Squandered Heritage Vintage

World War II Museum Expansion

The National World War II Museums expansion will triple the its size and it will be the only official World War II Museum in the United States. The expansion will increase the size of the museum to 70,000 square feet and is also expected to increase the museums attendance from 300,000 people a year to 700,000 people a year.

While all these things seem like they will have a positive impact, seven+ historic buildings and warehouses will be sacrificed. I will start off with the historic preservation history of the area where and around the expansion will occur. Before the construction of the Pontchartrain Expressway and Crescent City Connection, the transition from businesses to residential districts was gradual. Unfortunately, the construction of the expressway made this transition very decisive: buildings upriver from the expressway were considered to be uptown and residential and buildings downriver from the expressway were considered to be business and downtown. There was finally a clear distinction between uptown and as downtown, because in the fifties and sixties some New Orleanians still considered Canal Street to be a dividing line between Uptown and Downtown. The expressway and ramps to the expressway annihilated many dozens of historic homes, business, and churches, famous examples include Saint Paul Episcopal Church, which is now on Harrison Avenue and Canal Boulevard in Lakeview and the Delord Sarpy plantation house, which was the oldest structure upriver from Canal Street. After the construction of the highway, abuse still continued; the warehouse district area immediately downriver from the expressway was never given any sort of HDLC historic district protection like the areas of the business district more downriver or the area on the upriver side of the expressway known as the Lower Garden District. The same area was continually abused: buildings were demolished for parking lots, especially in the area around Lee Circle, while others were inappropriately remodeled or abandoned altogether.

There had been plans since the nineteen eighties to include the area adjacently downriver from the expressway in an HDLC historic district and these plans were almost realized in 2003 but then city council member Renee Gill Pratt, whose district included that area, rejected those plans altogether. The plans were again brought up and new city council member Stacy Head approved the plans for the HDLC district and the area will soon be New Orleans newest HDLC historic district.

The HDLC gave the Museums plan for demolition of the warehouses approval (well, they actually offered no resistance because the buildings were not in one of their historic districts at the time). I had written an email to Michelle Kimball from the PRC several months ago and asked what attempts the PRC had done to save the buildings. Michelle said it had been a painful issue but did not go into specifics so I left it at that. These preservation vs. progress battles will become increasingly more common in our post Katrina world and these buildings are living on borrowed time. It is unfortunate these buildings are being demolished because this area has lost so much. I know not everything can not be saved but if we do not respect our past we will have nothing for our future.

1005 magazine street 1005 magazine street (1005- 1011 Magazine Street) This building will be demolished for the World War Two Museum expansion. The HDLC rated it of major architectural importance but it is so unsafe that “demolition is warranted” as the Times Picayune put it. Now this building looked perfectly sound so I don’t know what the Times Picayune is talking about. There are many unsafe buildings where demolition is warranted immediately: the roof is caving in, walls are collapsing the houses is off the foundation, just to name a few things I’m talking about. It was probably declared unsafe and in danger of collapse for the convenience of the museum so it could get a demolition permit.

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(1000 block of Magazine Street) This little building in the middle will be demolished. It could have easily been incorporated into the museum. It is a small late nineteenth or early twentieth century business storefront.

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(1000 block of Magazine Street) This building will be demolished for the expansion.


(1031 Magazine Street)This building looks like a common late nineteenth century small warehouse. Notice the single large door, definitely a trait of a warehouse. It will not be demolished and will be incorporated into the museum.


(From Right to left: 1037, 1041 Magazine Street) These two buildings will be incorporated into the museum and be saved. The building at 1037 Magazine is a beautiful Greek revival townhouse similar to the ones in the French Quarter. The building on 1041 Magazine is a double gallery house with an added front.


(1043 Magazine Street) This building is a beautiful nineteenth century Italianate structure and it will not be demolished and will be incorporated into the museum.


(1100 block of Poeyfarre Street ) This building is a late nineteenth century building; it will be demolished for the expansion of museum

(1100 block of Poeyfarre Street) This building is an early twentieth century warehouse with an spanish mission style original facade; it will be demolished for the expansion of the museum.


(Magazine Street)This building will be demolished for the expansion. This looks like a twentieth century warehouse. It has a unique- if not somewhat ugly- façade.


(Magazine Street) This building (on the corner) will be demolished for the expansion.

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  • It’s ironic, because one of the greatest assets of the D-Day Museum in my opinion is how well it conveys the experiences of “ordinary” people in the overall war effort, including what life was like Stateside (something we’d do well to remind ourselves of now more than ever, during this no-sacrifice-continue-shopping war in Iraq). I would think that incorporating as much as possible of the architecture that was extant during the war – especially in a neighborhood that retains a few characteristics of pre-expressway urban America that you point out, the very “mixed-use” lifestyle that planners so desperately try to emulate these days – would enhance, rather than diminish the experience.

    I’m glad to see that some of the buildings are being saved and incorporated into the design (presumably with their historically salient features), but as the D-Day becomes more and more a neighborhood unto itself, it would do well not to squander the asset it has in environs that don’t require “recreating” a sense of an earlier generation. The building of a history museum should be one of those arenas where not only is “preservation” not in conflict with “progress,” but where preservation IS progress.

  • Kathleen

    when they built the garage across from BankOne building on Carondelet, there was an ‘historically significant’ building left on the corner of the block. all the pounding of the support foundation eventually jarred the poor little building down anyway.

  • randall

    Oh yes, the old hibernia homestead building., That was a while ago in 2003. That operation for building the garage was riddled with mistakes.

  • Thanks for the great inventory, Randall. I’ve been confused each time I go by which buildings are doomed and which are being saved. It’s a shame so much is being lost. Has anyone seen detailed design plans for the new museum? I hope the architect has been sensitive to scale along Magazine street.

    And I know it would be too much to ask, but I’d love to see pedestrian/bike access through/around the property diagonally from Camp/Caliope to Magazine/Andrew Higgins, which would allow walkers/bikers to avoid that unpleasant Camp Street ramp mess, and make a decent link between Uptown/downtown.

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  • randall fox


    Its a bad image but its by far the best we got.