- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

Two historic-preservation groups have formed a partnership to advocate for the restoration of Gulf Coast landmarks damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) joined with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to call for “restoration and sensitive reconstruction measures that respect the rich historic and cultural assets” of the region, a press release said.

The partnership is funded by a $200,000 grant from the American Express Foundation.

“This has the potential to be the greatest cultural catastrophe America has ever experienced,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Rebuilding is essential, but it must acknowledge the historic character of one of the nation’s most distinctive regions.”

Preservationists worry that in the effort to rehabilitate battered cities, architectural treasures will be bulldozed. WMF, which keeps a list of the world’s 100 “most endangered sites,” added the Gulf Coast and New Orleans to the list.

Several historic Gulf Coast sites were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Beauvoir, the Biloxi, Miss., home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was badly battered. Another historic Biloxi home, the Tullis Toledano House, was flattened by a casino barge that washed ashore.

In New Orleans, many historic homes in the Mid-City district flooded with more than 5 feet of water, a resident said. Rayne Memorial Methodist Church on St. Charles Avenue, built with brick in 1875, sustained the collapse of its facade and a gaping hole in its roof. Winds toppled the facade of the Coliseum Theater, a 1920s building and one of the last standing historic cinemas in the city.

“We recognize that heritage preservation is a secondary concern as extraordinary humanitarian relief efforts continue throughout the Gulf Coast region,” said Bonnie Burnham, WMF president. “But we also know from experience that there are things we can do now to prevent further loss later on.”

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