School board cleans up blighted cottage after neighbors’ outcry


The school board removed years of overgrowth from an old caretaker's cottage at Annunciation and Arabella this week after neighbors complained about it. (Sabree Hill,

For at least a decade, Harris Martinez has watched from his home every night as the rats scurry out from under the dense foilage shrouding the crumbling cottage across Arabella Street. When cats and dogs get involved, the melee can become such a nuisance that Martinez has to call animal-control officers.

Long an eyesore, the cottage’s condition was aired Tuesday night at a meeting of the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association and reported on, followed by a story Wednesday by WWL-TV. On Thursday, for the first time since Martinez can remember, a phalanx of workers descended on the house and removed all the trees and overgrowth where the possums nest.

“Whoever’s gotten this done, everyone around here is going to want to kiss them,” Martinez said. “It’s a blessing for the neighborhood.”

The front of the cottage was almost completely hidden from view by dense overgrowth earlier this week. (Photo via

In addition to removing the trees, bushes and tall grass that had all but hidden the house from view, the workers also put in a number of pest-control devices to cut down on the rodent problem that has so aggravated neighbors, said Stan Smith, chief financial officer of the Orleans Parish School Board.

Over the summer, the school board will be renovating the adjacent Danneel School campus in preparation for an expansion of Benjamin Franklin Elementary, the high-performing traditional elementary school on Jefferson that hopes to add the seventh and eighth grades, Smith said. Those construction workers will also be directed to pay some additional attention to improving the caretaker’s cottage itself, Smith said.

“We’re going to make it as attractive as it can be,” Smith said.

Martinez, who has lived on Arabella for 60 years, remembers the caretakers who once lived there, and lamented the long decay of the cottage. This work, he says, comes better late than never.

“They should have done something years ago. The whole neighborhood has been complaining,” Martinez said. “It looks a lot better. It was a mess.”

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