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Drawers and Personal Stories

Graphic artist, Rondell Crier, wandered the streets of his hometown after Katrina, taking photographs.  Over 500 photographs and hours of videotape could not capture the magnitude of the devastation.  There was not a person to be found in the photographs but the objects that made up their lives, now rusted, moldy and warped, were everywhere.  As Napoli was collecting her drawers, Crier thought of breathing life into them by creating a digital, interactive installation.  He began to archive every drawer, these objects that still held the traces of the small gestures of life that were once their owners.  Napoli and Crier began to work with a small group of others to identify these original owners and to gather their recollections – of their drawers and what they held and thereby, of a way of life that once animated New Orleans and hopefully, will do so again.   These oral histories form an audio component to Napoli’s installation and eventually, will also be integrated into the database.


No. 032 - Norma Jackson

Address

4601 S Saratoga St, New Orleans, LA 70115 [view map]

Neighborhood

Freret

A predominantly early 20th century portion of Uptown, Freret is bounded roughly by Claiborne Avenue, Napoleon Avenue, Dryades Street and Jefferson Avenue. Historically, it was half of the upper section of the original Faubourg Bouligny — its street grid a continuation of the Bouligny subdivision plan of the mid-19th century, with two small parks on either side of Napoleon Avenue. Today, the neighborhood is largely a racially mixed, working class area consisting of Edwardian and Arts & Craft shotgun doubles with some upper middle class housing, mostly raised bungalows facing the wide, grassy median of the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground. 35 to 40% of homes received some flooding, with slab-on-grade houses, on-grade basements, and the area closest to Claiborne Avenue hardest hit. About two thirds of residents have returned. Bisecting the neighborhood is the Freret Street commercial district. Although businesses were flooded by 2-3 feet of water during Katrina, this long-struggling commercial district is poised for a comeback.

In 2007, it was rezoned as a special Arts and Culture district by the city council and was also designated one of 17 target recovery zones. Local organizations have also come together in a grass-roots rebuilding effort. Neighborhood Housing Services’ Freret Neighborhood Center and Neighbors United, the residents’ association, are community advocates. New businesses, including La Nuit (a comedy conservatory), an art glass studio, a rehearsal space for the Southern Repertory Theater, and a hair salon, are renovating store fronts. These exist alongside the more traditional hardware store, plant nursery, Spanish supermarket and a re-opened Nicaraguan restaurant. The new Freret Street art and food market attracts crowds of festival-loving New Orleanians each month.  

 


No. 075 - Charles Bishop

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Address

1361 Moss St, New Orleans, LA 70119 [view map]

Neighborhood

Parkview

This early twentieth century neighborhood, bounded generally by City Park, Bayou St. John and the Carondelet Canal/Southern Railway Corridors, was developed starting in 1902 and continued through the 1920s. Working and middle-class residents live in raised basement houses, traditional New Orleans “shotguns,” and bungalows, mainly designed in Classical Revival and Arts & Crafts styles. With most of the neighborhood located on the high ground of the Metairie/Gentilly Ridge, hurricane damage in two-thirds of the area was limited to on-grade basements, and almost all of the population has returned. Residents can once again enjoy a walk through City Park, bike along Bayou St. John, or ride the new City Park/Carrollton branch of the Canal Streetcar line (which still borrows the green Perley Thomas streetcars from the St. Charles Avenue line after its new red ones flooded in Katrina). Neighborhood restaurants and nightspots, located on busy Carrollton Avenue or tucked away on residential streets, were some of the first to reopen in flooded areas. They offer food-obsessed New Orleanians a range of options: fine-dining (Ralph’s on the Park), a celebrated roast beef “po-boy” (Parkway Bakery & Tavern), a bar (Parkview Tavern), a family-friendly pizza place (Fellini’s), and a Moroccan sidewalk café serving sesame seed-encrusted falafel (Mediterranean Café). Parkview continues to make strides towards a full recovery: on New Year’s Eve neighbors once again gather for their traditional bonfire on the Orleans Avenue neutral ground and, in April of 2008, celebrated the re-opening of a weekly farmer’s market, run by a new non-profit, the Mid City Green Market.

 


No. 481 - Jonathan Wallick

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Address

2712 Jefferson Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115 [view map]

Neighborhood

Upper Rickerville

This small neighborhood is the northernmost part of one of the many nineteenth century wedge-shaped parcels of land along the Mississippi River that became Uptown New Orleans. It is bounded roughly by South Claiborne Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Freret Street, and Nashville Avenue, and lies on the edge of the Tulane/Loyola University area. The largely residential neighborhood consists of comfortable, middle-class housing dating to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Edwardian, Arts & Crafts, Classical Revival, and Spanish Revival. Houses range from stucco bungalows and raised cottages to large, two-story wood frame houses with a few modern and colonial revival types. Two nearby public schools add to its family appeal: McMain Middle School (one of the oldest and most successful magnet schools) to the west and Lusher Magnet School to the south. About six feet of water flooded Upper Rickerville houses, depending on the exact location. Most raised basement houses escaped damage in the living areas, while homes on piers or slabs were more severely flooded. Depending on the amount of flood water in the immediate area, some blocks are 85 to 90% reoccupied while others are still devastated, with only 20 to 60% of residents back in their homes. Because of Upper Rickerville’s proximity to the rest of Uptown New Orleans, services and shopping areas were readily available. For the residents of Upper Rickerville, however, the tranquil air of a close-knit and sleepy New Orleans neighborhood has returned.

