Businessman and author Leonard V. Huber avidly supported the study and conservation of New Orleans history.
Leonard V. Huber was a businessman, author, collector, and pivotal figure in New Orleans preservation efforts for nearly a half century. In addition to serving for many years as president of Victor Huber and Sons, Inc., a mortuary monument contracting company that his father established in 1911, he was active in most of the city’s history-focused and preservation organizations.¹ In 1956, he became the second president of the Louisiana Landmarks Society, for which he founded Préservation, the group’s newsletter.² During that decade he was also a member of the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) and a member of the first Orleans Parish Landmarks Commission, which was founded in 1957.³ In addition, Huber sat on the board of the Friends of the Cabildo (FOC), the Keyes Foundation, the Louisiana Historical Association, and the Louisiana State Museum.⁴ In 1961, he joined the advisory board for the Vieux Carré Survey, a comprehensive architectural inventory project that currently resides at The Historic New Orleans Collection.⁵ While president of the FOC in the early 1970s, he contributed to the volume on cemeteries for the group’s groundbreaking New Orleans Architecture series.⁶ His other written works include The Rise and Fall of Girod Street Cemetery (1960) and New Orleans: A Pictorial History (1971), and with preservation architect Samuel Wilson Jr. he co-authored several volumes about Jackson Square and its landmark buildings.
Huber’s decades of experience made him a keen observer of preservation efforts at the city and state levels. In an October 1973 lecture he offered:
In retrospect, during the 50 years that the modern preservation movement in Louisiana has existed, there has been a slow but not always steady growth. No one will deny that there has been a great awakening to the consciousness of our architectural heritage; if you doubt this, just try to buy a restored old house of any pretentions….
The road has not always been smooth—apathy, ignorance, and selfishness often stand in the way. Preservation groups find themselves in the peculiar position of being accused of standing in the way of progress and indeed there is often a fine line between the decision to fight a demolition or to acquiesce for fear of being dubbed as halters of modernity….We are, in short, in somewhat the same position that the conservationists were 50 years ago—only time and our continued efforts will win wider acceptance of our movement.⁷
These sobering words sum up Huber’s legacy as a preservationist: despite numerous challenges, he and his contemporaries paved the way for today’s successes through their unflagging dedication to the city’s architectural heritage and to the belief that its protection can be a partner rather than an obstacle to economic development.
1. “Marble and Granite Company Organized,” The New Orleans Item, June 14, 1911.
2. William R. Cullison III, The Louisiana Landmarks Society: The First Thirty Years (New Orleans: Louisiana Landmarks Society, 1980), 17-19.
4. “Leonard V. Huber Sr. services are Sunday,” The Times-Picayune, February 19, 1984.
5. Florence M. Jumonville, Guide to the Vieux Carré Survey (New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1990), 19-20.
6. Leonard V. Huber, Peggy McDowell, and Mary Louise Christovich, New Orleans Architecture, Volume III: The Cemeteries (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1974), vii.
7. Leonard V. Huber, “Preservation – A Growing Movement,” (lecture transcript, Shreveport, LA, October 1973).
Suggestions for Additional Reading and Research
Huber, Leonard V. Clasped Hands: Symbolism in New Orleans Cemeteries. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1982.
Huber, Leonard V., and Samuel Wilson Jr. Landmarks of New Orleans. New Orleans: Louisiana Landmarks Society and Orleans Parish Landmarks Commission, 1984.
Leonard Huber Papers, 1870–1982. Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University.