Neighbors organize to stave off possible demolition of St. Henry’s rectory

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The rectory at St. Henry's Catholic Church (image via Preservation Resource Center)

Is the century-old rectory at Uptown’s St. Henry’s Catholic Church slated to become a parking lot?

If so, it’s the fate that neighbors of the church are already organizing to fight off. Last week, nearby neighbor Faye Lieder got word from the Historic District Landmarks Commission that the church plans convert the church into a “multi-use facility” and to “request the demolition of a building across the street from the church that they no longer need,” Lieder said Sunday night at a meeting of neighbors who quickly convened at her house.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans could not be reached Monday for comment, but the residents said their understanding is that the church will be used for a temporary exhibit dedicated to the life of Pope John Paul II, and that the rectory — currently used by the Ecole Bilingue — will become parking to accomodate tour buses.

“It definitely should not be taken down, because that destroys the fabric of our neighborhood,” said Anne Farmer, another neighbor.

Chief among neighbors’ concerns was the use of a new parking lot after the exhibit leaves, such as being sold or leased to a business on Magazine Street.

“By removing that building right there, you’re going to turn the whole thing into a parking lot,” said John Pecarrere. “These buildings weren’t destroyed in the hurricane, and they want to demolish these buildings that have survived. … You’re going to change the whole composition of that neighborhood.”

An exhibit might find a more suitable space elsewhere, such as the Our Lady of Lourdes church on Napoleon near Freret, the neighborhood members suggested, given the area’s ample parking and more commercial nature.

“There’s a lot of tolerance in this neighborhood,” Farmer said, noting the neighborhood’s accomodation of massive crowds for two weeks every Mardi Gras. “But at the same time, we are not a dumping ground. If we let the archdiocese pave those lots, we’re looking at the commercial life coming to Constance.”

The neighbors drafted two petitions Sunday night, one opposing the demolition of the rectory and the other opposing the use of the church for the exhibit. They plan to circulate both and begin meeting with City Councilwoman Stacy Head’s office as well as with city preservationists to research the age of the building.

The demolition would be subject to a public hearing before the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans also declined to discuss its plans to our reporting partners at WWL-TV:

10 thoughts on “Neighbors organize to stave off possible demolition of St. Henry’s rectory

  1. Hi, I am a history buff and research old Louisiana families. I think the demolition of this house would be a tragedy. Do you know if this house was built as a private residence? A history of the house may make your argument to preserve it more sound. If you happen to know who built it I may be able to provide some family history for the builder.


  2. This seems strange. Didn’t Ecole Bilingue recently get approval from the City Planning Commission to renovate this property and turn it into a childcare center? (See link below.) What happened there? Did the Archdiocese simply change its mind about leasing this space to EB, did EB change its mind about the space, or something else?

    • Ecole Bilingue can’t use the building as it had planned because there are too many problems such as asbestos, etc. to allow children to use the space. The building is in terrible condition and to renovate is throwing good money after bad. One way or another the building will need to come down. They can then build a completely new building there if need be but what is currently there has real issues.

  3. Some of the Archdiocese’s most valuable property. They think the congregation of St. Henry’s has settled down and will accept whatever they throw at them. Totally unacceptable to tear down a century-old building to build another parking lot; there is a perfectly adequate one right next door. Absolutely say NO to this.

  4. Yeah – what happened to EB (Ecole Bilingue) getting that building? That doesn’t seem right. Although, I heard via the neighborhood association, that the Archdiocese is trying to get EB to lease the El Yo Yo Headstart Daycare building that is on the corner of Constance and Gen. Pershing. I don’t know if it’s true or what, but maybe Uptown Messenger can investigate. If it’s true, does that mean El Yo Yo’s lease is up or are they getting kicked out to make room for EB since the Archdiocese wants to knock down the rectory?

  5. What a huge honor New Orleans is being considered for this amazing exhibit!
    This for two years will bring visitors into this area of the city. All the area businesses will see an increase boost from this! On top of that I am sure the area will be beautified for the exhibit. Now the building is an eyesore to my neighborhood! Good luck and I hope the Vatican chooses New Orleans and the wonderful St Henry’s Church to host such an amazing exhibit.
    What an honor!

  6. The Archdiocese is proving more and more that it really is a bad neighbor and a shady real estate manager to boot. First, it showed how tone deaf it was by shutting down a church frequented by some of the city’s most dedicated parishioners. Then it manipulated a small school into leasing an asbestos-infested building for classroom space, leaving unrealistic remediation costs entirely to the school. Now it wants to tear down the building altogether for a parking lot, possibly pushing the Head Start center across the street out of the picture to appease the school it already bilked. Um, is anybody else a little baffled that the church is behind all of this?

  7. I believe what we have here is part of the story, but there is more to this plan. I hope that we can arrange for a representative of EB to present the complete plan to the respective neighborhood associations and quell this tempest.

    It is lovely structure, but hopelessly toxic.

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