cartoon by Mike Luckovich for New Orleans MagazineAn important New Orleans cultural landmark is in danger of being destroyed or, at best, being forcefully removed from its present location. We think it’s an outrage. New Orleans’ Deutsches Haus must be saved.
In this magazine’s September issue we strongly endorsed the proposal to build a combined Louisiana State University/ Veterans Administration super hospital along Canal Street in a space stretching between S. Rocheblave Street and Claiborne Avenue bordered on the opposite end by Tulane Avenue. We stand by our position and still believe, as we stated then, that the, “proposal is more than just a good idea; it’s a necessity. New Orleans can become stronger with it; the city will remain weakened without it.”
Yet the city is also weakened by the loss of its cultural institutions. Within the proposed site of the hospital complex is Deutsches Haus, which has stood at its 200 S. Galvez St. location since 1928. Surviving in what was once a German neighborhood, the facility is more that just a center for German culture; it has been a beloved urban amenity renowned for its annual Oktoberfest festivities. All nationalities have gathered to celebrate within its walls.
Deutsches Haus is also a survivor. Its presence has added stability to a troubled neighborhood. Its revival after Hurricane Katrina is a tribute to the fortitude of its members who worked tirelessly to restore the place. There’s much sweat, equity and passion behind the revived building.
Now comes the disturbing possibility that the facility may stand in the way of the hospital complex proposal. With the government’s power of eminent domain, Deutsches Haus could be forced out.
To date, the official position of the Deutsches Haus leadership has been to support the hospital proposal but to hope that something can be done to save the facility. Indeed, within the hospital’s targeted 70 acres, there seems to be room for drawing the lines in a way that’s satisfactory to all. Since the hospital plan even calls for retail space, that suggests there is leeway for non-medical use.
While there is no doubt about the merit of the hospital, the facility should fit in with the rhythm of the city. One plan calls for closing S. Galvez Street to make the street an urban mall connecting various hospital buildings. If Deutsches Haus survives, its environment will certainly change – perhaps for the better – and perhaps its presence can give the hospital a more desirable environment.
Joy is an important element in maintaining health. As a dispenser of great joy, Deutsches Haus can be considered to be a health care provider. For the health of the city, it must survive.
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