To mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this week Curbed is looking at how the housing, architecture, and neighborhoods of New Orleans have changed since the storm. Here, the second of two Q&As (read part one right this way) with long-time residents of the city.
Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures permanently altered New Orleans, and now, nearly 10 years after the storm, residents are reflecting on the ways in which this city has changed—for worse and for better. The best way to find that out is the way New Orleanians have always gotten important information—ask your neighbors. We asked long-time residents of a representative sample of 15 neighborhoods—neighborhoods that were drastically affected by the storm, have changed rapidly in the past decade, and/or have a strong neighborhood identity—to reflect on how housing, architecture, development, quality of life, and neighborhood character have changed, or stayed the same, since the storm.
This is part two of a two-part series of Q&As with locals—read part one here. Conversations have been shortened and edited.Lower Garden District • Irish Channel • Lower Ninth Ward • Holy Cross • Mid-City • St. Roch • Treme • Uptown
Lower Garden District
Illustrations of New Orleans architectural styles by Sam Randolph.
The area is known for its tony mansions, hub of restaurants and shops on Magazine Street, and the small Coliseum Square Park. The area did not significantly flood after the storm.
Your guide: Eric Nemeth, a landscape contractor who works in the area. Has lived in his neighborhood for 21 years.
How has your street changed in the past decade?
The block has always been pretty solid. I guess I was part of the second wave of people moving into the neighborhood. But the street has always been really pretty good. I'd say half of the people, maybe less than that, half of them have been the same people the whole time and half have transferred out. Definitely a mix of homeowners and apartments. One of the biggest houses on my block, across from Coliseum Square Park, that's condos, one across the street from that also a condo. Besides real estate going up like crazy, all the houses have been renovated. Two doors down from me there was a 1950s cinder block house that some gentleman renovated about, I don't know, five years ago, and turned it into a cool modern house. That was the main non-historic house on my block that was kind of an eyesore. Now it's a different style but it's cute and nice.
Are your neighbors mostly native New Orleanians, or are they from other places?
It's definitely a mixed bag. My neighbors next door, who have lived in there seven years, they came a month after Katrina and rented an apartment on St. Charles Avenue then bought this house a year later. They're both not from here. At that little modern house, they're people who rent from the guy who bought the house, and they're from Colorado, I think, originally. There has been a big group of, I would say, "younger" people, under 40, who have come in from places besides New Orleans. My neighbor on the other side of my house, they're both New Orleanians, probably in their late 50s, and the people across the street, they're also New Orleanians, probably 65 years old. They've been in the neighborhood 30-plus years I would say.
It's definitely more gentrified, without question, just like everything else. It's gone up radically since I've purchased my house. Coliseum Square Park is nicer than ever; they fixed the fountain which is really beautiful. Even the old grand mansions around the park have been renovated. There's constantly renovations going on in the neighborhood; there's a dumpster on every block.
Some of the houses had been neglected, and they need major work. As time goes on, it takes more and more money to maintain these homes. Some people get old and they can't do it anymore, or they don't want all their expendable income going into renovating or maintaining an old house. So someone new comes in with a lot of money and guts it, and keeps as much as they can and changes everything else. Definitely in the last 10, 12 years, I'd guess there's been five to seven grand mansions, antebellum mansions on Coliseum Square Park that have had seven-figure renovations, multi-million-dollar renovations.
What has kept you in the neighborhood this long?
I love the location. I love being able to walk to St. Charles Avenue, walk to Magazine Street, walk to the French Quarter. I feel like I've found the most great combination of urban, but not very urban, living. The park down the street is fantastic, because I have dogs. The house just fits me, and it's just the perfect size for my wife and I and our daugher. I love the fact that I personally have a very modern interior but a very historic shell. If I had off-street parking it'd be the best. And also, even though I'd make a lot of money selling the house, I couldn't move to a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood without (the price) going up radically. But I don't want to live Uptown, or downtown—I'm right in the middle of where I want to be.
I do wish crime was lower, although it's more what I read about than what I actually experience. But [I wouldn't change] much, truly. If I leave this house and this neighborhood, I'm moving out of New Orleans.
