What does it say of a neighborhood that one of its most important locations is called The Healing Center? It could be that there are lots of health problems in the hood, or it could suggest healing as part of the spiritual renewal of everyday life. In the case of the multi-use facility of St. Claude Avenue in Bywater it is the latter—the best of both worlds, healing without having to be sick to experience it. That reflects the zen of the place’s founding couple, Sallie Ann Glassman and husband Pres Kabacoff. She, among other things, is a voodoo priestess ordained in the Haitian ritual. He is a developer who likes to explore visionary ideas. They have brought to the Center a spirituality which, if not always holy, is certainly holistic.
Across the street is a building that has not just been healed but resurrected, the St. Roch Market. The former public market reopened as a lively retail area and a fertile field where food vendors can test their products. It is what every neighborhood needs, a restored gathering spot with food and libation.
And the list continues. There is the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, the school system’s talent factory. Neighboring it are classic city blocks stocked with grand old houses of the sort where people can still sit on stoops and actually talk to their neighbors.
A pedestrian bridge crosses the railroads track for access to Crescent Park, where a walk on the levee shows the river winding through its serpentine path.
St. Claude Avenue is the main artery. It was named after early developer Claude Treme, who was no saint. Too bad there wasn’t an actual St. Claude. He could be the patron saint of funkiness, a trait found in rebounding neighborhoods.
There is another saint in the neighborhood’s pantheon. On Mardi Gras from the headwaters of Bywater comes streams of masked walkers collectively known as the Society of St. Anne. They wander through the neighborhood before crossing into the French Quarter and reaching a common channel down Royal Street. No single moment in Carnival provides so many quality street maskers in one place. St. Anne, and its offshoots, are the neighborhood’s gift to the Carnival.
Once more, Bywater (our cover story) has proven good for the spirit. May the healing never cease.