Located on Barataria Drive in Marrero, the Hope Haven campus of ornate Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings catches the eye of almost every passerby.
Hope Haven was first envisioned by Father Peter Wynhoven, a Dutch transplant to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In 1911, he founded and opened St. Vincent’s Hotel to help homeless and jobless men. With its success, he turned his attention to what he believed was the cause of these ill-starred men: orphaned and abandoned boys.
Hope Haven was envisioned as residential youth facility that included a self-sustaining dairy farm to provide vocational training and moral guidance for boys departing orphanages at age 14. The land in Marrero was secured in 1922.
In 1924, when the Catholic Orphan Asylums in New Orleans announced plans to close all their sites, the scope of Hope Haven grew. To accommodate these younger children, the campus had to grow.
The first buildings included the Dibert Administration Building, which housed the classroom, refectory and dorms, the Weinberger Cottage and the Industrial School. In 1929, two large wings were added to the Administration Building, each one complete with dorms, dining areas and study and recreation halls. The Saenger Gymnasium was added a year later, and in 1931, the Murnan Agricultural Unit and the Marcus Feingold Mechanical and Arts Building, where 12 trades would be taught, were completed.
In 1932, Madonna Manor, built across Barataria Drive from Hope Haven, was built to accommodate more students, including girls and all the students from the Chinchuba Institute for the Deaf. A grand building, it was built to the highest standards of construction and in the same architectural style as the other buildings on campus and included dorms, an infirmary, a swimming pool, dining and recreation halls and more.
In recent years, the campus has been used as a community garden and restaurant as part of a culinary program for at-risk youth, an elderly aid center and a food bank, but is currently vacant. Local and state politicians are working on plans to restore and preserve the campus and its seven buildings for future use.
The Saint John Bosco Chapel was built in 1940, to “complete” the campus. The exterior was designed by Jack Kessels to match the Spanish look of the other buildings on campus, but much of the interior woodwork, including the pews and the confessional, was crafted by Hope Haven boys in their own shop. The stained glass windows depict the life of St. John Bosco and were created by Dutch craftsman Joep Nicholas, who had fled to New Orleans to escape Nazis.