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Originally settled by working-class Irish immigrants in the 19th Century, the neighborhood is known for its shotgun houses and, because of its high ground, avoided flooding after the storm.
Your guide: Valorie Hart, interior designer, decorator, and writer
How long have you lived in your neighborhood?
Eleven years. I live on the same street as I did pre-Katrina, Washington Avenue.
How has that street changed?
When we purchased our home, it was considered a working class neighborhood with a somewhat dicey reputation for crime. For us the house was affordable, and had all the charm we wanted. It was on a magnificent street lined with live oaks, and the people in the neighborhood were welcoming and friendly. We purchased our home one year before Katrina. The street has not changed much, except for the influx of younger families who are buying the old houses and renovating them. The neighborhood is more diverse.
Of course real estate prices have doubled, and sometimes tripled. Houses go on the market and are usually sold within a day or two.
I am excited that so many homes are being saved and renovated in the spirit and architectural vernacular that is uniquely New Orleans. The newer residents are artistic and fit in well with the people who have lived in the neighborhood for 40 years. The Irish Channel has not been stripped of its neighborhood character, something that is often a consequence of gentrification and improvement. The new people moving in want to preserve what is uniquely New Orleans, not replace it.
What changes have you seen in architecture, if any, before and after the storm?
The Irish Channel is a historical neighborhood, so any new building must be approved by a city agency. Some new homes are replicas of the 125-year-old homes in the neighborhood.
The people in the Irish Channel are still working class, whether they are a nurse, a minister, a store owner, or an Internet worker—or a tango teacher. It is a family neighborhood comprised of people from young to old. It is a racially mixed neighborhood.
What do you love about the neighborhood?
What don't I love? I love that I have the good fortune to have been able to purchase a home at an affordable price, in an authentic New Orleans neighborhood. I love my neighbors, and the beauty of our street, and also the central location the Irish Channel enjoys. It's easy to get to anywhere in the city.
What needs to change about the neighborhood?
Potholes need to be repaired!
Lower Ninth Ward
The predominately black neighborhood, due to its proximity to the Industrial Canal levee breach, endured severe flooding after the storm. It was the site of 100 starchitect-designed, energy efficient homes built by Make it Right, actor Brad Pitt's charity, but still many pre-Katrina residents have not been able to return. The overall neighborhood return rate is 34 percent according to Laura Paul, executive director of Lowernine.org, a nonprofit that has rebuilt 75 homes in the area for pre-storm residents. The area is also still majorly lacking in resources. However, in parts of the neighborhood where some homes were salvageable, pre-storm residents have returned and new residents are moving in.
Your guide: Calvin Alexander, homeowner in the Lower 9 since 1978 and member of the board of directors for lowernine.org. He is also active in his neighborhood association and represents the neighborhood in the city's New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission.
Have a lot of your friends and neighbors been able to return since the storm?
Well, a lot of my neighbors have actually returned because I'm on the St. Claude Avenue side of the Lower 9th Ward—between the Mississippi River and St. Claude—and that's because, those of us who took on water, just took on water. Whereas between Florida and Claiborne Avenues, a lot of those homes were washed completely away or washed far enough away from their foundation that they have to be destroyed anyway.
Quite a few people have been able to return and rebuild, and those who have not have sold their property and have simply decide to relocate in this area or have left the city completely. But my neighborhood is alive and vibrant, quite frankly.
What about resources in the neighborhood, like grocery stores and drugstores?
The nearest drugstore, the nearest major chain drugstore is a little over a mile away. There are local drugstores that are a little closer. We still don't have a major supermarket. Quite a few of the dollar stores have moved into the area and in fact, from what I understand a new dollar store is about to be built at St. Claude and Caffin Avenues, which is one of the major intersections here in the Lower 9. They're completing the building of one roughly a mile away from there, should be open in the next four to six weeks. There's some development plans ongoing to try and get a supermarket here, but we still do not have a supermarket.
In the decade after the storm, did it ever cross your mind to relocate?
