Damaged History

By Aaron Galmiche, Photo Editor

The effects of Hurricane Ida on historic sites in South Louisiana was well documented following the storm. However, as recovery continues, these sites and their journey have been given less attention and assumed by many to be completed or abandoned. Here’s the real progress many of these sites have made in restoring the history that was damaged or lost to Hurricane Ida.

Whitney Plantation

The Whitney Plantation, Louisiana’s only plantation museum to focus on the lives of the enslaved, and the culture and history it embodies, took a major hit during Hurricane Ida.

According to museum guide Cheryl Gaudet, three of the Slave Cabins on display had collapsed entirely and have since been cleared away, while a forth is undergoing a slow but reverant restoration as Ms.Gaudet stressed the importance of “taking into consideration the materials used to do them justice.”

Likewise, an exhibit in the Antioch baptist church, which features statues of former slaves and their descendants, has had several of its statues damaged and removed off site, awaiting restoration by their original artist, Woodrow Nash.

Many restorations, such as the church roof and the plantation store walls, have already been completed. Museum staff are more than confident the museum will make a full recovery.

Karnofsky Tailor Shop

In New Orleans, on the 400 block of Rampart Street, lies the remains of the Karnofsky Tailor Shop whose collapse was a major hit to New Orleans jazz history and local Jewish history.

During the turn of the 20th century, the tailor shop was owned and operated by the Karnofsky family; a Jewish Family that played a major part in the early life of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Alan Smason of Crescent City Jewish News commented that the family not only sheltered the up-and-coming musician but also taught him to sing and helped pay for his first instrument.

This site’s rich history has been well preserved in various publications, but the future of any physical restoration or memorialization of the site has yet to be publicly announced. However, the neat arrangement of the bricks and preservation of the surrounding area indicate that there may still be plans to honor this historic site.

Homeplace plantation house

After years of its property being appropriated into other developments, the Keller Homeplace Plantation is now largely recognized by the plantation’s house resting just off of River Road. This house is recognized in the National Register of Historic Places for its history and display of classic French architecture, but it is uncertain if or when this site will be fully restored.

Among the damage dealt to the town of Hahnville, local, Carol Wajda, recalled the damages to the house’s exterior standing out as she returned home following Hurricane Ida. Being one of Hahnville’s few historic sites, many people of the area were saddened to see a piece of their local history damaged, and even more so to see it recover at such a slow pace.

Wajda says, “After 11 months, they got a new roof put on, which is good, but the windows and walls are still in rough shape and we haven’t seen any other work on it.”

Finding Our Roots

Following Hurricane Ida, the team at Finding Our Roots African American Museum was told to remove the exhibits so the building could be gutted and repaired. Soon after, the reconstruction was halted by the building owners, leaving the team without a permanent place to display and celebrate the museum’s rich history.

Founder and Curator Margie Scoby has kept the museum’s legacy alive by continuing their heritage research program and setting up “table-displays” at events and conferences. She has also used this time to network and connect with many people to help expand upon the museum’s contents and possibly aid with recovery.

“The community effort is there, but without permission to rebuild, I’m about ready to pop up a tent” says Scoby as she continues her efforts to find a new place to make the museum’s permanent home.

Without the ability to rebuild or a donor to provide a building, Finding Our Roots is stalled after gaining national recognition.