The private foundation established by modern architect and philanthropist Collins C. Diboll has funded numerous important preservation projects, including The Historic New Orleans Collection’s Vieux Carré Digital Survey.
Collins C. Diboll was a New Orleans architect, developer, and philanthropist whose modern designs embodied the city’s changing face during the 1950s and 60s. A Tulane graduate, Diboll’s architecture career began in the 1920s at his father’s firm, Diboll and Owen, which at the time was transitioning from the eclectic styles of the early twentieth century to the sleeker postwar International and Moderne styles.¹ After his father’s death in 1936, the firm continued on the modernism path, and it was during this period that Diboll produced two of his best-known projects: the Blaise, Inc. parking garage on North Rampart Street (1950) and the controversial seventeen-story Holiday Inn French Quarter development on Royal Street (1969).² Many New Orleanians strongly opposed the erection of a high-rise chain hotel in the city’s most historic neighborhood, which sparked the construction of several more like it along Canal Street in the 1970s and 1980s. Diboll profited handsomely from his hotel, where he lived on the top floor.³
Yet Diboll was also a supporter of local preservation efforts. In 1977, his funding made it possible to complete the Vieux Carré Survey, a comprehensive building inventory that began in the 1960s with the preservation-boosting efforts of the Louisiana Landmarks Society and the Vieux Carré Commission.⁴ The Edward G. Schlieder Educational Foundation funded the first eighty-eight blocks of the survey through Tulane University School of Architecture, but it was incomplete when the grant ended in 1966.⁵ Diboll contributed enough funds for a survey team to cover the remaining thirty-two blocks, and he also partially funded staff to maintain the survey at The Historic New Orleans Collection, where it remains today.⁶ Although the survey was completed in 1980, The Collection continues to update the entries with new information and expanded resources.⁷
Upon his death in 1987, Diboll left his estate to the Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation, which funds numerous education and preservation-related projects, such as the 2011 digitization of the survey. Known as the Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carré Digital Survey, the keyword-searchable online resource includes information on every Vieux Carré property, from chains of title and historical photographs to newspaper citations and maps. The hard copy of the survey continues to be available to the public at The Collection’s Williams Research Center.
1. Nicholas Bloom, Collins C. Diboll: A Biographical Sketch (New Orleans: The Collins C. Diboll Private Foundation, 2005), np.
4. The Historic New Orleans Collection, “History of the Survey.”
7. Florence M. Jumonville, Guide to the Vieux Carré Survey (New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1990), 27.