Nah, never even crossed our minds. Never crossed our minds. This is what we're currently calling home, and that has never been any wavering there—we were coming home.
Are your neighbors mostly people who lived there before the storm, or do you have people coming in from other parts of the city or from out of town?
Actually, because of the historic nature of our portion of the neighborhood, a lot of people have relocated here from other cities and states. But quite a few have returned to their own homes, which was their homes pre-Katrina.
Matter of fact, there is a family that just purchased a home in the 600 block of Flood Street. They relocated from the greater Chicago area. There's another lady on my end of the block on who relocated from New York City. I think of others who have come in from upstate New York, California, Washington, Oregon, pretty much all over. There's one in the same block as me that I think is from Iowa. There's been a major influx into the neighborhood. In fact I was speaking with a young man who said, "This place is going through a serious gentrification!"
What do you think about that term? Do you consider that to be a positive thing?
I find the fact that people want to live here as a positive and uplifting thing. I don't have any particular problem with that. I think that oftentimes, people use terms that they do not truly understand, quite frankly. I don't necessarily subscribe to the term gentrification for what is happening here, in this neighborhood. And I suppose that might be walking a tight rope. But I say that because, as I understand it, gentrification is the displacement of people of a certain, I guess, socio-economic level with someone who is a part of "the gentry," or the class with a good deal more wealth. That's not necessarily [happening in this neighborhood].
Have you spoken to your neighbors who are not from here and asked why they picked this neighborhood?
The reason that most of the people who moved here is one, because it's almost like being in the country. Nice sized lots, off-street parking for the most part, and you can get a reasonable piece of property for the dollar spent. Even some of them have been priced out of areas they would like to purchase, or what they have considered as a more likely place they might want to be, but they have found we're a family-friendly neighborhood, there's a lot of community here—we actually talk to each other, reach out to each other, and so on.
A historic subdistrict of the Lower Ninth Ward, the neighborhood was also inundated by flooding after Katrina. Because of the historic nature of the neighborhood—Holy Cross is home to the unusual pair of "steamboat houses"—there has been a recent surge in preservation and renovation activity in the neighborhood. And next year, the redevelopment of part of an abandoned school in the neighborhood—the neighborhood's namesake—into a mixed-use facility will begin.
Your Guide: Fredric Larson, real estate agent and Holy Cross resident since 2010
How did you end up in Holy Cross?
I was living in the Irish Channel. A friend of mine came down from California and she was insistent on checking out the Lower 9th Ward. I tried to dissuade her, but she wouldn't hear of it. And the rest is history. I fell in love. It was quiet, and even just riding through, a really nice sense of community. On a subsequent visit I stopped and talked and people were friendly, outgoing. There was hardly any traffic out there.
What about the fact that there's not really a grocery store and things like that around there? It takes a little longer to get to the stuff you need to get to.
That doesn't bother me. I thought there was an opportunity to help sculpt the neighborhood. It was my understanding that they had a tight-knit neighborhood association, which was attractive to me.
It seems like lately there's been a lot of renovations happening. Has that been going on for as long as you've been living there, too?
I would say with more fervor now. When I moved out here, you couldn't get 100 bucks a square foot for a beautiful renovation. Now we're about up to $200 a square foot, and that's happened within a four-year time period. We've seen a lot of growth in numbers out here.
Tell me about the house you lived in.
I renovated. I sort of camped out for a while. It's a beautiful, gingerbread detail, probably circa 1870 or so. All-wood. I felt like at the price I got it at, you really couldn't go wrong. I wasn't looking at getting back my investment so quickly, but that happened, and I've moved onto a couple of other projects in the neighborhood.
What are the other people like who are moving in? Are there people from New Orleans, from out of state?
What I see is people who are local New Orleanians, not necessarily natives but who have lived here awhile. Primary from, what I can tell, in a lot of instances anyway, folks moving in from primarily Bywater and Marigny—folks who like the area but who have been priced out of those particular neighborhoods. Even at $200 a square foot, which we're set to break, for what you get out here it's still a terrific deal.
