Katrina Wish List 2007 Revisited
At the end of 2006, the city of New Orleans was in shambles. A year and four months after Hurricane Katrina, so many local landmarks and institutions remained in ruins. I sent out a “New Years Wish List” card to my clients and friends listing five of the city’s icons I prayed would one day be repaired and restored to their former glory. Now, ten years after the storm, I’m happy to report that three of those five have been restored. One is still in limbo, and the last one may never see the light of day again, but progress is progress.
1. New Canal Lighthouse
The New Canal Lighthouse, built on Lake Pontchartrain in 1890, was heavily damaged and pushed off of its foundation by Hurricane Katrina’s powerful storm surge. The lighthouse was rebuilt as a working lighthouse and museum and it’s beacon was relit in 2012.
2. Baumer Foods Billboard
The high winds of Katrina heavily damaged the iconic neon billboard advertising Crystal Preserves, which had sat atop Baumer Foods’ Crystal Hot Sauce bottling plant since the 1950s. A replica of the sign was built and has been placed on top of the new Preserve Condominiums, which now stands where the hot sauce factory once was.
3. Sazerac Bar
The Sazerac Bar in the Fairmont Hotel was the most beautiful and elegant bar in the city before Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, the fate of the flooded hotel was unknown. Thankfully in 2009 The Waldorf Astoria Hotel Group bought the hotel, renovated the property, and changed the hotel’s name back to its original – the Roosevelt Hotel. Huey Long’s favorite bar, with its 1930s murals of New Orleans life by Paul Ninas and its gleaming Art Deco African Walnut bar, are open for business, and their specialty cocktail remains its namesake – the Sazerac.
4. Big Charity
The fate of New Orleans’ Charity Hospital building remains unknown. The rumor after the storm was that the vacated building would be torn down. I was especially worried that the beautiful 1939 metal frieze entrance, depicting Louisiana industry and lifestyle, would come down as well. The vacant hospital, once the second largest in the U.S., is owned by the State of Louisiana and is for sale to the highest bidder.
5. Absinthe Bar Sign
I was outraged when my favorite bar in the French Quarter was sold and turned into a Daiquiri shop in 1989. But at least the owners kept the dilapidated Old Absinthe House Bar sign hanging above the street to remind me of all the great times I had there, like listening to musician Bryan Adams play the blues. The sign was damaged during Katrina and put in storage, probably never to hang above the crowds of drunken tourists on Bourbon Street again.
Photography: Michael Terranova