St. Alphonsus Church 1950s

St. Alphonsus Church 1950s

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St. Alphonsus Church in the Irish Channel is one of the "Redemptorist" churches. St. Alphonsus Church Photo by Franck Studios of St. Alphonsus Church on Constance Street in the Irish Channel. HNOC dates the photo at 1953, but some of their records are off. I'm not good at dating photos based on automobiles, so hopefully some of y'all can confirm...
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St. Aloysius Commencement 1894 #BOSHSunday

St. Aloysius Commencement 1894 #BOSHSunday

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St. Aloysius Commencement in 1894 was a simple ceremony. St. Aloysius Commencement The St. Aloysius Commencement ceremony in 1894, as covered by the Daily Picayune, was a simple ceremony, as the school: ...closed its session yesterday without any of the special exercises which are features of the commencement season. For more than a quarter of a century, the institute has...
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Main Entrance, Brother Martin High, 1971

Main Entrance, Brother Martin High, 1971

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The main entrance at Brother Martin High School in 1971. BMHS Main Entrance From Yesterday 1972, this photo shows the main entrance to Brother Martin High School in its third year of existence. To the left is the oeriginal Cor Jesu building. To the right is the lobby and administration wing. The main entrance connected old and new. Over time,...
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Phillis Wheatley School

Phillis Wheatley School

Phillis Wheatley School is located in Faubourg Tremé.

phillis wheatley school

Model of Phillis Wheatley School, 1954, via HNOC

Phillis Wheatley School

Photo of an architectural model of Phillis Wheatley School, designed by Charles Colbert, in 1954. Colbert’s widespread praise for the school’s mid-century modern design. While the school was relatively undamaged by Hurricane Katrina, it was demolished on June 17, 2011. The school district rebuilt Wheatley, and the new facility opened in 2014.

The school is located at 2300 Dumaine Street, in Faubourg Tremé. Its namesake was an enslaved woman who published a book of poetry in 1773.  When Wheatley opened in 1954, it was a segregated, colored-only school.

Colbert’s design

In a July 4, 2009 Times-Picayune article, Lolis Eric Elie, then one of the paper’s regular columnists, described the constraints the school placed on Colbert. The biggest issue was size. The land set aside for the school was less than twenty percent the size recommended for a school of 800 students. Colbert designed a multi-story facility to fit in the small space. His cantilevered steel truss design featured classrooms raised above an open, ground-floor space. The raised building offered a play area underneath. So, since there was no space for a separate recess/playground, students used this covered area.

No bathrooms

While Colbert’s design drew praise from architects, educators found numerous issues. Bilateral lighting appealed to designers. Teachers worked in classrooms with large windows. The glare from those windows obscured chalk boards.

Bathrooms presented another serious flaw in Colbert’s design. There were no bathrooms in the raised classroom building. Both students and faculty had to go downstairs to a separate building to use the lavatories. This goes hand-in-hand with the overall property constraints. To fit in the space, Colbert built a multi-story facility. The district provided no money for proper plumbing in the raised section.

Preservation as institutional racism

After Hurricane Katrina, preservationists opposed the school’s demolition. They argued that the mid-century modern design justified keeping the building. The problem here is when white preservationists don’t factor in the practical aspects. To re-purpose the 1954 building meant finding land to build a new school for 800 African-American students. Even now, ten years after the building’s demolition, its loss is mourned, without a mention of providing important educational services in the Tremé

NOTE: While the full version of most of blog posts are for patrons only, this one is open. That’s because a discussion about Wheatley started on Twitter. Thanks to NOLA History Guy patrons for understanding! 

Spring Week 1976 #BOSHSunday

Spring Week 1976 #BOSHSunday

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Spring Week mini-classes replaced third quarter exams in 1976. Spring Week Brother Gaspar Rodrigue, SC, conducting a "gourmet cooking" class for Spring Week at Brother Martin High School, 1976. Brother Gaspar lived across the street from the school, on Elysian Fields, at the corner of Sumpter Street. The BOSH owned the house. At the time, Brothers Gaspar and More Schaefer...
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Brother Leo Godin, SC #BOSHSunday

Brother Leo Godin, SC #BOSHSunday

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Brother Leo Godin in the "Bursar's Office," in the late 1970s. Brother Leo, SC Working the Brother Martin High School bookstore was Brother Leo Godin, SC's job in the late 1970s. Note the all-khaki uniform of the time. I can't identify the student in this photo. If you can, please drop me a line or mention it in comments! The...
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