As a real estate agent, do you find yourself having to still sell people on the neighborhood, or is there a lot of interest?
Generally a lot of folks who come out this way have done their homework to a degree and they know the neighborhood for the most part. Most of them don't have too many questions to ask. It's just about hopping on the property quickly enough that they can get an offer in. The inventory out here is not terrific. Once you know what direction you're going, I think folks are wanting to pull the trigger pretty quickly because things don't come up as quickly as they do in other neighborhoods. There's not much to choose from. Typically when things hit the market, they go under contract. They don't stay on the market … 40 days is probably a long time for something to sit on the market out here.
You get quite a bit more bang for your buck out here. Unfortunately I'll be probably be having to move back out to California next year or so. If I didn't have to move out, I'd certainly stay in this neck of the woods.
Home of City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and Bayou St. John, Mid-City was flooded extensively after the storm. It is experiencing a commercial resurgence with the development of the Lafitte Greenway linear park, the opening of a new teaching hospital, and many shopping and dining developments along one of its main thoroughfares.
Your guide: Ian McNulty, restaurants writer for The Advocate, New Orleans' daily newspaper, radio personality, and author of Louisiana Rambles. He has lived in Mid-City since he bought a house there in 2002.
What was the neighborhood like when you first moved in?
I ended up here because at the time, this was the affordable place to buy houses. When I moved to this neighborhood, it was pretty clear it was on the way up. I don't think it was considered the hot new neighborhood per se, but it was gaining momentum. When I looked at the neighborhood as a prospective home buyer, it wasn't my first choice. I didn't know much about Mid-City back then. I had always rented Uptown, the Lower Garden—to me, Magazine Street and that area was the center of the universe. Ideally I wanted to get a house that felt like a really old New Orleans house. When I looked at Mid-City it didn't have those wrought iron balconies and picturesque little courtyard, which back then was still my image of classic New Orleans. But I was lured to Mid-City by the availability of the houses, for the price range I was in I could get a lot more house for the money—anything for that price in Uptown at the time was in deplorable condition, if not actively on fire then on a terrifying block.
Very quickly after buying the house and settling in I started meeting all my neighbors. I realized that I was looking for the wrong things when I was looking for the "real" New Orleans. It quickly became apparent that Mid-City was as real as New Orleans gets. I met all my neighbors very quickly. It was a mix of people who were my age, mid-20s/early 30s, people who had lived for generations in the same house. Very tight-knit but also very friendly, and it seemed very diverse.
Today, looking around, do you think it still encapsulates the "real" New Orleans?
When you talk about the "real New Orleans" it's sort of this mythical thing, but when I look around Mid-City right now to me it looks the way New Orleans looks: it's racially mixed, it's economically mixed, it's a tapestry of people who are newcomers, people who have been around for a while but don't necessarily have roots in the area but consider it home, like myself, people who have very long roots in the area and very specifically in Mid-City. I think the neighborhood changed a lot, and for the better, after Katrina because it did show early signs of coming back, and people started to gravitate toward it from other neighborhoods.
It seems younger now. When I look around I see a lot of young children, see a lot of families with young kids out and about, I see a lot of people who look like recent college grads—sometimes I wonder if that's just my perspective because I'm 13 years older than when I moved in. There's been a lot more businesses that have been draws to people from across the city. Before, places like Mandina's and Liuzza's were very well known, as well as a lot of neighborhood bars. But now you have bars that are destinations to watch a game, or are just cool places. Restaurants that have followings across the city that people want to seek out. The blooming of Bayou St. John as a recreational area has been big, too, since we started Bayou Boogaloo there. I think it opened people's eyes to using that urban waterway.
What could be better about the neighborhood?
Crime is still a big issue. I would say there's been no improvement in that since Katrina. We don't have horrendous, headline grabbing crime that happens in other places, thank God—well actually, taking a step back, there's been plenty of murders nearby. It does seem to be still an uncomfortable amount of crime close to home, and the limited police response to it is on the nerves of a lot of neighbors. Seems that the home prices are, in, some cases, startlingly high. It's a good thing for people who own their homes, I suppose, but on the other hand if I were buying my house today I might not be in the area. I wouldn't be able to afford it.
