NEW ORLEANS (WVUE/Gray News) – A rare New Orleans Jazz landmark and historic Creole cultural site has collapsed.
Perseverance Hall on North Villere Street in the Seventh Ward has become the latest victim of blight in the city.
“The preservationists of New Orleans failed, period. All the various organizations that call themselves committed to the history of the city, they all sat on their hands. They were blind. They were passive,” historian Dr. S. Frederick Starr said.
Perseverance Hall has stood in the historic Seventh Ward since the 1880′s, but damage from Ida pushed the long-neglected building to the edge of collapse. Some heavy rain this week finally finished the job, bringing this once modest but mighty building, one of the very few surviving early jazz venues, to the ground, WVUE reported.
“This, I would put at the very top of the list of places where the great earliest jazz musicians were performing for dances on a weekly basis, and they were all there, you name them. It’s a kind of who’s who of early jazz,” Starr said.
It was originally built by a group of Creole people called La Société de la Perseverance, or the Perseverance Benevolent Mutual Aid Association, as a meeting hall before becoming an incubator for the music that defines the city’s soul.
In 1949 it was purchased by the Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church, a small congregation that doesn’t meet anymore. Now all that’s left is the facade.
“You can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you come from, and you see that property falling down it, it hurts and hurts and no one wants to see that,” District C Councilmember Freddie King said.
Eliminating blight in his district, which includes the Seventh Ward, is something very central to the mission of King.
“It is probably our second biggest quality of life issue under crime,” King said. “You don’t want to understate how, how important crime is, but blight is right there with it. It’s the cousin of crime. As I said, a safe neighborhood is a clean one. When people see that the neighborhood is clean and people take pride in where they live, that ‘we could do anything mentality doesn’t follow up.”
King works closely with code enforcement on the East and West bank of his district. He recently was able to help clear a blighted corner store in Algiers.
“It’s a small victory, but it means a lot to the people in this neighborhood,” King said.
King says it’s a slow and tedious process, code enforcement is backlogged, but it’s a necessary one.
“That’s a shame a beautiful historical property like that, unkept for years as a result, so we want to prevent that. I think beefing up the code enforcement budget is the first step,” King said.
King said code enforcement needs cars and more employees, especially title researchers.
Starr said he believes Perseverance Hall can still be save. An organization is just going to have to step up and take the reins.
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