming it is costly and to finish the work begun by Annette Brazil will require not only her commitment but a commitment from the Louisianians who cherish the past. Some people want to preserve the past while others want to change the future. Image Douglas was such a man as a noted civil rights leader and president of the Louisiana interval a CPA for the past 20 years. Douglas could rightfully lay claim to much of the success in the civil rights movement for the last two decades. This week Douglas died suddenly at the age of 54 and his career is worth taking note of racial hatred. Just.
Try to get. This straight Emmett Douglas for over 14 years a man who spoke his mind as president of the Louisiana man and more than any other it kept the pressure on to desegregate the public school system. Douglas like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached nonviolence and got results. Is colleagues remember him as a tireless worker. He was a very long gone and truly believed in and equality of all people in this country. And he was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in whether the issue or a cause was popular or unpopular. And I think the most important thing about this individual is that after you have had a confrontation with him on the opposite side of an issue you stood in the respect of him and lock in him and and you know things went on
without any animosity or was to have a dad who has a belief that all human beings should have equality in terms of their pursuit of happiness and life in this country. It was that he and I think that he has some successes in that process. So it was a fine individual. His career certainly spanned the time period when so many advances were made in civil rights and so much turmoil went on. Do you think of him as part of the old guard that came to. To help guide the movement through the 70s or as a kind of hood of himself and his philosophy and his feelings about issues and I think his dedication to nonviolence method of
achieving equality was a plus for him and I think that it allowed him to involve himself with all the cross-section of the people that live in our community and as a result of that he was able to move in and to involve himself. From the 60s on through the through the 80s and and effective in the process. You know when you think about it yeah. Douglas was controversial not only in the state political scene but also within the civil rights movement. He was one of the few black leaders in the state to support a merger of Southern University and LSU a stand that seemed to reflect a personal devotion to seeing all public education fully integrated. As you know we've been under the water for 25 years and he was about to see you know one of his goes a dream come true. And he was a part of a negotiation team that was negotiated a
settlement a consent decree for East Baton Rouge Parish and I'm just saddened that you know he was not able to see the outcome of this of this suit. But I think yes that is one of the major goes in efforts of his. In addition to that during the times of unrest in this community he was one that stood out and calm things and cooled down some of the young leaders who you know and some were not so cool in terms of our reaction to certain things and he was a kind of mediator. Who with his background. And his we were able to kind of give us the kind of leadership that we needed to overcome some of the anxieties that we had. Last summer he joined the rest of the Black Caucus on the Capitol
steps for a rally a protest against some of the administration's spending plans and in his speech which I was just reviewing today I sensed some disappointment in his voice that some of the inequities that he had worked against for so long were still here and read he was really saying is that with the new administration that they would not address in the you know the major needs and issues that he's a long lived thought far and that there was a total disrespect for the ideas and wishes of a large segment of the of the population and he was disappointed that this was happening and then he nastily his own voice his opinion about that. I suppose he's going to be a hard person hard act to follow for whoever has to fill those shoes.
Yeah. And then. Nature and the loss of objectivity. Is hard to replace an individual like that only once or twice and in one's lifetime so it will be very difficult to have someone to follow him. We were never replaced and I think perhaps we might have someone come on the horizon. We come close to the statue of this man. I mean to be here these days. That's our program for this week. We'll be back again next week with a profile of one of the political leaders. We hope you'll join us then. I'm Rob Lowe.
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- Louisiana Public Broadcasting
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- Louisiana Public Broadcasting (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
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- The hosts look at historic preservation in Louisiana. First discussed is a renovation project in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Business owners talk about the economic benefits of historic preservation for the tourism industry. The hosts discuss how tax incentives have caused an influx of domestic and commercial historic preservation, which has raised the value of property in older neighborhoods. Next interviewed is a art conservator working on the preservation of the interior of St. Marys Church in New Orleans. The segment discusses the process that has taken over a year to restore the German-made altar. The conservator tours the altar and shows how she uncovered gold leaf and lacquer design covering up the original design from German craftsmen. The last segment explores how the government aids in historic preservation. Jibby Fox, the Secretary of the State Department of Cultural, Recreation, and Tourism is interviewed about how budget cuts will affect the arts in general, and historic preservation in particular.
- Louisiana: The State We're In is a magazine featuring segments on local Louisiana news and current events.
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- Copyright 1981 Louisiana Education Television Authority
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- Moving Image
Copyright Holder: Louisiana Educational Television Authority
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Louisiana Public Broadcasting
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- MLA: “Louisiana: The State We're In; 461.” 1981-03-27. Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_17-62f7mz9v>.
- APA: Louisiana: The State We're In; 461. Boston, MA: Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_17-62f7mz9v