There are still some question marks about houses in the area. The house next to mine has been barely touched since Katrina. In the midst of some of these houses selling for $400,000, you still have houses that are Katrina question marks, as I call them.
Do you see yourself staying in the neighborhood?
Yeah, absolutely. We love it there. A great weekend for us is we park the car and don't move it again until Monday—there's so much you can walk to. A lot of our friends live nearby, so we feel very settled in the neighborhood. As much as I fantasize about having a little pied-a-terre in the French Quarter, Mid-City is certainly where we intend on staying.
It's an interesting neighborhood in that you have a lot of shotguns, rows of camelbacks that are clearly built around the same time by the same developer around the turn of the century. But then you have houses that are more townhouse style, some more cottage style—they all seem to date from roughly the same period. Even on the same block you get a lot of architectural diversity. It's a very colorful area. People painted their houses some interesting schemes. A lot of stained glass. One really nice sort of quiet amenity of the neighborhood, is the way that most houses have porches, and most of these porches are aligned, so in the nice weather when people are sitting out front, it feels like you're sharing this one long porch. You can look down and see, oh there's people two doors down having a drink, there's a few people a few doors down reading the paper. It feels very neighborly.
The neighborhood experienced extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina. When the St. Roch Market, an open-air market and neighborhood landmark that was flooded after the storm, was recently redeveloped as a high-end eatery and not an affordable grocery store, as residents in the food desert hoped, the neighborhood became a locus of heated discussions on gentrification in New Orleans.
Your guide: Ben McCleish, executive director of St. Roch CDC, a community development organization. He has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years.
How has the neighborhood changed in the past decade?
There were so many beautiful things about the neighborhood. The neighbors were some of the most genius people I've ever met. People who had very little but were very generous. There was a real sense of community, where you knew each other and people looked out for each other—that sense of community that exists in New Orleans like no place else in the world. But there was also really painful things. I would pick up trash on my street, and that would usually involve needles, drugs. There were people prostituting on our block. The first event our church planned was an Easter outreach at my house, and at the end of the event a neighbor pulled out a gun and killed someone in front of my house. All those things, from a real estate side, property was dirt cheap, but it was a lot of run-down, old houses. I think now, especially with the real estate boom that's happened in the downriver neighborhoods, there's some really great things: there's great neighbors moving in, great redevelopment happening, but there's also a certain sense of loss, at least for us. That sense of, I don't know many people on my block any more, and they don't stay long. Or they're working crazy hours just to afford their expensive house now, and I never see them. They're not on their front stoops or front porches. Every license plate's like, New Jersey! Idaho! It's not Louisiana—they haven't even been here long enough to have to switch over their registration and things like that. But it's great to have a new energy: pre-Katrina sometimes you felt like you were the only one fighting for change, because people who had been there their whole lives were exhausted from doing that, and you were sort of fresh energy. And now there's some new fresh energy, so that's a positive thing. But there's also people we love and care about who can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood; their lease runs up, and their landlord decided they want to renovate the house, charge more rent. It's no longer $600, now it's $1200. Now I've also heard those same traditional neighbors, especially ones who are homeowners who are not getting pushed out, who are saying the neighborhood's gotten so much better, there's less crime—which is ironic because in the last month there's been lots of violence in St. Roch. It's one of those strange places of gentrification that's happening. We always say, we're for gentrification, but gentrification with justice. There needs to be ways for the poor to remain and be able to stay in the community they've been praying for decades that would change, and still have access to their jobs in the French Quarter or CBD, instead of having to take the bus for an hour.
What are the major architectural styles of the neighborhood, and has that changed?
The neighborhood was built between the late 1890s and basically was done by the 1940s—really by the end of 1920s it had been built. Early on you have some Creole Cottages that were there, the older structures, then you begin to have the shotgun houses—we live in a three-bay, side-hall shotgun right now, built in 1896. Then you begin to have your craftsman period in the 20s, smaller cottages, and then start having infill houses. In the northern part of the neighborhood, I call it "south Gentilly," you start to see Gentilly-style houses—that kind of newer, 50s craftsman style near Florida Avenue. You have a good mixture of things—the further you get from the river, you have newer houses, the closer you get to St. Claude Avenue you have more of those Victorian, shotgun style houses, with the exception of a few Creole Cottages.
