Tulane-LSU Design Partnership Examines Futures for Carrollton Courthouse


Tulane-LSU Design Partnership Examines Futures for Carrollton Courthouse as Continuing Campaign to Save Courthouse Led by Louisiana Landmarks Society

In response to the Orleans Parish School Board's move to deaccession the former Jefferson Parish Courthouse on Carrollton Avenue, Professors Michael Shoriak of the Master of Preservation Studies program within the Tulane School of Architecture and Lake Douglas, Associate Professor in  LSU’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, will conduct a collaborative project in October to determine possibilities for documenting, restoring, preserving, and re-using the building and its landscape setting as one of the City’s most distinguished landmarks. 

This project grows out of efforts by Louisiana Landmarks Society to ensure that the courthouse is not lost or suffers irreparable damage when it ultimately comes under new ownership. In June, as a result of the efforts of Louisiana Landmarks Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Carrollton Courthouse to its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.  In July, continuing its advocacy for the Courthouse, Louisiana Landmarks Society sponsored a neighborhood forum attended by over one hundred people who shared ideas on future uses of the building. The comments  will go to the Orleans Parish School Board.

Designed by the architect Henry Howard in 1845, the courthouse served the City of Carrollton, the first seat of Jefferson Parish government, until 1874. In 1889 it opened as John McDonogh No. 23 and served for the next 140 years as a public school. Beginning in the 1960's it was home to Benjamin Franklin Senior High School, followed by the Lusher Middle School, and Audubon Charter School.  The building was vacated in December 2013. Though initially appraised for sale within a year of its closure, its eventual date of sale is not certain.

The building's setting, a square block within mixed residential and commercial land uses near the intersection of St. Charles Avenue and Carrollton Avenue, has the potential to offer important community-oriented green space in this active and vibrant historic neighborhood.  As the School Board considers its options for selling or donating the historic building and its valuable site, an abundance of ideas have been put forward for its future use including a community center, an educational facility, a museum, a public archives/research center,  and mixed commercial uses.  Each potential use for the building will have corresponding implications for how the adjacent open space is used. Exploring new building uses together with new landscape uses will offer a comprehensive understanding of how both can work together to reinforce the building’s new mission and the tout ensemble of the neighborhood’s urban fabric.

John Stubbs, Director of Tulane’s Preservation Studies program, and Orleans Parish School Board member Woody Koppel said the results of  this academic study will first be presented to invited respondents representing government officials, cultural institutions and community leaders who could be part of the solution for re-purposing and saving the building. The joint study will be conducted during the month of October with presentations on the results offered on two occasions shortly thereafter. Based on ideas and suggestions gained from the initial presentation, a subsequent presentation to the public will be sponsored by the Louisiana Landmarks Society later this year.

Henry Howard is cited by historian S. Frederick Starr in the preface of Robert Brantley’s recent publication The Architecture of Henry Howard as “a man who did more than any other to define the architecture of New Orleans during its most opulent era.” It is worrying to preservationists, interested citizens, and legions of alumni of the schools housed there that this icon of New Orleans architecture and its setting, now empty and in need of immediate restoration, are vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances, and it is hoped that this academic investigation of both the building and its landscape setting will offer ideas that will inform on-going discussions and future decisions about development opportunities of this historic site. 

The Master of Preservation Studies (MPS) program at the Tulane School of Architecture offers an interdisciplinary opportunity to learning about architecture and urban preservation in one of America’s most historic cities. The MPS program has four principal tracks of learning: preservation planning, technology, methodology, and architectural history. For more information, visit http://architecture.tulane.edu/programs/degrees/mps-master-preservation-...

About LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture

The Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture has established an international reputation as one of America’s leading and consistently top-ranked programs. Part of the LSU College of Art & Design, the school offers Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture programs. For more than 70 years, the program has produced landscape architects who practice all over the world and participate in the full spectrum of the discipline. For more information, visit landscape.lsu.edu.

EducationElena Walker