Two days ago via Twitter New Orleans’ own PRC posted a link detailing a list of city owned property likely to soon be available at auction. The Crescent City remains riddled with blight, therefore the city must own some of it, right? Right! My personal favorite on the list happens to be the old jail erected in 1902 at 2552 St. Philip in Treme. It’s a gorgeous old brick and mortar bunker of a building; today’s new construction absolutely pales in comparison to this craftsmanship. Unfortunately due to the city’s neglect this sweet corner piece has fallen well beyond disrepair, but fortunately not so far that it can’t be brought back.
In a city wrought with DIY upstarts borrowing from times long gone and not so far removed from Portlandia’s dream of the 1890s, the sheer possibility that one could renovate a jail from 1902 fits right in. Exactly how many places around town can one enjoy house-cured meats these days? Oodles a plenty! Or enjoy regional, if not home, brew? All over! Creative facial hair compositions? Sure! And bicycles? Oh, we’ve got’em! Big and small, some two bikes tall! There are times nowadays New Orleans looks like Dr. Seuss had a hand in our design, waskets in baskets and all.But what would you do with a 100-year-old jail anyway? I don’t know. A residence isn’t out of the question. A recording studio. A community center maybe. I believe its last known use was a library. Pensacola made theirs a museum. The gist is this: Treme is poised to be the next it part of the Big Easy. And a gem of an opportunity like this, you’d think either a developer worth their salt or some Johnny Come Lately celeb might rustle up some capital and make a prime example of yesteryear architectural marriages into the 21st century proper. Alongside the nearby soon to be Whole Foods, the also nearby soon to be completely reborn Carver Theater, as well as the even-closer soon-to-be-reborn Phyllis Wheatley school site.
By the end of 2013 those three spots should be all be back in commerce, and hopefully a new owner will have this old jail in queue too.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.