What I see for the most part is people staying pretty faithful to the architectural fabric of the neighborhood. But for some things, to each his own. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everything we (St. Roch CDC) try to do is historically accurate, budget allowing. That's what so beautiful about New Orleans, the architecture.
Why have you stayed in the neighborhood all this time?
Primarily because of the work that I do, but we love living here. We've always said it's the best hidden secret of New Orleans. We can walk to the French Quarter, we can hop on 1-10, we can easily get on 610. The one deficit is there's no grocery store, but there will be eventually—Robert's will be back here shortly. And now with Crescent Park on the riverfront, we can ride our bikes there in five minutes and be on the beautiful Mississippi River. There's lots of great things there and lots of beautiful people there who make our lives so rich, and we're so thankful to call so many folks our friends. We've time to time had moments of weakness where we've considered moving somewhere else, but we don't know where "somewhere else" even is.
Considered to be the oldest African-American neighborhood (it started as the primary neighborhood for free people of color) in New Orleans, the area outside the French Quarter got the national spotlight via the HBO series Treme—although the series isn't specifically about that neighborhood.
Your guides: Homeowners Adolph, retired pharmacist and preservationist, and Naydja Bynum, founding member of the Historic Faubourg Treme Association. Adolph has been in the neighborhood since 1985, Naydja since 2000.
How did you get into preservation?
Adolph: I wanted to live in the French Quarter, but I couldn't find parking. I decided to come, as they say, across the tracks—this was all blighted. They had prostitution, drugs. I renovated two houses; I stayed in one. My friends thought I was crazy because I could afford a house anywhere in the city of New Orleans … I started hearing: "Why did you move here?" "Well, the property someday is going to be valuable, because you're only a block out of the Quarter." At the time, the real estate in the Quarter was really high. This was an opportunity to get something cheap and develop it. As time went by I showed my houses to a lady by the name of [Patricia] Gay, who is the director of the Preservation Resource Center at the present. She said, "It appears you are a preservationist," because I replicated and redid a camelback double the original way it was. I started with two houses, then I bought the whole block.
How have you seen the neighborhood change in the past decade?
A: We've seen a real change. A real, real change. One of the reasons people tried to buy here is because Treme really didn't flood; it only flooded on the perimeter, not in this area. And now it's very hard to get houses.
Naydja: The area has improved. When my husband was here they had a lot of drugs and activity. Before 2005 when the storm hit there was an effort towards community growth, but after the storm a neighborhood organization formed because of concerns of post-Katrina crime. I think from that, that contributed significantly to the neighborhood coming together and having people talk about quality of life issues, such as crime. We were part of that initial neighborhood organization and things like planting trees, my husband lead the effort to plant trees a few blocks away that was really heavy drug and activity area. Also, after the storm, my husband and I and a few other people started investing in that area. That was the area between Claiborne and Rampart that was a crime hotspot. So we bought several houses and lots and friends and people who became friends bought houses, and we started [the] same kind of quality work of renovating the houses to a level that still supported the architectural beauty of the neighborhood. So that was a big effort, what was once an area of crime, prostitution, trash, started becoming an area that was pretty, clean, houses were being renovated.
Since then we've seen other people do renovations, maybe one house at a time. There's still enough houses in the neighborhood that need more attention, but it's not as obvious. If you walk down the block, you see blighted houses, empty houses, but again, it's coming around.
I think the other part of what happened is when that Treme series came out and put the place on the map … people take Treme seriously because people think [the series] is about the neighborhood, although it's not about the neighborhood: it's about the city post-Katrina and its musicians. That's when the tourists started coming across the tracks as we call it, across Rampart St.
