In the face of rampant demolitions in the 1960s and 1970s, the Historic District Landmarks Commission was established to protect structures in historically significant neighborhoods outside of the Vieux Carré.
In the 1960s, New Orleans neighborhoods beyond the Vieux Carré were losing a significant number of historic buildings with no legislation to protect them. In 1965, the City Planning Commission started a project to document the historic building stock in these neighborhoods, modeling the project after the methods used by the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC). Five years later, State Act 147 was passed to permit the formation of local historic districts and regulatory commissions outside of the Vieux Carré.¹ Left out of this early legislation were the Garden District and upper St. Charles Avenue between Jena and Carrollton, whose residents did not want historic district oversight governing their neighborhoods and mobilized to prevent it. After State Act 804 was passed in 1975 to permit the designation and protection of individual structures, the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) was formed in 1976 by ordinance of the City Council.² The Central Business District HDLC (CBD HDLC) was formed two years later.³ Act 804 continues to be the commission’s governing legislation, which permits the HDLC to regulate the exteriors of all buildings that are visible from the public right-of-way. Their purview includes design review of repairs, alterations, and new construction, as well as the power to cite property owners for demolition by neglect.⁴ Unlike the VCC, the HDLC does not regulate paint color.
The New Orleans HDLC currently oversees fourteen historic districts in the following neighborhoods: Algiers Point, Bywater, Canal Street, Esplanade Ridge, Faubourg Marigny, Garden District, Holy Cross, Irish Channel, Lower Garden District, St. Charles Avenue, and Tremé.⁵ The CBD HDLC, which operates from the same office and staff but with a separate board of commissioners, exists to govern the three historic districts of the Central Business District: Lafayette Square, Picayune Place, and the Warehouse District.⁶ Some of the many individual landmarks in the HDLC’s jurisdiction are the Pitot House, Saenger Theatre, and Leeds Foundry, current headquarters of the Preservation Resource Center.⁷
1. Elrhei S. Thibodeaux, The Historic District Landmarks Commission: Coming of Age (New Orleans: Historic District Landmarks Commission, 1997), 4
2. City of New Orleans, “New Orleans Historic District/Landmarks Commission Enabling Legislation, February 19, 1976.”
3. City of New Orleans, “CBD Ordinance,” February 23, 1978.
4. Historic District Landmarks Commission, “Guidelines Introduction.”
5. Historic District Landmarks Commission, “Historic District Maps and Location Information.”
7. Historic District Landmarks Commission, “Historic Landmarks.”