chapter  2
22 Pages

The Unbuilding of Historic Neighbourhoods in Post-Katrina New Orleans

WithStephen Verderber

ABSTRACT New Orleans’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina (2005) remains slow and

arduous. Eighty per cent of the city flooded in the hurricane’s aftermath. A second

catastrophe unfolded in Katrina’s aftermath-a pattern of widespread demolition of

thousands of 19th-and early-to-mid-20th-century residential dwellings and civic

structures across the city. This post-disaster condition involves a complex, bifurcated

labyrinth of local, state, and federal agencies and organizations in the governmental and

the private sector. Neighbourhood preservation organizations and grassroots activists are

fighting to save the city’s endangered historic fabric. An overview of historic preservation

in New Orleans is outlined, followed by an analysis of the geographic pattern of

demolitions in the 2005-2008 period, a significant number of which occurred without

proper review by duly authorized city or federal agencies. The analysis illustrates the scope

and the ramifications of a public policy of rebuilding frequently through the unbuilding of

New Orleans’s delicate fabric of historic residential architecture and neighbourhoods at a

time when the city continues to experience an acute shortage of affordable housing.