 


No. 020 - Barbara Terance

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Address

1606 N Broad St, New Orleans, LA 70119 [view map]

Neighborhood

Esplanade Ridge

Esplanade Ridge is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods – located along the high ground of the old Indian “portage” from the end of Bayou St. John to the Mississippi River. Since the houses along the center of the ridge didn’t flood, only 25% of the area had water in the houses. So, much of the neighborhood was quick to come back with 85 to 90% of the residents back home today. The housing stock is like a smorgasbord of local styles and types including several plantation houses set discreetly behind picket fences, Greek Revival mansions overlooking leafy Esplanade Avenue and sober Italianate “shotguns” lining the side streets. This Creole extension of the French Quarter became a center of Greek culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Esplanade Ridge continues to be a neighborhood of all denominations – the air is filled with church bells ringing. Although people still lament the loss of hot midnight donuts at Picou’s Bakery, Broadview Seafood, an olfactory landmark, is always cooking fresh batches of boiled crabs, shrimp, and crayfish which can be smelled for blocks away. You can take this all in as you meander through a small commercial area of multi-ethnic wares, buy a drink at a convenience store in the old Portuguese Benevolent Society Hall, catch a rehearsal at the Musician’s Union Hall, and stumble across a mysterious Chinese Pagoda. Then visit the house where Edgar Degas lived and painted in New Orleans, before walking by the Indian Market where American Indian tribes sold spices, game and other exotic foodstuff throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The market has been named one of the city’s seventeen target recovery zones. Tourists off the beaten path, working-class black residents, and urban renovators enliven this elegant historic neighborhood.

 


No. 001 - Honorine Weiss

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Address

5838 Marshall Foch St, New Orleans, LA 70124 [view map]

Neighborhood

South Lakeview

This lower part of Lakeview is bounded by Harrison Avenue to the North, City Park to the East, the Pontchartrain Expressway/former New Basin Canal Corridor to the West, and a community college and the cemeteries to the South along City Park Avenue. The middle-class neighborhood consists of 1920s and ’30s Arts & Crafts bungalows and Mediterranean Revival houses, and includes a National Register Historic District. During Katrina, South Lakeview was flooded with as much as six feet of water. With the southern-most part of the neighborhood on the high ground of the Metairie/Gentilly Ridge, some residents and neighborhood institutions were able to return to unflooded structures right after the storm, which helped to jump-start the rest of the area. Delgado Community College, television station WYES, and neighborhood hangouts such as Café Navarre, Homedale Inn and McNulty’s Bitter End, helped stabilize the area. The New First Baptist Church, on high ground between two railroad right-of-ways, acted as an early community center, hosting planning meetings and concerts by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. With the support of neighbors and the post-Katrina Lakeview non-profit Beacon of Hope, most residents are restoring their homes and returning to the community. Since August of 2007, they have gathered at the monthly Harrison Avenue market to enjoy food, art, music and the opportunity to reconnect with neighbors who are working on their homes or already back. The early return of the original Canal streetcar line, reaching from the French Quarter and downtown to the lower tip of the neighborhood, was a big boost to community spirit. The Harrison Avenue commercial district, from Canal Boulevard to City Park, has been designated one of the city’s seventeen target recovery zones.

 


No. 539 - Alvin Gauthier

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Address

6968 Queensway Dr, New Orleans, LA 70128 [view map]

Neighborhood

Little Woods

Little Woods runs along the southern edge of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans East. The land adjacent to the lake was purchased in 1906 and divided into five acre orange groves for citrus farms — an experiment which quickly failed due to inundation from the 1915 hurricane and killer freezes in ’16 and ’17. The area developed instead into a seasonal resort and fishing village, complete with piers, “camps” on stilts over the water, seafood restaurants, camp grounds, riding stables, and nightclubs featuring jazz music. Today, visitors to this almost semi-rural area can still experience remnants of its fishing camp atmosphere. Its main road, Hayne Boulevard, runs alongside the high lake levee with a railroad right-of-way on top of it. On the southern edge of the boulevard lies a fairly narrow, two-block wide strip of land which was elevated enough to avoid flooding. This side of the boulevard is dotted with an odd assortment of early twentieth century Arts & Crafts bungalows and commercial establishments of all types, including retirement homes, restaurants, bars, construction businesses, and horse stables. Castnet Seafood and Walker’s Southern Style Bar-B-Que are popular local eateries. Along Little Woods’ southern border, towards Interstate I-10, is a much lower area which developed later, starting in the 1960s. Its suburban subdivisions, consisting of ranch houses constructed on slab, were home mainly to middle and working-class African Americans. This lower residential area, like most of eastern New Orleans, flooded severely during Hurricane Katrina and is coming back at a slow rate of return, perhaps 40-50% depending on the subdivision.