Louisiana Landmarks Society and the Pitot House

Founded in 1950, Louisiana Landmarks Society has played a central role in the protection of the city’s endangered landmarks for over sixty years. 

Louisiana Landmarks Society (LLS) is a non-profit preservation advocacy group that has been a crucial player in the preservation of historic properties and cultural landmarks throughout the city and state since its founding in 1950.¹ Throughout the year, Louisiana Landmarks Society hosts educational lectures and events at the c.1799 Pitot House, a Colonial plantation-style house on Bayou St. John that has served as the society’s headquarters since 1973.²

After witnessing the demolition of several significant historic properties in and around New Orleans, in 1950 a group of concerned activists led by Samuel Wilson Jr. and Martha Gilmore Robinson formally organized a society whose mission was to promote awareness of the state’s architectural heritage, to advocate for the preservation of its important landmarks, and to encourage research and scholarship dedicated to the region’s architectural traditions. These tenets continue to guide the organization today.³

The society's first major project was an exhibit dedicated to the centennial of Gallier Hall, which took place in the lobby of the 1851 building. Unveiled in the fall of 1950, the exhibit comprised materials relating to the building's architect, James Gallier Sr., which the society borrowed from Tulane University's Sylvester Labrot Jr. Collection.⁴ Other projects included the fight to save Gallier Hall from the wrecking ball (1958), the preservation of the trees lining Esplanade Avenue and other major thoroughfares (1951), the preservation of the Malus-Beauregard House on Chalmette Battlefield (1952-58), the preservation of tombs from the destroyed Girod Street Cemetery (1950s), the battle to prevent the planned Riverfront Expressway (1960s), and the restoration of the Pitot House, which Richard Koch and Samuel Wilson Jr. completed in 1964 after the society saved it from demolition.⁵

In 2005, Louisiana Landmarks Society instituted the New Orleans’ Nine Most Endangered Sites program, which is modeled after the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Each year, Louisiana Landmarks Society publicizes nine threatened historic sites in the city that demand immediate public attention, a new tradition fulfilling their greater mission of preservation advocacy and education.⁶

 

1. Louisiana Landmarks Society, “About Louisiana Landmarks Society.”

2. William R. Cullison III, The Louisiana Landmarks Society: The First Thirty Years (New Orleans: Louisiana Landmarks Society, 1980), 34.

3. Cullison, The Louisiana Landmarks Society, 4.

4. Cullison, 6-9.

5. Cullison, 14-15, 31-34, 37.

6. Jennifer Zdon, “Louisiana Landmark Society names New Orleans’ 9 most endangered historical sites,” The Times-Picayune, October 14, 2009.

 

Suggestions for Additional Reading and Research

Louisiana Landmarks Society. 1976. Interview by Dorothy Schlesinger. Tape recording. January 19. Friends of the Cabildo Oral History Program, New Orleans Public Library.

___. 1990. Interview by Dorothy Schlesinger. Tape recording. September 13. Friends of the Cabildo Oral History Program, New Orleans Public Library.

Louisiana Landmarks Society Records and Collection. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Tulane University.

Wilson, Samuel, Jr. The Pitot House on Bayou St. John. New Orleans: Louisiana Landmarks Society, 1992.

 

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