When I first moved to New Orleans, I lived in one side of a shotgun double on Conery Street in the Garden District. Every now and again, a small, sweet dog named “Charlie” would escape from the Favrot house nearby on Prytania, and my wife and I would manage to catch and return him. That’s how I came to meet, in passing, the late Thomas Favrot.
Mr. Favrot was an icon of the preservationist community in New Orleans. He put his money where his mouth was, joining to move the former home of Henry Morton Stanley in the Lower Garden District. He was even known to take a more hands-on approach, sweeping the sidewalks at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and mowing vacant lots in Central City.
Mr. Favrot died last Wednesday at age 87, yet his legacy of civic engagement should still resonate. If we had a city full of Thomas Favrots, our city would be a far more attractive place to live and work.
I personally have an inconsistent record on this. Admittedly, I’m pretty bad at clearing out weeds and trash that accumulate around my own house, which is something I’m trying to change.
Likewise, I kick myself when I think about how the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church burned down just this January. Was there something I could have done? My house is directly across the street and I knew that the building was being neglected. Perhaps if a close neighbor like myself had pushed the issue, something could have been done to prevent the blaze that consumed that Richardsonian gem.
The bottom line is that we can do better. Don’t litter. Pick up trash if you see it. If you see a neglected property, report it. If the city doesn’t act, push harder. Support laws that encourage the rehabilitation of historic homes and those that punish neglectful landowners.
In many quarters, New Orleans has a reputation as a dirty, decaying, but beautiful city. Although some decay suits the atmosphere of an aging city (and indeed we’ve developed an aesthetic surrounding just that), we don’t need the dirty and we can only maintain our city’s beauty if we maintain our cache of historic homes.
From what I know of Mr. Favot, he understood this better than anyone else. New Orleans is dependent on its history, for better or for worse. That’s not something we can hold onto, at least in the long term, unless more of us become involved.
The loss of Mr. Favrot is a loss for New Orleans. It’s up to all of us to fill his shoes.
Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.