An old historic mansion from the 1920’s is threatened for demolition.
The Louisiana Landmarks Society recently released the New Orleans Nine Most Endangered Sites and of them was the Smith Wendell Green Mansion located at 2501 Banks Street.
Smith Wendell Green was the son of a former slave and had the mansion constructed in 1928, according to the Louisiana Landmarks Society.
The mansion was originally located on S. Miro, in the midst of an area allotted for the LSU-VA Medical Center Complex. According to Sandra Stokes, advocacy chair of the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the building was missed when documenting properties inside the area of the Louisiana State University-Veteran’s Affairs Medical Complex before it’s construction, as required by the National Historical Preservation Act.
“During the federal Section 106 process, all the properties in the footprint of the hospital that were slated for demolition were supposedly documented. Somehow the significance of this house slipped through the cracks of the process,” Stokes said.
Local preservationist, Brad Vogel, and architect Kenneth Bryant, led efforts to bring awareness to the mansion to have it moved back in 2011. According to Stokes, money was allocated by the VA and a small portion by the city.
Vogel said he first discovered the vacant mansion in 2009 while he was documenting the properties inside the space where the LSU-VA was to soon be constructed. He said he did not learn of the connection to Smith Wendell Green until January 2010.
According to Vogel, Bryant, an architect, was “the key figure” in finding information about Green.
“He provided information to the Preservation Resource Center and published a guest piece on my blog in 2010 outlining the history of S.W. Green and his mansion,” Vogel said.
Bryant could not be reached for comment, but in the blog post, Bryant states that Green was a grocer who became president of an insurance company, Liberty Independence Insurance.
Bryant writes that midway through the construction of the 1928 mansion, members of the Ku Klux Klan set fire to the property due to the fact that Green was a black man who was constructing a house bigger than theirs.
According to the Louisiana Landmarks Society, the 17-room mansion was constructed by Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, an architectural firm during the 20th century. The firm also created the Louisiana State Capitol, New Orleans Charity Hospital, and structures on the Louisiana State University’s campus.
Bryant also writes that Green was appointed chancellor of the Colored Knights of Pythias, a fraternity organization, and helped to construct a 7-story Pythian Temple located at 234 Loyola Avenue, where the building is currently vacant.
Green was attacked by a mob in 1915 after purchasing a private train cabin and was later sent to prison and charged with the violation of Jim Crow laws, according to Bryant.
Vogel said that he thought the mansion would be restored after being moved, since it represents a particular moment in the development of American civil rights and social history, and it is interwoven with the story of a prominent historical figure
“It was my understanding at the time that there was a funding source in place for such restoration,” Vogel said. “Given the mansion’s current state and the years of uncertainty as to why it remains in such a state, now is the time to shed light on this valuable historical site to set it on a path toward restoration.”
According to Eleanor Burke, deputy director of the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the mansion has not been designated as a landmark and has not received any nominations to make it one.