Land Use

St. Charles Avenue mansion: Another one bites the dust?

The sale is still pending, but an application is on file to demolish this St. Charles Avenue mansion.  photo: Karen Gadbois

There have been cycles in the destruction of St. Charles Avenue, and we may be on the brink of a new one.

The city’s most famous boulevard was once largely residential almost all the way from Uptown to Lee Circle, though you wouldn’t know it from the proliferation of Burger Kings and Speedy Oil Change outlets, banks and the Office Depot that dominate the stretch downtown of Jackson Avenue.

Designation as an historic district brought the more wanton kinds of commercialization under control, and what’s left seems likely to remain residential.  But that doesn’t mean destruction of the old housing stock has stopped.

The most recent high-profile demolition – a Mediterranean-style mansion designed by architectural luminary Emile Weil – fell to the wrecking ball earlier this year after a futile five-year campaign by preservationists. A McMansion is slated to rise in its place. But at least it will be a single-family home, preservationists note, not the apartment complex that was initially touted.

Now comes another proposed demolition, seven blocks farther downtown. This one, a 6,700-sq.-ft. manse of tile-trimmed yellow stucco, is at the corner of Valence Street, surrounded by some of the highest-priced residences in the city.

The applicant for a permit to destroy it, Crescent Road LLC, lists a Baton Rouge residence as its business address.

The property, last sold in 2008 for $825,000, has a sale-pending sign out front. A local real estate website indicates that it’s no longer on the market but describes the place in some  detail. Whether the demolition permit is a condition of sale is uncertain.

Crescent Road’s plan calls for a one-family story building “value in excess of $400,000”

The Neighborhood Conservation District Committee will hear the request at its bi-weekly meeting at 2 p.m. Aug. 20 in City Council Chambers at City Hall.

Do two demolitions mark the beginning of a trend? We’ll see.

Demolition application St Charles

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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.

  • debi

    Alright St Charles residents…the lite is blinding here! If this keeps happening, the avenue will not be the avenue any longer. DO SOMETHING.

  • poppy

    Although this property has been altered it has been there since at least 1895. Would be a shame to lose it.

  • Pltnm

    I’m not exactly sure what the point of this article is other than as a setup to fearmonger on the last line. The previous demolition took *five years* to gain approval (which is sort of absurd even if there was controversy). Now there’s one more. If the property had value then someone would buy it. No one has, so it must either cost more to renovate than it would be worth, or nobody who has the means to purchase it wants it, historic value and all.

    Frankly, higher density housing in New Orleans can only be a good thing, regardless of where it is, but especially on a functioning mass transit line, like the St. Charles Avenue streetcar. Even so, I’m not sure what the evidence is for the new house being a “McMansion”, other than Gadbois’ assertion. Sure, building a 7000 sq. foot monument to your own opulence is tacky in 2012, but it was tacky in 1895 too. Just because it’s old doesn’t make it a good use of valuable property.

  • Pltnm

    “Someone” in that first paragraph above would be “some individual buyer intending to renovate” were I being pedantic about it. Obviously a developer bought it.

  • Apm

    Completely agree with Pltnm’s comments above. Preservationists should not be consoled but rather saddened by the fact that historic properties are being demolished only to be replaced by single-family homes of equal or greater size — if the demolition is going to occur, at least it could occur for the purpose of housing more New Orleans residents along the streetcar line and addressing the historically high rental prices that prevail throughout the city.

  • Karen

    PLTNM The application for the demolition is the source for the information referenced in the article.

  • I like old Mansions and all, but if no one is buying them should we let them sit there and rot unoccupied?

    Yay grey area.

  • Once the original building is knocked down, why should “preservationists” care whether it is replaced with another mansion or apartments?

  • patricia

    tp nov 2011 article on this house. Bill Goldring is or was the owner. was going to put condos on site.ownership transferred to his son to build single family residence. all architectural elements stripped on inside so on inspection it does not appear architecturally significant. they are suppose to deconstruct an older carriage house and reconstruct someone else. so far this is no going so well for the mid-city houses. the council voted to approve demolition. the activists need to call council members. or else another bye-bye

  • Karen

    Patricia that is a different house. The Goldring house has already been demolished .

  • ViveNouvelleOrleans

    Is this on?

