Wednesday, March 28, 2012


One of many abandoned homes left from the storm

Historic Green: Spring Greening 2012
       During the month of March in New Orleans, Louisiana; students come together under the banner of a humanitarian organization called, Historic Green.
       Historic Green is an organization that invites students down to the area of New Orleans - known as the lower 9th ward. This particular neighborhood saw a great amount of flood waters after the tropical storm, Katrina, caused a major levee to collapse. To help restore the neighborhood to a growing community, college students come during their Spring Break to volunteer for such actions as: repair/rehabilitation of homes, plant gardens, work on playgrounds, and helping with community and waterway cleanup.

Historic Green Volunteers
              Historic Green has been providing the lower 9th ward with student-volunteers for nearly 5 years now, but there is still so much left to do. Many homes still lay vacant with boards barred against windows and doors. Abandoned homes bear witness to the magnitude of the disaster as homes are broken, sinking, leaning, collapsing, or being reclaimed by nature. Little public support has been given to the 9th ward after Katrina - partially due to the neighborhoods undesirable image before the storm. The 9th ward was home to low-income families, elderly, and young dissident persons. Now, nearly 7 years later, the total population of the community is only reaching 40%, of which, only 10% are original residents. The 9th ward has been faced with many social and economic issues that plague its development because of these low population numbers.
             The lower 9th still has no access to fresh food. There still is not an operating grocery store or fire department, nor are there enough schools for the children that do reside in the lower 9th ward. The City of New Orleans says their population is not large enough to dictate the city investing in the above listed public projects. Most residents of the 9th ward respond with, "How do you grow a community when there is limited-to-no resources offered with-in it?" So for 6 years residents of the lower 9th have invested their tax dollars on goods that were purchased in another parish or ward.
              That said, College of the Redwood students have returned to New Orleans for their Spring Break to take part in helping (even a few) residents quality of life in the lower 9th ward.
This is our story of that journey.

Minnesotans de-glazing

Chris (Hist. Grn. Organizer) giving a glazing workshop

            My name is Joshua Carr, and I am Megan Carver, and we are Historic Preservation and Restoration Technology students at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California. During March 12-16, we were able to travel to New Orleans to volunteer with the organization called Historic Green. When we arrived to New Orleans we were introduced to the neighborhood with a walking tour to look at past, present, and future projects around the neighborhood. We were assigned to a neo-classical attached-double-shotgun home that had been modified into a single family residence.
             The projects for this particular house were double-hung wood-sash window restoration and painting of the exterior walls and trim. We went to New Orleans specifically for window restoration and quickly set-off using our knowledge and training. There were about twenty additional students on the site which were broken into groups to paint and assist in the window restoration process. These other students came from various backgrounds and geographic locations; such as, Buffalo, New York, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Project House
Josh removing the window to repair sash cords and reattach weights

Megan cut a new pane of glass to replace the broken piece and then glazed it

        On site, we began to carefully cut through layers of paint to free the window sashes to begin the process of de-glazing (removing old window glaze that has broken off or cracked) and to repair broken panes of glass. We were quickly promoted to group leaders and took responsibility for teaching volunteers how to restore the sash-cord/window-weights back to their intended use. We performed the skilled labor of removing the weights from the weight-pockets, due to the possibility of damaging the original wood, and organized other student-volunteers into a group of "de-glazers" and a "re-glazing with putty" group.
            Various other repairs were necessary for some of the windows. They included "dutchman" patches(cutting out damaged wood and replacing with fresh wood) on the meeting rail; as well as, cutting a new parting strip to replace one that had dry-rotted. Josh used the table saw to cut stock to width, length, and thickness and had one of the students from Minnesota use a block plane to round the parting strip profile to match the one that had rotted. 
Finished product: working Wooden Sash Windows

           Over the next three days, we accomplished getting nearly all the lower sashes of the home repaired. Some of the top sashes had been painted or nailed shut, in which case, a modernized spring-loaded system will be installed in order for the windows to function properly again. We repaired a total of twelve windows in only 3 days!
            Lucky for us, we were also able to play as hard as we worked! The Village had a fundraiser in the form of a Crawfish Boil the night before we left New Orleans. Amongst that we had many good meals and just as many daiquiris - when in Rome, right? Thank you, local lower 9th resident and previous College of the Redwoods student, Kennon Bradford, for your amazing taste in local cuisine/entertainment and your ability to direct us toward it!
             Lastly, a very special and HUGE thank you to Tracy Nelson, and Patti Corral and Jerry Cornwell for their Southern Hospitality! Our trip was truely made special by the ability to stay in the lower 9th with local residents for the week we were in town volunteering; who are still currently dealing with the issues surrounding the 9th ward's recovery. We are beyond is because of them that we will both forever have a soft-spot in our hearts for the lower 9th ward!
             We had a great time helping the people of the 9th ward and it was encouraging to have so many students and organizational staff intrigued by our knowledge and skills that the Historic Preservation and Restoration program at College of the Redwoods has provided. We left feeling very gratified for the hands-on education we're receiving and with an understanding works!


Day1: Walking tour of 9th Ward

Foreground: Mack, Operator of 9th Ward Community Center - "The Village", giving some volunteers information on how the Lower 9th is still working to gain back the community it once possessed before Hurricane Katrina

The Village:
 Banners hang on every surface of this adapted warehouse, representing volunteer groups that have circulated through the community center since 2006

Built by an African-American Carpenter this was the most ornate home we found in the Lower 9th

Just one of the many homes that has fallen victim to the storm; there are a plethora of ornate details, both inside and outside the home, that are now in total disrepair.

Day 2: Work begins!
Josh constructed a jig to support windows in need of repair
Working Hard! This 5ft tall window was removed to add new glazing, and repair/reattach sash cord and weights to make the window able to function again

Day 3: Glazing Continued...

 Teaching fellow volunteers how to glaze a wood-sash window

Repaired window

Later that evening, we enjoyed what Bourbon St. has to offer!

Day 4: Last day on-site

Megan Carver glazing one of the last windows we repaired