Four Decades of Greatness
The Preservation Resource Center celebrates a big anniversary and showcases four historic properties.
Photographed by Jeffery Johnston
In 1974, the Preservation Resource Center began great efforts to preserve, restore and revitalize New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods. Since its inception, the PRC has been a critical force in breathing life back into at-risk homes and neighborhoods. Here at New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles, we honor and thank this important organization for helping to restore and maintain integrity in our city’s beloved historic properties. In the following pages, we showcase four homes in varying neighborhoods that have been thoughtfully constructed, restored and renovated, exemplifying the PRC’s mission to keep New Orleans and its architecture beautiful. We congratulate the PRC on its 40th anniversary and hope there are many more to come.
Ann Masson’s French Quarter residence, a Creole Cottage, was built by Jean Louis Dolliole in 1805. When she and her husband purchased the house in 1981, it had been abandoned since the late 1940s, in desperate need of restoration and renovation.
“Our first visit revealed a dire situation,” says Ann. It was partially demolished, looted and open to the elements with no floors or ceilings. The brick walls had been eroded by water with piles of rubble everywhere. “We enlisted a truly distinguished group of craftsmen to undertake a complete renovation and restoration,” she says. “About a year later, we moved in, and there have been new projects ever since, including the re-construction of the old kitchen building.”
Ann praises the proportions of the rooms, the aesthetic of the hardware and woodwork, the tall French doors and the worn surfaces of the shutters. While much of the house was redone, the Massons utilized original materials and historic building techniques to recreate the atmosphere of the early 1800s. “The integration of the courtyard and house is appealing in fine weather, when everything is open and it seems as though the two spaces are one,” she says. “One of the rewards of preservation is joining 210 years of previous residents and imagining their lives here.”
Cassandra Sharpe Look and Richard Look
After living in the French Quarter for 20 years, in 1993, Cassandra Sharpe Look purchased a spacious Georgian Townhouse on Julia Street that was originally built in 1832. She bought it because “it had so much even though it was in total disrepair,” she says. It contained marble mantels from Paris, wood floors, high ceilings, large gallery rooms and balconies. The property features four stories in the front building and three stories in the service wing, along with a courtyard. The house underwent a full renovation with new plumbing and electricity, plus central air and heat, separately for each floor. She carved out a commercial gallery space on the ground floor.
Cassandra left much of the original woodwork. “I didn’t tart it up,” she explains. “I left a lot of the wood in a dappled state, and it is divine.” The home also features cypress doorways and pine floors. She says, “It is the best kind of living. I have only lived in historic properties. The row houses on Julia Street, I am sure were built for protection. They are such safe, sturdy buildings.”
Nayjda and Adolph Bynum
In 2002, Nayjda and Adolph Bynum moved into their new home, a perfect replica of Creole Cottage from the 1800s, designed by the late architect, Webster Deadman, in the city’s historic Treme neighborhood. With 10-foot French doors, wood floors, a slate roof and high ceilings, the house has all of the architectural details and feelings of a historic property in the style they greatly admire. (Naydja says many first-time visitors to the home believe it is at least 100 years old!)
Over the past 12 years, the house has required minimal maintenance. The Bynums painted and decorated the home with a blend of antique, traditional and modern furnishings and fixtures. “It keeps us connected to the history of our city, but it has all the conveniences and comforts of modern day living,” explains Naydja.
Other notable features include copper gutters; domers; transoms; a brick-between-post wall; medallions and cypress cabinets in the kitchen, den and dining room. They also have a brick patio and pond in the back of the property.
“We enjoy living in an older neighborhood and home that helps keep our New Orleans architecture and history alive,” says Naydja. “We encourage and welcome others to consider doing the same.”
Architect Eugene Cizek, one of the founders of the PRC, restored a Greek Revival Creole Cottage, Sun Oak, which dates back to 1808-1836. The spacious property sits on the land that was originally part of the plantation of Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny before he subdivided it into lots to house the expanding population in the area. Cizek bought the property in 1976, along with a downriver adjacent property. At the time, Sun Oak property was in a state of disrepair, but Cizek spearheaded a restoration project with his partner Lloyd L. Sensat Jr. and contractors Jerry Lemann and Steve Suplee. A former student of Cizek’s, Kyle Brooks, also played a major role. The addition to the rear of the original house was built by alumni of his Preservation Studies Program at Tulane. Chris Friedrich and Mark Thomas were the landscape architecture consultants. They updated and restored the home, which included converting the former site of a fireplace space into a bathroom. Original millwork was restored or replaced with historic materials of similar design.
Cizek sponsored archaeological investigations of the grounds, guided by maps from 1896, which revealed wells and foundations of slave quarters and other buildings.The artifacts are displayed in the house and used as teaching tools for the Education Through Historic Preservation Program, founded by Cizek and Sensat in 1977.