  • Zak

    I was One of the real estate agents involved in the sale back in 2008. The property in it’s current form looks nothing like the original home. It was a Queen Anne Victorian originally with turrets and all. The stucco and med. style came much later, I believe after it es covered to 10 apartments. The interior had some nice original features including a beautiful stain glass window but other than that…dumpy.

    In my humble opinion, not a big loss if torn down…

  • Lynn

    From the outside it looks great. But the inside?
    I lived in the building behind it after Katrina. The elderly lady that owned it at the time had let the interior maintenance slide for years. It was in terrible, terrible shape. Roof leaks, windows that would not fully close, wood floors in bad shape, broken & missing tiles, rusted bathroom fixtures and so on. It also has been split up into several apartments.
    To save that building it is going to take a huge amount of money to get the inside back into decent shape. I always thought it has such potential to be beautiful and such a shame that the previous owner had let it deteriorate so much.
    Here’s hoping someone with big bucks will repair & save it, but I would not get my hopes up due to the interior conditions.

  • ViveNouvelleOrleans

    The name of the new owners are Elrick Williams and Paula Williams of Chicago.

    Big Obama supporters. They run the Nell Williams foundation, a big Chicago no-profit. They are also big time Chicago and national financiers, and their company is the Williams Group Holdings. Paula Williams runs (owns) the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.

    The Crescent Road LLC company which owns the property now is just a shell for this purpose only. It is similar to another Williams company, “Winter Garden Haven” in Florida.

    You can find out more about these folks here (Executives tab):

  • Pltnm

    @Karen: if that’s the case, can you post/link to the documents? I’m not sure how a demolition application would provide evidence of a “McMansion” but maybe it does.

    @jeffrey: because “Preservationist” is usually shorthand for “represents the interests of wealthy citizens and/or established businesses”

    @the Lens: is there any logic to the order in which comments are posted? If so, I can’t see it. I thought it might be comment # but nope, those are all random, too.

  • Karen Gadbois

    The application is now included in a link at the end of the story.

  • Pontius

    This property should not be considered to have any architectural value. It has no noted architect, vacant for five years, foundation is failing, evident rot on most exterior walls.

    Saint Charles “Eye Sore”, tear it down,

  • marignyite1

    @Pltnm Preservationists aren’t always representing wealthy citizens. The entire (non-profit) PRC organization fights the good fight for even the smallest little single shotgun in St. Roch. (

    @Jeffrey Preservationists aren’t just concerned with preserving specific buildings. Preserving historic neighborhoods is a major concern as well, which is why we have historic districts.

    Thankfully we live in a city where we have a large population of historically significant architecture. Protecting the history of New Orleans is imperative and thankfully we have people and organizations here who are passionate about it!

  • Pltnm

    @Karen: thanks for posting. I looked at the document and still don’t see where you found the evidence to label the subsequent construction a “McMansion”. There’s literally nothing in here that would indicate the cookie-cutter, quick-construction, shoddy-materials style that is generally indicated by “McMansion”.

    @marignyite1: one non-wealthy preservation does not a movement make. Preservationism generally involves blocking new high-density development that would bring down rents in order to preserve a neighborhood aesthetic. Preservationism almost always makes redevelopment more expensive and cumbersome, thus increasing rents and purchasing prices for properties across the board, specifically disadvantaging poor and middle-class citizens. Furthermore, New Orleans is particularly prone to preservationism creep – we start by designating old, historic neighborhoods as off-limits to new development (arguably valid for truly historic districts) and next thing you know people are saying that post-war slab homes in Gentilly are examples of “period architecture” that need to be preserved.

  • I and all of the neighbors are in favor of the development of 4706 St. Charles avenue into a single family residence. This present edifice is drowned in stucco. Return to the original Lambert design is impractical and absurd. It is a style ugly then and is unfortunate now. The new owner has promised me that he will use the fine stained glass widows and those few interior items–mantels–that he can. I have owned 4631 ST. Charles for 40plus years and will be grateful to look at a new building. The present structure is a ruin. As a reminder please let me say that I am a founder of the St. Charles Avenue Association and have president of it and the PRC and chairman of the HDLC. I was on the latter for twenty years. I am embarassed by any opposition this new potential investor has received in the name of preservation.

  • ViveNouvelleOrleans

    Dr. Ernst explain again please why the Williamses feel the need to hide their ownership in the name of a shell corporation then?