Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Orpheum Theater :: A New Orleans Comeback

Don't call it a comeback.  Ok, you can call it a comeback.  It took exactly 10 years, but the Orpheum is back and better than ever.  Meticulously restored to its original 1918 everything, this is now the poster child as to how this sort of thing should be done.  It was abandoned, left for dead, and on the demo block more than once in it's 97 year history, but thanks to the likes of Dr. Eric George and Roland & Mary von Kurnatowski, the Orpheum is back.  The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is back.  Wilco plays next month.  

This place is stunning, and it's been a pleasure to photograph the renovation process.  New Orleans' theater district is well on it's way back...something that had been in decline long before Katrina came.  It's an exciting time.  

It's been a long month filled with all kinds of memories most people would rather forget.  A decade ago no one was sure of anything.  The federal government all but left us for dead, and...actually, I'm not gonna go there.  I wasn't here.  I was at LSU, watching everything unfold on TV.  I might as well have been a million miles away.  I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the destruction. 

But this is a success story.  In many ways New Orleans is better than ever, and in some ways, it's not.  It's been a long hard road, and we're not done yet, but I honestly cannot think of another American city that could thrive like this, just 10 years after a near apocalyptic annihilation.  

So, here are a few photos from the Orpheum's opening night last Thursday.  It was a grand celebration, filled with great music, great food, and or course, great people.  It's what we're all about down here. 

I am so proud to be a New Orleanian.  Our future is bright.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Former Marine Hospital

For years I've driven by the mysterious old hospital complex on Tchoupitoulas and State and wondered what was behind the 120 year old brick wall.  A few rooftops were always slightly visible from the street, and the peeling rotunda atop the main building stood out like a beckon of abandoned insane asylum goodness.  So of course I jumped at the opportunity to photograph it when the Preservation Resource Center came calling last fall.  

The property dates back to the 1730's, when Bienville himself gave 17 acres upriver to his nephew Pierre, who interestingly enough was later executed for leading revolts against the Spanish rule.  In the 1770's the land was purchased by the first mayor of New Orleans, Jean Etienne de Bore, who transformed it into the first successful sugar plantation in Louisiana, which became the model for the state's economy.  It later became a brick mill and then the Marine Hospital complex in 1883.  Most of the buildings in the current complex date back to the 1930's, when the campus underwent a major overhaul.  The overseer's house, the oldest building still standing, dates back to the early 1830's.  

It was most recently occupied by NOAH, the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, but was shut down by Jindal in 2009 due to budget concerns.  Children's Hospital, which sits directly across the street, purchased the property in 2014 for $29 million.  They have already begun to transform the main building into administration offices, but much of the campus has remained untouched.  It's a beautiful property, and they have big plans to renovate the campus and expand their current operations.  I'm really glad that most of the buildings are being saved.  This is what preservation is all about.  

For much more info and a brilliantly detailed history of the property, check out the full article by Danielle Del Sol here.  For instance, did you know that New Orleans saw a local outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in 1914, which led to a "rat-proofing" campaign that killed as many as 5,000 rats a day?  Learn more here!  Enjoy the photos...

Huge reliefs by New Orleans own Enrique Alferez, one of the most significant 20th century art deco artists, still hang in the gym.