And then of course now all the construction that's going on, you look at the fact that the streetcar is coming, the University Medical Center is opening soon, the Lafitte Greenway with the big bike route … a lot of things improving the quality of life are going on around us.
What are things you've always liked about the neighborhood?
A: One is convenience. The quality of life. You can ride a bicycle out to City Park, or to the Bayou. Ride to the Quarter. When Carnival comes, we park our car for two days, we ride our bicycles into Marigny, have breakfast in the Quarter, see Zulu [parade] on Orleans and Basin, ride Uptown to a party, and ride back home. We can also catch a cab, which I love to do, and it'll drop me off right at the restaurant for $7—I feel like I'm in New York. We're season ticket holders for the Saints. We ride our bicycles, hook them up on a telephone post, and walk right into the stadium. So it's very convenient. Not only that, but we have great neighbors, we know our neighbors. I know this block is unusual, since I dictate who rents on it and I rent to good, professional renters, but we hardly ever have crime around here—at least not as much as we used to have. We do have to drive to the grocery store, but it's four to five minutes.
N: I love architecture of these houses. We have this inventory of beautiful houses with history. And this neighborhood has a strong African-American history, and we feel like we have to have it in good order, maintain that history with quality of life.
The majority of Uptown, where landmarks include Tulane and Loyola universities and the mansions of St. Charles Avenue, did not flood drastically during the storm.
Your guide: David Spielman, freelance photographer who recently released the book The Katrina Decade, an eerie compilation of photos of post-Katrina New Orleans. He has lived in New Orleans for over 40 years.
What are changes you've seen in the neighborhood?
Fundamentally, things look pretty much the same. We've entered into a period where people have become very, very respectful of the traditional architecture. In the 60s there was a move to tear down these old Victorian houses and put up something modern. It seems like the restoration of these old buildings is getting more and more elaborate. People are coming to town and doing true and beautiful renovations. You're seeing new business—I think people really genuinely got scared because they thought we were going to lose all of these, the uniqueness of New Orleans—the architecture, the music, the restaurants, all of it. We've just been hellbent on making sure we don't—you don't appreciate something until you almost lose it. Even the new houses that have been built on vacant lots that have been purchased, the houses they're building seem to be fitting in very nicely.
What is your style of house?
Our house is a triplex, it's a stucco mansard roof probably 1930s. It's not a traditional house—it's not Greek revival, Creole cottage, or whatever—but it's approaching 100 years old. It's a nice soft yellow stucco, it fits in very nicely. The neighborhood we live in is all about the same age, so people build kind of Victorian type houses, and then some others aren't quite so much. That period people had a little more flexibility with architecture.
What do you like about your neighborhood?
Just about everything. It's right there at Jefferson and St. Charles avenues, so it's very walkable to Prytania Street—there's Prytania Theater, little grocery stores, Crepe Nanou, St. James Cheese Company. There's all of these great things. We're a block away from the St. Charles Streetcar. Sasha, our son, and I have a regular Thursday tradition where we get on the streetcar and go down to the Ogden [Museum of Southern Art], and go listen to the music. We do it often enough to where several of the streetcar operators know us and get a kick out of seeing us.
What would you change about the neighborhood?
I'd like to get all that streetwork done. [laughs] I'm concerned it may not be completed in my lifetime. It feels like Berlin wall's going on. Change the neighborhood? I'm not that much of an egotist. People need to realize that they honestly and truly do not own their own homes. They are custodians of these houses. There were people living in them long before they got there, and will be long after they're gone. When you renovate, you better think in those terms. You just don't go in a house, tear it up, and do the design du jour, and let the next generation have to correct and undergo your mistakes. I'm sure there's a ward or two that if I were king I would change, but that's part of being a community. Matter of fact, one of the things I like about our neighborhood is we have young marrieds with little bitty kids, elderly people, so our son—who's 13—gets to meet a whole variety of people. If you went to a suburb where everyone was about the same age, it would be fun but our little boy wouldn't have the opportunity to meet a whole spectrum of people.
· New Orleans Locals on a Decade of Post-Storm Change, Part 1 [Curbed]
· Eye on New Orleans archive [Curbed]