Covering Louisiana

Sep 2, 2013 4:16 AM by AP

NO to spruce-up cemeteries

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - There is no even ground in Holt Cemetery.

Every inch of the potter's field, resting in the shadow of live oaks and Delgado Community College, has been hollowed by generations of New Orleans' poor burying their dead.

Headstones range from professionally carved to hand-scrawled. Bones often poke through the dirt. Graves are marked by ramshackle wooden frames, molding teddy bears, broken flowers or nothing at all.

"It's just a very sorry situation," said Angie Green, executive director of the nonprofit group Save Our Cemeteries. "I'm glad some attention is being paid to it."

Now, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration is launching a $450,000 renovation.

The Times-Picayune reported (http://bit.ly/184aqRm) repairs to Holt are the first step in a broader $2.8 million campaign to upgrade seven city-owned cemeteries. The others are Lafayette 1, Lafayette 2, Valence, Carrollton 1, Carrollton 2 and the Indigent Cemetery. Work is scheduled to begin in September and wrap up by May 2014.

At the heart of the projects is preservation of the cemeteries' dilapidated but historically significant sexton cottages. The Louisiana Landmarks Society put them on its list of endangered local historic structures in 2012. The city hired Tuna Construction of River Ridge to fix the buildings at all but the two Lafayette cemeteries. Those two jobs will be bid after architects with Sustainable Architecture LLC design the improvements, Landrieu spokesman Tyler Gamble said.

Crescent Commercial Construction of New Orleans will do the rest of the work, again, everywhere but at the Lafayette sites.

Holt, which sustained mild flooding during Hurricane Katrina, will receive $50,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and another $400,000 in city bond funds to repair its cottage, lights, gravel road, signs and fencing.

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