The historic John McDonogh School Number 11 building was relocated for the third time in the past three years last month, into what the city says will be its final resting place.
The school was originally slated for demolition to make way for the upcoming University Medical Center, being built at the school’s initial location on the 2000 block of Palmyra Street. Thanks to the work of preservationists, the school building has been saved — but the state has yet to decide how to use it, according to Greg Dupuis for the Louisiana Division of Administration.
“The use of the building has not yet been determined,” Dupuis told MidCity Messenger via email, when asked if the old school would become a working part of the new hospital.
Located on South Claiborne Avenue between Canal Street and Cleveland Avenue, the McDonogh 11 building will remain on the edge of the hospital site, according to Dupuis. The new $1.2 billion hospital center will be bound by Canal, Claiborne, Tulane and Galvez.
McDonogh 11’s conservation is largely due to the work of preservationists, who have protested the construction of the hospital in that Mid-City location, citing the old high school and a number of other dwellings that were slated to be razed for the center.
“The landmark school building, built in 1879, can and should be incorporated into the plans for the proposed hospital complex if the state ever acquires the necessary financing to proceed,” wrote Sandra Stokes of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Brad Vogel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in a letter published in The Times-Picayune in 2011.
Although the school will be housed within the boundaries of the new hospital center, a Jindal administration official said in Oct. 2011 that “significant termite damage” made it impossible to incorporate the building into the new Mid-City teaching hospital, according to an article written then by Bill Barrow of NOLA.com.
Despite issues with the structure’s foundation, the state has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years on moving the former school — and that’s after the $3 million spent to refurbish the building following Hurricane Katrina, according to the article in NOLA.com.
The state moved McDonogh 11 the first time for about $320,000, under contract with Orleans Shoring. But the first relocation to the corner of Tulane Ave. and Galvez St. was never meant to be permanent, Dupuis said, but rather “to avoid construction activities and stage it for a yet to be determined site.”
A year later, state officials hadn’t yet secured a deal to buy land for the school, according to an article by Dan Lawton of The Advocate, so the building was relocated once again to “avoid construction activities and to place in a final position to move to its final location,” Dupuis said.
The third move, which occurred in Dec. 2013, put the school in its final location, Dupuis said.
At 1500 tons and 16,000-square feet, its the largest move of a building in the history of Louisiana, and the fifth largest in the history of the nation, according to Orleans Shoring.
The school was one of 244 parcels of land that had to be acquired for the new complex, according Dupuis, and one of eight buildings that had to be relocated.
The hospital center is also responsible for 85 demolitions, Dupuis said, adding that “the other parcels were vacant and had no demolition.”
“Historic preservation is important and should always be a consideration,” Dupuis said via email.