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Hands-On Preservation Workshops


Begun just three months after the storm, the goal of this project was to help families and train volunteers in gutting and de-molding some of the city's precious building stock with an eye towards historic preservation. A small grant to the Heritage Conservation Network enabled them to bring down a number of volunteers who assisted homeowners in gutting homes and businesses. By halting the spread of mold, the project helped preserve the structures. The project also helped jump start reconstruction by showing owners that it would be possible to repair these historic structures and helping them understand the reconstruction process that lay ahead. Starting in November, just a few months after Hurricane Katrina, Architecture for Humanity gave a grant to Heritage Conservation Network in an effort to help prevent the loss of Gulf Coast homes to mold. The goal of hte project was to provide training and assistance to homeowners and volunteers in gutting and de-molding homes in order to ensure that the homes would be restored with an eye toward preservation. Heritage Conservation Network began planning for hands-on building conservation workshops in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana in November of 2005. The workshops were in response to requests for assistance from two areas that received massive damage from Hurricane Katrina. Work began in Bay St. Louis on January 1, 2006 and in New Orleans on January 8. HCN held workshops throughout the month of January and March 4-11 to assist owners of damaged historic homes, dating from c.1890-c.1955. Many thanks to all the volunteers who made this possible. Thanks also to Rachel Breunlin of the Neighborhood Story Project and Tracy Nelson for providing guidance and assistance throughout.


In New Orleans, seven structures were initially identified for assistance. Thirty-five participants attended HCN workshops. An extreme effort was made to find leaders for each workshop in order to be able to provide technical assistance in the rebuilding. We were able to identify two leaders for New Orleans and two for Bay St. Louis, so the majority of work undertaken was basic gutting and cleaning out. Since this was the type of work needed at that time, the workshops progressed well.

Of the seven structures initially slated for work in New Orleans, three were cleaned out by workshop participants and are largely ready for rebuilding. Assessments were completed by Sishir Chang, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who volunteered his time and paid most of his own expenses. One preservation specialist, Rob Cagnetta, was found to lead work for a 10 day period. He led Southern Foodway Alliance volunteers for two work-weekends at Willie Mae’s restaurant and home, and led HCN volunteers at the Rockwood House for a five-day period. One volunteer with construction skills, Bruce Sowalski, worked at the Trevigne house the weekend prior to the first workshop and took on the task of organizing the work. Other workshops were facilitated by student leaders or by the homeowners themselves.

Workshops were held the second through fourth weeks of January with participants working Monday through Friday helping with clean up and the removal of damaged materials. Participants numbered 10 the first week, 7 the second week as well as Rob Cagnetta and his assistant, and 3 the third week. They were housed at Joe & Flo’s Candlelight Hostel.


Primary – 45

Secondary – 37


Trevigne House: This house was completely cleaned out and all damaged materials removed by volunteers. The interior is ready for rebuilding. The issue of whether or not the house must be raised and by how much has not yet been resolved.

Saloy House: This house was gutted and cleaned by a professional crew paid for by the owner. The interior is ready for rebuilding once the issue of raising it on the foundation is resolved. The owner would like assistance with the rebuilding from volunteers led by a preservation specialist if possible.

Dobard House: It was determined during the assessment that this house was too badly damaged for volunteers to undertake the work of cleaning and rebuilding.

Michon House: This house was cleaned out and damaged materials removed by volunteers from a church group. Rob Cagnetta assessed several damaged areas of the house and offered the owner advice. HCN connected John Abbas with the Michon’s, and he has helped them on weekends through January.

Rockwood House: This owner had begun the job of clean up and removal of damaged materials on her own. Volunteers worked under the leadership of Rob Cagnetta for one week and under the guidance of the owner for two weeks, and clean up was completed. Rebuilding work is planned here for March as the owner has received a Small Business Loan to cover the cost of materials and labor.

Willie Mae’s: This project was manned by volunteers from the Southern Foodways Alliance, who were scheduled to work for five 3-day work-weekends. Rob Cagnetta led work during the first two weekends, and gutting was completed with only the basic structural elements left. It was felt that volunteers should not work beyond this point because of the nature of the work needed going forward, so SFA volunteers spent the remaining weekends cleaning out D. Chase’s restaurant under the leadership of preservation carpenter, Howard Howtz.

Bay St. Louis:
At Heritage Conservation Network's request, assessments were completed on the selected houses by teams under the leadership of Brian Robinson of Savannah College of Art and Design and APTI. These teams were in the area completing assessments on a number of structures.

Bay St. Louis residents requested that Heritage Conservation Network volunteers assist with salvaging valuable historic materials.


New Orleans, Louisiana
United States

Project Details

NAME: Hands-On Preservation Workshops
PROJECT LEAD: Heritage Conservation Network
LOCATION: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
START DATE: August 23, 2005
CURRENT PHASE: Construction complete
COST: $10000 USD (Estimated)
SIZE: 2000000 sq. ft
PROJECT TYPE: Residential - Single Family
PROJECT COORDINATOR: Heritage Conservation Network
DESIGN TEAM: Heritage Conservation Network
FUNDING: Architecture for Humanity