On May 15, 2019, two MHA projects received awards from the Louisiana Landmarks Society for Excellence in Historic Preservation. The awards honored projects completed in 2018 in Orleans Parish for both restoration, rehabilitation, and new construction projects. The MHA projects, Hotel Peter & Paul and St. Stephen Catholic Church, both won in the Institutional Restoration/Rehabilitation category.
Hotel Peter & Paul
Once a Catholic church complex in New Orleans’s Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, the new Hotel Peter & Paul redefined what a parish campus could be. The four buildings on the site – a deconsecrated church, rectory, school, and convent – have been transformed into a hotel, bar, and gathering space by owners Nathalie Jordi and ASH NYC.
The rehabilitation honored the structure and its past while adapting its use and accommodations for the twenty-first century. The church was constructed in 1862 and designed by renowned New Orleans architect Henry Howard. Today, it has been sensitively converted into a community gathering place and is available for private events. The other three buildings were constructed between circa 1875 and 1900 and have been converted into the hotel, with no two rooms alike. The Elysian Bar can be found in the former rectory.
Rehabilitation work focused primarily on preserving and restoring the historic fabric found throughout the complex while using the lightest touch possible to transform the property for its new use. This approach has won Hotel Peter & Paul accolades locally and nationally as a space to be enjoyed by all, from out of town travelers to the local community. Preservation work included mortar repair and brick cleaning, window repairs, restoration of historic wainscoting, repairing termite damage, and other material repairs. Certain lost architectural features were replicated using original drawings where possible. In areas where new finishes were required, the design team chose durable, modern materials that simulated their historic precedents. Many later additions and changes were reversed in order to bring the complex as close to its historic appearance as possible. Federal and state historic tax credits were utilized to help finance the extensive rehabilitation project. Hotel Peter & Paul demonstrates yet another creative reuse of historic structures.
St. Stephen Catholic Church
Unlike Hotel Peter & Paul’s adaptive reuse, the restoration of St. Stephen Catholic Church was undertaken to allow the parish that has worshipped in the church for over 130 years to continue to do so. The parish of St. Stephen’s was first founded in 1849 and by 1868 it had outgrown the original church building. Construction began on the brick St. Stephen Catholic Church, and in 1887 the parish celebrated its first mass in the new building. When the copper-clad steeple was added in 1906, the church became one of the tallest structures in the neighborhood. The parish complex now occupies an entire block, with a rectory constructed c. 1910 and an elementary school added c. 1960. Water damage had begun to seriously deteriorate the church, which led to the current preservation efforts.
The primary focus of the restoration led by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Good Shepherd Parish (the current tenants of the church) was to repair existing damage and weatherproof the building to preserve it for future years. Extensive damage to the roof was causing moisture issues throughout the building. A new roof was installed to prevent further deterioration. The exterior brick and mortar had also deteriorated considerably over the years. All masonry was cleaned, repaired, and replaced in kind where necessary. On the interior, the hardwood floors that had been covered by carpet and tile for decades were meticulously restored. Lost architectural details were recreated and all lead and asbestos was removed.
The Louisiana historic tax credits was an important factor in financing this rehabilitation that has brought the church into the twenty-first century and will hopefully serve the parish for another 130 years.