Squandered Heritage Vintage

…not with a bang but a whimper

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.


Last week when the I received the agenda for the November 17th meeting I didn’t have a lot of time to take the photos. So it was late in the game before I realized this building was on the agenda.

Sherman L Greene

Who was Samuel Green and where were the people who cared about this building, this monument?

Would anyone show up at the hearing? Would we have another Gilbert Hall , one that the Neighbors fought to save? But in the end lost.

While looking for some history of this Church I stumbled upon this article written by Coleman Warner Growth, Identity, and Loss in a New Orleans Neighborhood this is only a small portion of the article but the theme resonates. Especially when you see where this Church is located.

When I went to view the building I was struck with the location. Smack dab in the middle of the Guste Housing project. Between the newly constructed row houses and the unbearable ugly stacks of bricks and steel.

2321 Thalia

This Church and the Freedoms Hall continue to exist here, but do they serve? The Church is boarded shut and people move around the building not through it. There seems to be no connection to this Neighborhood. When I go out to look at the buildings I usually try and find someone to talk to about the impending demolition. But in the case of this building there was no one to talk to. It made me think abut the function of the Church within a neighborhood. What would that function be if the residents of the houses were transient as is suggested by the new attitude towards public housing residents. Would a person form attachments to the neighborhood and the institutions within the neighborhood such as this Church if the ideas about public housing being that they were built to serve a population who was not going to stay. So much has been written about public housing and I still am unsatisfied by the argument that public housing serves those who are on the way to an upward mobility instead of the working poor. With a City economy based on tourism the need for an uneducated population is greater than a need for skilled well paid workers. Maybe that will change but in the meantime public housing is not a lifestyle choice but a fact of life.

So many of the Churches in Central City serve people who live outside of the Neighborhood so the need becomes a need for parking a need for places to put cars, not people.

So the Church will continue to stand but the Freedom Hall will fall. The contractor presented his plans which I was unable to see, but according to his verbal presentation Phase 1 is demolition and Phase 2 is unknown.

When I bought my house I was glad to see this beautiful Church across the street. Something so grand and so permanent. I never thought I would see the day when it was closed. Unlike the parishioners of Our Lady of Good Counsel the parishioners of Incarnate Word said a sad farewell, with a whimper they allowed the Archdiocese to close the facility.

Incarnate Word

So what was left was the School, a half block long building that had educated many in this Neighborhood. And served as a community gathering spot, daycare and poll location before the storm.


Last month the School reopened. The kids can be heard now and again life returns to part of the block. But the Church remains silent.

Communities all over the United States are feeling the loss of congregations and the centralized notion of mega churches is now the norm. Churches as political machines and influence. Has the Church lost sight of it’s mission? and decided that the community where it is located is no more than a literal parking lot? The parking lot functioning as the place where influenced is exerted And now the Catholic Church spends more time, money and effort on housing than it does on ministering

Lots to digest in a small post about one piece of history. More questions than answers. Who will save a Church if no one is there? Who will save a City if no one cares?

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use for Squandered Heritage. For her work with television reporter Lee Zurik exposing widespread misuse of city recovery funds — which led to guilty pleas in federal court — Gadbois won some of the highest honors in journalism, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • Who will save a City if no one cares?

    Or who will save our city from people who care… or claim to care too much.

    I think what’s happened… at least politically… is that there has been an overwhelming and irresistible tide of frustration that has been purposed toward the destruction of all that was in the frustrated hope that something new… whatever that might be… will be better simply because it is different.

    Sure there have been smalltime interested parties in who have stood to gain (in the short term) from planning, demolishing, privatizing, re-imagining every aspect of our traumatized public life. But crooks and profiteers pop up to take advantage of any environment. The problem is the environment itself.

    Had we returned from the flood with a commitment to rebuild instead of erase our community, the smalltime interested parties would have jumped on the building train along with us and found conniving ways to profit from that.

    Instead we came back angry at each other… angry at ourselves.. and determined to destroy every reminder of what frustrated us. It was cowardly and it allowed the crooks in power to profit from our cowardice instead of our courage. But ultimately it was always our own fault.

  • Tim

    It is easier to destroy than to build. This administration is so desparate to prove it can do somehting, it is tearing things down not because these things need to come down (truth be told some do, some don’t). They are doing it because it is EASY.



  • Easy because our politics lets it be so. Because we hate and fear each other. Because we hate and fear ourselves and our city, we make it easy for them to destroy it for us.

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  • Because we hate and fear ourselves and our City..I guess that says it all.


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