Hands-On Preservation Workshops
Starting in November, just a few months after Hurricane Katrina, Architecture for Humanity gave a grant to Heritage Conservation Network in an effort to help prevent the loss of Gulf Coast homes to mold. The goal of hte project was to provide training and assistance to homeowners and volunteers in gutting and de-molding homes in order to ensure that the homes would be restored with an eye toward preservation. Heritage Conservation Network began planning for hands-on building conservation workshops in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana in November of 2005. The workshops were in response to requests for assistance from two areas that received massive damage from Hurricane Katrina. Work began in Bay St. Louis on January 1, 2006 and in New Orleans on January 8. HCN held workshops throughout the month of January and March 4-11 to assist owners of damaged historic homes, dating from c.1890-c.1955. Many thanks to all the volunteers who made this possible. Thanks also to Rachel Breunlin of the Neighborhood Story Project and Tracy Nelson for providing guidance and assistance throughout.
In New Orleans, seven structures were initially identified for assistance. Thirty-five participants attended HCN workshops. An extreme effort was made to find leaders for each workshop in order to be able to provide technical assistance in the rebuilding. We were able to identify two leaders for New Orleans and two for Bay St. Louis, so the majority of work undertaken was basic gutting and cleaning out. Since this was the type of work needed at that time, the workshops progressed well.
Of the seven structures initially slated for work in New Orleans, three were cleaned out by workshop participants and are largely ready for rebuilding. Assessments were completed by Sishir Chang, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who volunteered his time and paid most of his own expenses. One preservation specialist, Rob Cagnetta, was found to lead work for a 10 day period. He led Southern Foodway Alliance volunteers for two work-weekends at Willie Mae’s restaurant and home, and led HCN volunteers at the Rockwood House for a five-day period. One volunteer with construction skills, Bruce Sowalski, worked at the Trevigne house the weekend prior to the first workshop and took on the task of organizing the work. Other workshops were facilitated by student leaders or by the homeowners themselves.
Workshops were held the second through fourth weeks of January with participants working Monday through Friday helping with clean up and the removal of damaged materials.
Trevigne House This house was completely cleaned out and all damaged materials removed by volunteers. The interior is ready for rebuilding. The issue of whether or not the house must be raised and by how much has not yet been resolved.
Saloy House This house was gutted and cleaned by a professional crew paid for by the owner. The interior is ready for rebuilding once the issue of raising it on the foundation is resolved. The owner would like assistance with the rebuilding from volunteers led by a preservation specialist if possible.
Dobard House It was determined during the assessment that this house was too badly damaged for volunteers to undertake the work of cleaning and rebuilding.
Michon House This house was cleaned out and damaged materials removed by volunteers from a church group. Rob Cagnetta assessed several damaged areas of the house and offered the owner advice. HCN connected John Abbas with the Michon’s, and he has helped them on weekends through January.
Rockwood House This owner had begun the job of clean up and removal of damaged materials on her own. Volunteers worked under the leadership of Rob Cagnetta for one week and under the guidance of the owner for two weeks, and clean up was completed. Rebuilding work is planned here for March as the owner has received a Small Business Loan to cover the cost of materials and labor.
Willie Mae’s This project was manned by volunteers from the Southern Foodways Alliance, who were scheduled to work for five 3-day work-weekends. Rob Cagnetta led work during the first two weekends, and gutting was completed with only the basic structural elements left. It was felt that volunteers should not work beyond this point because of the nature of the work needed going forward, so SFA volunteers spent the remaining weekends cleaning out D. Chase’s restaurant under the leadership of preservation carpenter, Howard Howtz.
Bay St. Louis:
At Heritage Conservation Network's request, assessments were completed on the selected houses by teams under the leadership of Brian Robinson of Savannah College of Art and Design and APTI. These teams were in the area completing assessments on a number of structures.
Bay St. Louis residents requested that Heritage Conservation Network volunteers assist with salvaging valuable historic materialssuch as cypress doors, heart pine flooring, etc.from the huge piles of debris created by the tidal surge. David Reynolds of the Green Projectdirected twenty-five participants working over a five
From top to bottom: Site of workshops to salvage re-useable historic and new materials for rebuilding in Bay St. Louis, MS, January 2006; Workshop participants, Carla Powell (left) & Kathleen Lane (right), beginning to stack salvaged materials for later re-use, January 2006. Photos by Judith Broeker/Heritage Conservation Network.
Workshops were held each week in January with participants working Monday through Friday salvaging architectural materials to be used in rebuilding. Materials were both historic and modern, but the emphasis was on saving wood products such as cypress and heart pine. For the first three weeks, participants worked on two lots on Washington Street near the corner of Hancock. The corner lot, owned by David Reynolds, had materials from a number of houses deposited here. The fourth week permission was granted to save materials from “twin” houses damaged beyond repair on the corner of Hancock. One day several volunteers assisted Joy Mehrten, 606 Hancock, in removing historic bead board from interior walls. This will allow her to remove wet insulation and then re-attach the bead board.
Participants numbered 3 the first week, 3 the second with a group of 20 coming to work for one day, 2 the third week, and 7 the fourth. The group the first week was housed at Ellis Anderson’s and those in the following weeks stayed at I Care Village in Buccaneer State Park, Waveland. Dave Reynolds met each group on Monday morning and directed them on how to select materials to be saved and how to stack and store them. He returned several mornings during the week to work with participants and answer questions.
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