Since its incorporation in 1956, the non-profit Friends of the Cabildo has supported the programs and properties of the Louisiana State Museum and published the revolutionizing New Orleans Architecture Series, an essential first stop for local architectural research.
The Friends of the Cabildo (FOC) is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that supports the Louisiana State Museum’s programming and its many historic Vieux Carré properties, including the Cabildo, the Presbytère, the 1850 House, the old U. S. Mint, the Arsenal, the Jackson House and Creole House, and Madame John’s Legacy.¹ In 1955, the Louisiana State Museum formed an advisory board of prominent citizens that included preservation architect Samuel Wilson Jr. and businessman J. Raymond Samuel, among others.² The board’s task was to investigate ways to improve museum operations and strengthen its outreach across the state.³ The result of its efforts was the formation of FOC, which was incorporated in 1956.⁴ Preservationist and author Mary Louise Christovich and her husband, attorney William K. Christovich, spearheaded the incorporation.⁵ During its first decades, the organization developed numerous programs, including local and traveling exhibit planning and installation for the museum when it had no dedicated staff, lecture series, walking tours of the historic Vieux Carré, management of the 1850 House museum, and fundraising for restorations of the museum’s many properties.⁶ Today, FOC continues this tradition of outreach and support.
In the 1960s, in the face of widespread demolitions and urban renewal projects such as the construction of the Greater New Orleans Bridge approach in the Lower Garden District, FOC created the New Orleans Architecture Series with the goal of promoting and documenting threatened historic neighborhoods outside of the Vieux Carré and Garden District.⁷ Work began on the inaugural volume about the Lower Garden District in 1965. When it was published in 1971, nearly a third of the historic buildings included in the book’s detailed architectural inventory had been razed, highlighting how truly endangered the neighborhood was at the time.⁸ Since then, it has grown to contain eight comprehensive volumes that are integral to understanding the city’s diverse architectural history: The American Sector (1972), The Cemeteries (1974), The Creole Faubourgs (1974), The Esplanade Ridge (1977), Faubourg Tremé and the Bayou Road (1980), Jefferson City (1989), and The University Section (1997). Each volume includes informative essays, illustrations, and an inventory of the subject neighborhood’s historically significant extant building stock, providing residents, city agencies, museums, and other interested entities with an invaluable starting point for preservation planning and property research.
2. “Friends of the Cabildo,” The Times-Picayune, May 24, 1955.
3. Mary Louise Christovich, in discussion with the author, March 13, 2014.
7. Mary Louise Christovich, Betsy Swanson, and Roulhac Toledano, eds., “Introduction,” in New Orleans Architecture, Volume I: The Lower Garden District (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1971), xiii. See also Mary Fitzpatrick, “In Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of New Orleans Architecture,” Preservation in Print 23 no. 5 (June 1996): 18-20.
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