FRIDAY, OCOTOBER 19, 2012
"UTILITARIAN HABITAT" Sketches By Patrick Drennon
N. Claiborne Ave. is a historically and architecturally significant part of the Treme. Drennon brings attention to the avenue through a series of drawings which he will present at this event.
6-9 p.m. Cafe Treme 1501 St. Philip
The oldest section of Claiborne Avenue runs through the Treme neighborhood; in several phases there had been a street named for Governor Claiborne since the neighborhood was first developed in the early nineteenth century. The wide neutral ground was lined with live oak trees, and the public green space served as a center of congregation for the area’s primariliy African-American residents. The Claiborne intersection at Orleans Avenue, in the heart of Treme, remains a primary meeting ground for the Mardi Gras Indians.
This stretch of Claiborne is primarily commercial, with residential neighborhoods throughout the adjacent blocks. It traditionally served as an important African-American shopping district, a counterweight to Canal Street, which catered to the white community. For three blocks, Claiborne also passes the old Saint Louis Cemetery #2 in this section.
Overshadowed by I-10
One of the most controversial developments in New Orleans’ history involved the construction of Interstate 10 through the Treme neighborhood as an elevated freeway above the oldest section of Claiborne Avenue in the late 1960s. The construction generally followed vacant land, such as the filled-in New Basin Canal. The original design called for the Interstate to be built along the river through the French Quarter. A successful campaign was organized by French Quarter residents and preservations to redirect that stretch of Interstate. The width of Claiborne Avenue provided the second most convenient route for construction, while still bringing the interstate very close to the Central Business District and the French Quarter, a few blocks from Claiborne. The opposition of the largely African-American and disenfranchised residents of Treme was not enough to stop the project from going forward. After construction, cement parking lots replaced the grassy neutral ground and supports for the interstate replaced the old oak trees, permanently changing the streetscape. It is commonly held that the construction of the overpass was intimately tied to the overall decline of the Treme neighborhood in the 60’s and 70’s. As part of the 2002 “Restore the Oaks” program, some of the round supports were painted by various local artists, while others were painted to resemble oak trees.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many have called for the removal of the I-10 Claiborne overpass, rerouting I-10 to the I-610 corridor. Suppoters cite the structure’s need for costly repairs and damage it has caused and continues to cause to what could potentially be a thiving urban neighborhood. Opponents argue that the overpass’ removal would cause great inconvenience to the residents of New Orleans East and potentially require unwanted and intrusive expansion of the I-610 corridor. The September 14th, 2009 draft of the New Orleans Master Plan calls for the study and eventual removal of the overpass.