Squandered Heritage Vintage

Claiborne Ave. It's a drive thru World.

Today’s NCDC meeting included 4 structures which were on the agenda to be demolished for a CVS Pharmacy. One of the structures caught my attention for a number of reasons one of which is it’s past use as a synagogue.


Chevra Thilim Synagogue was built in June 1948 at South Claiborne Avenue and Jena Street and attracted many Jewish families to the area. Its congregation was already 50 years old at the time the Claiborne Synagogue was built. Prior to that time, the congregation used a building located on the northeast corner of Lafayette and Baronne Streets.



Along with the synagogue was a former fast food restaurant, a bank and a residential building. The demolition of all these structures to make way for a CVS tells a lot about the orientation of our commercial buildings and what will be the reality for Claiborne Ave.

According to Myron Katz, “The Chevra Thilim synagogue building was a powerful magnet in the early 1950’s “The Jews who lived in that neighborhood were very numerous… even to the extent that over 30% of the students at the public grammar school, Wilson, were Jewish; my two sisters, my brother and I attended that school, Wilson, at that time: 1950-1963”. His sister still lives in the neighborhood in the family home, purchased by his father in 1952, and located not far from the South Claiborne Avenue building.

There is more history of the Chevra Thilim here

While looking around for some information on this particular building I began to think about people who like to visit these kinds of places and how upon arriving in New Orleans they may be surprised to find the synagogue is now a CVS. Of course they may have been even more surprised when the synagogue was a Baptist Church as it has been for the last years of it’s life. If they need to take a break and digest it all they can visit the giant Walgreens across the street.


What was once a cluster of buildings that had a relationship to the surrounding neighborhood will now service the occupants of the cars that whiz by here on the way out of the CBD.

It also begs the question;what became of the plans to create a better Claiborne Ave, one that services the surrounding areas? And how will these 2 giant drugstores play nice together. Will we see another vacant structure in the near future when the question of sustainability is answered with one of them declaring defeat and leaving another vacant commercial building? Time will tell.

to see the full results of the meeting click here {results} the P.R.C. is doing a great job of cataloging and posting the agenda.


One of our readers left a link to this photo in the comments section. I thought it was a nice addition.

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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.

  • Though I’ve always found a clustering of drug stores to be a bit redundant and tacky; I can see it as a benefit to the surrounding area since it will be something a lil more than the ratty liquor stores dotting Claiborne.

  • Chevra Thilim Synagogue combined with the synagogue I grew up in (Tikvat Shalom in Metairie) to become Shir Chadash years ago. At the time the building was sold to a baptist church and all the old architectural bits were removed (stained glass etc, i believe)

    The sad thing here isn’t the loss of the building, but the loss of a congregation that started at the beginning of the conservative jewish movement. As their membership declined and got older they decided t join the only other conservative congregation in the city and left the building at that time.

    also, people who visit here for jewish history go to the reform congregations on st charles (touro and sinai) one of which is one of the oldest congregations in the USA (Touro was one of the first five congregations in the country, i think)

  • The conservative Jewish movement has been shrinking nationwide. Chevra Thilim was an unfortunate casualty caught up in a local version of this.

    The land use issues along Claiborne, however, are quite valid.

  • Kitty Collins

    Sigh. I post *all the time*, elsewhere on the Nola-web, about how easily existing buildings are re-used and repurposed. The materials these are constructed out of would be impossibly expensive to duplicate today; “green” practices; preservation of local history, resistance to water damage, etc. Seriously, if reusing existing buildings/facades were that hard, there would be No Europe. Or Boston, SF, etc.
    Whatever. Carry on. Tear it all down. Pave it all over. As you were.

  • Someday maybe they really will tear down the I-10 overpass so that North Claiborne can get a new CVS too.

    I noticed a week or so ago that they put a frickin Walgreens at Gentilly and Elysian Fields where the original Zuppardo’s used to be.

    New Orleans is increasingly described as whatever you find in between the Walgreenses.

  • The Wallgreens plague (with small CVS flare-ups) started on the Northshore. I think 5 more spouted up down there since I moved to the city a year and a half ago.

    This city need more grocery stores. I mean actual grocery stores. Not overly expensive yuppie-marts or Vietnamese all in one pope-mobilesque fire hazards.

    Oh man I want me some Golden Express now that I think about it.

  • The chain drugstores look like they’re heading to oversaturation, like Starbucks a few years ago, or the story in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” about civilizations collapsing at the end of an economic cycle where every business became a shoe store.

    Here’s a band playing for Purim at Chevra Thilim Synagogue in 1998:

  • Plague indeed. It’s not just Walgreens and CVS. Now, the Family Dollar wants in on the action. They propose to demolish the Whitney Bank on Canal and Broad and put up one of their squat boxes.

  • AyUaxed

    I live near this site and am appalled at the CVS proposal. It is unconscionable. Not only is there already a large and never crowded Walgreens right across Claiborne, but there’s another one not too far down Claiborne at Carrolton. CVS and Walgreens are just repeating the errors of RiteAid–grossly overbuilding in a limited market. That leave nothing but doom and delapidated, defunct structures in the future. In the meantime, our very small, family oriented residential part of Broadmoor gets a frickin’ drive thru that exits on the small, quiet, and none-too-smooth Jena St. right next to the quaint Episcopal Church. I do really miss Chevra Thilim and the spirit of the bent-but-not-broken eastern European Orthodox Jewish congregants who would walk down Jena to “Schul” on shabbat and high holy days. They were (those who are left still are, just sadly not visible here) a great inspiration, not to mention, nice neighbors. And where’s the Broadmoor Improvement Association on this? Crickets chirping. Since the whole area was supposed to be a green dot, why not make that section of the block a green space, instead of ruining the residents’ lives and properties for something no one who lives in the area needs or wants.

  • Matt

    If you do not want the CVS, email Stacy Head at shead@cityofno.com. The Zoning change still must be approved by her.

    This is a horrible, horrible idea coming from folks who have no stake in the neighborhood. The church still owns some of the lots. The others are owned by connected Uptown developer Benjamin Gravolet.

  • juneaux

    One needs to mention the beautiful oak trees that died as a result of the Walgreens at Napoleon and Claiborne.

  • GStone

    My kids grew up going to Chevra Thilim. It was bad enough that the 20 room home that my mother grew up in is now part of Walgreen’s parking lot.
    I’m displaced since Katrina… and I may now be sick……