Louisiana: The State We're In; 481; Historic Preservation
The production funding for Louisiana the state we're in is made possible in part by grants from Kaiser Aluminum and Southern Research Company Incorporated. Too many people in Louisiana. The mention of Historic Preservation conjures up images of the French Quarter tourist attractions and historic old mansions but preservation in Louisiana has become a big business. 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. Good evening I bet you're somewhere alone welcome to this edition of Louisiana the state we're in.
This week we'll be taking you to the French Quarter for a look behind the scenes of a renovation project as we examine the business of historic preservation. We'll also introduce you to a master Art conservatory who's been working to save a New Orleans treasure. And finally we'll hear from a woman in charge of Louisiana's cultural establishment culture recreation and tourism secretary Jamie Foxx. Historic Preservation is a multimillion dollar a year business in Louisiana and it's one that's been growing despite today's high interest rates that have crippled most other development. Tonight we take another look at a report we presented last spring on the business of preservation. 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 in. Mark Coogan his family been running aspell plantation in restaurants 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 that 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 this building and started removing some of the bad stuff. Did you find any structural problems in this building. She had seen the last time I was down. Look I'm. Going to remember when we went through this building we found something serious structural problems. 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 or some might ask them 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 values exist today in the view 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 blue Karaite commission a city agency that oversees French Quarter preservation and development. Well I hope 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 by God given up forever the right for this building not to have a shutter or to have a shutter
a shutter 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 first that was the main thing then 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 that makes 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. It trains statewide not just in New Orleans east 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 in about three hundred 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 entry Boyd. 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 them 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 you know is not to be SOL because your compounded are Confound it by the problem of what to do with the people in the neighborhood then you're going to end up with two L's. I think there are other steps that 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 view great for Mission 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 are 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 who is called in with a priceless painting is damaged when a rare artifact is ravaged by turn. 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 arch means maintaining and revealing the artistic work of the past. It's an enormous halter over 45 feet high. The fact that they shipped this over and reassembled it in the church is quite incredible and it's such a.
Low 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 had these numbered number for one 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 lace 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 higher up. 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 and 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 they have a specialty a nature studio and work space 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 hold it stabilize it in a good condition for. The future. What sort of training you have to do. What was your training like to become. Well I have 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. Are there very many 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 that there is more of an interest now that the profession is growing that people are more sensitive towards. Oh certainly 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 a it's fact 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 say 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 local artwork but also collections from all over the world Chinese South American Russian Icons and of course museums here have such fabulous things and all these things need to be maintained. Why some examples of the work that you've been dealing with there recently. Well I've done some work on the capitals of columns of the Herman a greenhouse in the French Quarter. I've worked on a very early Chinese wooden statue. I have 18th century English clocks Dutch Bombay commode an 18th century American celestial grower but 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 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. 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. As we've seen this week Louisiana is rich in cultural and architectural resources preserving and protecting those resources is a task that faces not just private individuals but the government as well. And Louisiana that job belongs to the State Department of Culture recreation and tourism. And in our final segment we hear from the head of that agency secretary Jamie Foxx. It's we hear a lot about proposed budget cuts that may impact the nation the state and in your particular area of
the arts. Does Louisiana face a real challenge for the future to make up the difference if you will what is the financial picture ahead for the Arts. Well of course it certainly will be a challenge to us but I think we're good at meeting challenges. Louisiana leads the country in well in the top numbers really for support of the arts with grant monies monies out of the state general gone. So we will not feel the impact this particular year in what we call a division of the arts. We will feel it tremendously in outdoor recreation to explain and we have monies in the pipeline that we will have to monitor. So some of the people on stay if will be they are but certain is going to be a challenge because the demands have increased. And even if we had not failed some 15 percent cut from federal funds that the challenge would be dire because the stimulus in the OTS has increased.
But we're going to have to begin to convince the corporations again what real need the community is high and how it will enhance the community. And it's just good business for them. Better public relations it helps to have a few glamorous projects in this last year I guess the most glamorous one was the Spanish treasure ship discovered off the coast of Louisiana. What does that mean in terms of visibility. Oh that was that has just been a tremendous undertaking for the state you know it was our greatest Marine archaeological find and it was very successful from the publisher to a point of view for the state of Louisiana. We had inquiries from all over the country and even internationally we had. We've been in the national magazines regional magazines. We have some over 400 million dollars worth of go. And it excited the professional
community. The archaeologist. And it was amazing to me that the general public was so excited about the U.S. We just didn't know we had so many AMA to archaeologists throughout the state of Louisiana the response has just been wonderful. Very exciting. Many people when they think of the arts are certainly historic preservation and wheezy and I think of New Orleans the French Quarter the traditional areas that we are familiar with. But isn't there been a new awakening of interest in other parts of the state in in Monroe in addition in other areas. Well of course when you go up to northeast we see em and you're talking about archaeology and preservation one of the first things you think about is positive point. Which is a very interesting site. We have a scoop going on this far. Archaeologist in this state amateur archaeologist that is being supervised by doctors sharing food and in
preservation we have any number of historical sites on the national register. Of course nothing to compare with some of the other areas. But in each community we have seen an increase in the number of nominations to the national register. We have a program in place now in this day and I think the last report that came across my desk indicated that there are only seven parishes out of I-64 one that does not have a site on the national registry in the state of Louisiana. So this is good growth. Let me ask you one final question when we talk about the. Developing a better environment to be culturally from an aesthetic point of view and to appreciate their buildings their surroundings their parks. Does it disgust you sometimes when you drive on the highways and byways of Louisiana and see junk cars litter on the road.
Is this part of the bales of life that we as citizens could do something about. Yes I'm glad you could get that out of it the way Zana citizens could do something about it. And if I wanted to shake my butt and go you know why. Well I feel like it. We have had several and a lot of campaigns going on and I would like to challenge each pollution jury in all of our parishes each go to principal to almost make this a you know to make it a top priority. We need to do this. We're looking forward to the 1984 World worlds by and you all ends and we will have maybe some 11 million people based in a state of best in the Louisiana world by and I just think Louisiana should show the best side. We had that opportunity. We have this opportunity and anyone that can help us get the lid off the street as they come out. Let me encourage you.
- Episode Number
- Historic Preservation
- Producing Organization
- Louisiana Public Broadcasting
- Contributing Organization
- 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.
- Asset type
- Copyright 1981 Louisiana Education Television Authority
- Media type
- Moving Image
Copyright Holder: Louisiana Educational Television Authority
Producing Organization: Louisiana Public Broadcasting
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Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Identifier: LSWI-19810807 (Louisiana Public Broadcasting Archives)
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- Chicago: “Louisiana: The State We're In; 481; Historic Preservation,” 1981-08-07, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_17-67wm45zd.
- MLA: “Louisiana: The State We're In; 481; Historic Preservation.” 1981-08-07. 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_17-67wm45zd>.
- APA: Louisiana: The State We're In; 481; Historic Preservation. 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_17-67wm45zd